Rita Cheng, who works for Ameriprise Financial, talks a lot about needs versus wants with her son, Christian, 13, and daughters Sarina, 16, and Karolina, 7.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell the two situations apart, she acknowledges. Other times it's clear, such as when Karolina, a second-grader, said "I need a cellphone!"
It was different when Sarina, a high schooler, made the case for getting a smartphone. She was on the move a lot from school to babysitting to piano lessons and, in part, wanted to be able to access homework assignments online.