It’s barely February, but organized parents are already booking – and planning how they’ll pay – for summer camps, sports activities, private lessons and vacations. Do you have a plan?
As kids become teens, parents quickly realize that a summer filled with a few skill-building experiences will cost a tidy sum upfront….with extra spending opportunities at every turn later. Starting to feel like your kids’ ATM already?
When you hear, “Dad, can I have money for…” once too often, it’s time for some skill-building in the money department. Here are four of my favorite lessons to build kids’ money skills:
1. Understanding wants vs. needs – it’s a lifelong dilemma
It doesn’t matter if you’re 9 or 90, we all must choose between things we want and things we need. Usually, there’s a price tag involved. Rather than hand over your money after the “want of the day” surfaces, why not give kids a small, pre-determined amount to manage and let them make some choices? Because…
• Even insignificant financial choices give kids a better chance to succeed with important ones later.
• Kids who manage money for some of their own wants/needs often make different choices and don’t spend as much.
• Kids don’t have to handle large amounts—whether it’s your money or theirs—to get some helpful financial experience under their belt.
2. Realizing choices turn into habits
Small, daily choices quickly turn into habits, habits become a lifestyle…a lifestyle that often lasts a lifetime. So encourage and train kids to be frugal or keep from overspending. Just like all spending habits, the good ones are hard to break too, so:
• Plan ahead – like pack a water bottle and/or snacks rather than buy from vending machines.
• Think “free” first, especially for entertainment and apps.
• Monitor the amount and costs for food you order at restaurants, not wasting it.
• Don’t snub used stuff – used cars, cell phones, sports equipment, and books work too.
3. Using the power of compounding – Small amounts add up
Take time to help your kids develop a savings mentality now, no matter how small the amounts. The magic of compounding is a powerful ally in saving – and a freakin’ nightmare with debt.
• Each kid should have a piggy bank to get in the habit of stashing his/her money. It’s the primary savings tool for beginners. Nothing fancy is needed – a jar or simple box will do fine. The point is, your kids handle real cash and watch it add up.
• In time, open a savings account where interest is paid. Make it a habit to add something, anything. It’s the habit that counts.
•Likewise, small spending can add up quickly too, whether it’s buying several $1.99 apps or a $5/month subscription for years.
4. Making intentional money decisions – kids model you
Do you dismiss some relatively unimportant choices yourself, like…
• Not bending down to pick up a nickel?
• Leaving coins at checkout counters because change is annoying?
• Choosing a name brand over a less expensive brand or regional store?
• Feeding a takeout habit too many times a week because you’re busy?
• Not using coupons or searching for discounts because of the hassle?
• Putting nothing from a small paycheck into a savings account, because it isn’t earning much interest anyway?
If you are careless about your own money decisions, your kids will notice and follow suit. Instant gratification and reacting to what others think is common teen behavior anyway. Sometimes parents are afraid to avoid keeping up with the Jones’ too. Make this the year to take control of your own money decisions – and teach your kids good money habits too. If you succeed, you can avoid being the bank ATM for your kids.