If I had a dollar for every time someone I spoke to, debt or no debt, said to me that they wish they knew more about saving and budgeting, I would be a very rich person…
Speaking to people with debt on a daily basis has often made me wonder why there isn’t a mandatory school curriculum throughout the education system that teaches saving and spending lessons to kids at every age, so that they have a better idea of how to handle their money. I think that a lot boils down to kids learning by example and starting with little lessons before kids even start school.
A good idea of where to start is by teaching kids at a small age that everyone needs to contribute and the more they pitch in and help out the more they are helping the household and their help will be rewarded. How much of a reward, should of course be decided by your budget and what you feel is age appropriate.
For toddlers an idea which I have tried with my son, started at the grocery store, I gave him a budget of $3 dollars and let him choose what snack he wanted to pick. I got very tired of little hands reaching out from the cart going down isles at stores grabbing at everything he saw and wanted. Doing this help him set limits and also avoided embarrassing outbursts when every want he had was not met. It also helps kids learn patience. The sooner they learn patience the better. They need to know they will always want more than they have and need. Being happy with what you have is very hard for some adults, conditioning your kids earlier is a very valuable lesson.
When you feel your little ones are old enough to understand that the reward for chores needs to be measured, it is time to teach them that some money is for spending, some is for saving and some is for sharing. The spending jar is for the everyday things that they “want”. The saving jar is a more long term jar you can use for bigger items they need to work towards. This could be a big toy they are asking for, or a place they want to go to. If they don’t have anything in mind, talk to them and see where their interests lie and help them decide on a goal to save towards. The last jar, sharing can be money to go to a charity, or to help someone less fortunate. The long term impact of this is good for so many reasons. It teaches selflessness and giving and most compassionate, paying it forward. Have your little one help pick where they want this money to go and it will mean more to them.
As your kids get use to this you can teach them ways to save on the things they want. Look for coupons for things they want. You can use an old photo album to help keep these organized. You can have a coupon book for the whole family and give each child their own section for things they want. When the flyers with the coupons come in you can all sit down, sort through them and clip them together. It’s a good learning and bonding experience.
Something that I know has helped me from a small age, was advice from my grandfather, who was very good with money. It’s simple, buy hard to live by today, it is “if you don’t have the cash for it, you can’t afford it!” If you can teach your children to save for the things they want as opposed to the concept of borrowing and credit, it is invaluable. If you limit the use of your own credit as well it will help your kids see that living off of what you have is ok and you will be better off in the long run.
When your kids start getting a bit bigger, a first job is also a great way to learn to make money and budget for what they need (and want). Even if they start by a paper route, shovelling elderly neighbours driveways in the winter, dog walking or pet sitting are all things that help teach responsibility and the value of a dollar.
The younger you start teaching your kids saving and budgeting, the better they will be in the long run. It may not be easy, as kids will always want what they want. It always seems easier to give in and just give them what they want, but if they learn to work for it and earn it, they may surprise you and not want to part with their hard earned money.
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