Use these quick tips to help your child understand that money doesn’t grow on trees.
By: Julie Meyers Pron
With birthday presents, holiday gifts and supermarket impulse buys, it’s hard to cut back the “gimmes” from the kids. They’ve been given to and given to and given to and it’s imperative we remind them that money, well, it doesn’t grow on trees.
If a trip to the store with your child is mainly comprised of him yelling “I want that!” “I need that!” “Why can’t I have that?” you’re in good company. As opposed to outright saying “No,” try telling him that you’ll add it to the list — and actually do.
Establish an online wish list for each of your children, or keep a small notepad in your handbag or car. When your child asks for something new, add it to the list and remind your child that he has many things on his list already and the next time he’ll receive a gift is months away.
To help reinforce the idea, every so often help your children review their list and help them to prioritize their wants. That deck of cards he wanted a month ago may not be nearly as important as a new pair of inline skates. Helping children understand wants versus needs helps them to understand how to spend money.
Create a savings account — for your child
There are countless reputable online savings accounts for children that offer opportunities to set goals. When children have their own account and see it growing (or not growing), they begin to understand the nature of spending. If your daughter is saving her allowance to buy something that requires saving — an MP3 player, new shoes, clothes, etc. — they will begin seeing that saving isn’t as hard as it seems to be.
Debit cards are a great way to teach the value of money, as there’s an end in sight. By attaching debit cards to children’s music or book accounts, they learn how to determine if a game or book is worth the fee, or if they’d rather hold on to the money for a different game or book that comes along later. When children learn that they’re out of money, or don’t have enough to buy whatever it is they want most, they’ll start to analyze their purchases and recognize what is truly spend-worthy.
In this lesson, parents shouldn’t replenish accounts all the time. Just as we need to, children should work to earn more spending money before they can begin making new purchases.
It’s all about perspective
When my husband handed my seven-year-old $100 as spending money for a trip to New York two years ago, I embarked on one of my most stressful days of parenthood. Again, we were working within a budget, and my son constantly grew frustrated deciding if he should spend his money on this or that. With about $60 left, and tears in his eyes, our fun getaway was becoming a journey spent dwelling on decisions.
A quick offering changed his perspective: Rather than spending the rest of the money, which was truly his to spend, we offered to match whatever was left over when deposited it in his savings account at home. Immediately, the opportunity to earn more money and hold onto the remaining funds answered his “How should I spend this?” questions and, instead, allowed him to remember that saving for later in life has stronger benefits. Of the stressful $60, about $15 was spent on small gifts for his siblings and a small thank you gift for me. The rest was deposited and saved.
Children who watch their parents spend money constantly often do the same. Parents who discuss their purchases with their children, however, demonstrate the ongoing internal decision making process we all face. Whether you’re debating buying a new home, car or a slow cooker, never shy from discussing the financial aspect in front of your children. Let them know that you, too, can’t go out and buy just anything and that spending should be thoughtful.
The value of money isn’t an easy thing to teach — we all know adults who need perspective every now and again. Consistent teaching and reminding children of the value of saving over spending, making wise choices and respecting income will come in time, practice, and role modeling.
Julie Meyers Pron is a writer specializing in parenting, engagement with the community and a mother of three.
Julie is the owner and editor of Julieverse.com and VlogMom.com, a website and network focused on empowering video bloggers. She writes an education column for Rusty & Rosy’s blog page and specializes in parenting, education, organization and travel.