Teaching kids is just plain easier than teaching adults and this principle definitely applies to financial matters. Getting children in the habit of saving as opposed to over spending can and should start early in their lives. Consider the follow suggestions on how it can be accomplished most effectively:
Play money games with your kids. Monopoly was a popular game when I was a kid and kids still like it today. Choosing to buy or sell properties and negotiating fees with other players is good practice for dealing with real money. Just because you have the money to develop your properties doesn’t mean that you have the money for upkeep. Players have to make decisions based on present and future earnings.
When Mom and Dad buy everything, children often don’t even consider the expense involved in buying the things they want. But if the child has to use their own money to make a purchase, they are sure to think more seriously about how much they really want to part with their money.
Instead of allowing children to become obsessed with wearing expensive clothing of some popular brand name, take kids clothes shopping at consignment shops and inexpensive department stores like Target or Wal-Mart. Talk to them about how to evaluate and compare the prices of clothes as meander through the shopping racks. It would be wise to explain that there really is no problem with owning some name brand clothing, but filling your entire wardrobe with it is extremely and expensive and not necessary.
Take your kids to the grocery store with you. Let them help you make out the grocery list and clip the coupons. As you bargain shop, tell the kids what you are doing. You don’t have to go into great detail; just give them an overview of the process.
Practice what you preach. Resist the temptation to impulse shop when you have extra money. This can set a bad example for the kids, not to mention that it could derail your budget. Save for the things you want and don’t let your emotional state control the purse strings.
Purchase a coin bank. Some kids think that the best money is the kind that folds, but the kind that jingles will spend just as easily. Empty your purse and pockets of their spare coins and collect them in a jar or piggy bank. It may be a good idea to give each child a piggy bank to collect their loose change. Even let them choose their own bank.
Coins can be found all over the place and they add up fast. After a few months have passed and you’ve collected change from the sofa cushions and other interesting locations, take your piggy bank to a change counting machine to see how much you have been able to save. Kids can spend some of the money and keep the rest as savings.
Learning how to use money is a trial and error kind of process. The money that you give to your kids or that they earn is their money. As a parent, you can advise them how to act, but they must deal with the good choices and the consequences of poor ones. Lessons learned will speak more than scolding.