Brushing their teeth twice a day, eating their vegetables, making their bed – every day, you’re working to teach your children the habits they need to live a happy, healthy life.
Teaching them about money can be just as routine and in many ways, a lot more fun with just a little extra time and some creativity. Here’s a list of nine activities that can help you get started.
Encourage Your Child to Earn Money
Earning their own money can be both educational and empowering for children. It can leave them with a huge sense of pride and an appreciation for the value of their hard-earned pennies.
If you already have a set of chores your child is responsible for, like cleaning their room or doing the dishes, add in extra, optional chores they can do to earn an allowance. This can help your child understand the difference between the responsibilities associated with being part of a family, which they don’t get paid for, and any additional work.
To make this more fun, create a colorful chart to track their progress. Take a plastic sheet cover and using a permanent marker, draw a chart with spaces for the days of the week, the optional chores, and their value. Then, have your child decorate a piece of colorful construction paper. Once it’s dry, put the paper inside the plastic sheet cover and hang it where everyone can see. Every time your child completes an additional chore throughout the week, mark it off with a dry erase marker. At the end of the week, you and your child can count up the earnings together.
Create Savings Jars
Helping your child understand the importance of saving can be difficult, especially when the temptation to spend money as soon as it’s earned can be strong, even for adults.
To help overcome this, try using clear plastic jars. According to popular financial advisor Dave Ramsey, the clear jars are important because they let your child see the money growing right before their eyes. Label one ‘Save’ and one ‘Spend’, and let your child decorate the labels to add a fun look to them.
Walk through the process of dividing the money together. If your child has a goal in mind, such as a specific toy or treat, let them decide how much money to put in the ‘Save’ jar each week. If the amount put into savings each week is small compared to the amount going into the spending jar, your child will have to wait longer to reach their goal. This can help teach them the value of saving responsibly for the things they want to purchase.
Have a Savings Contest
If you have multiple children, you can also encourage them to save by having a contest. Give each of them a savings goal that makes sense for their age, and the first one to reach their goal wins a special prize. You can set up a new goal every month and the fun competition could help them make the right savings choices.
Set Family Goals
Maybe your child is dying to go to a specific restaurant, or purchase a new backyard swing set. Have them participate in the savings process for the activity. You can make a special jar for this, and as your child contributes, put in money of your own. This can give your child a real sense of pride when the goal is reached and will teach the value of saving together as a family.
Set aside some time and clip coupons together. Use these moments to discuss with your child the difference between wants and needs. Just because you have a coupon for something or an item is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy it.
Go shopping together and allow your child to keep some of the money they helped you save as part of their allowance, or put the savings into a savings jar. This can encourage them to keep an eye out for coupons the family can use and to understand the value of smart shopping.
Go to a Yard Sale
Let your child spend a portion of their allowance money or savings at a yard sale. They’ll be amazed at how much further their money can stretch at a yard sale than at a store or online. If possible, take some time to compare the costs of the items they’re interested in, and explain to them how much they saved by shopping secondhand. This also works great with thrift shops and used bookstores.
Play Online Games
There are tons of free online games that are both fun and educational. For example, the website Practical Money Skills has a section devoted entirely to financial games for children. Games like Financial Soccer and Money Metropolis are designed to help your child start thinking long term about money and about the right ways to save.
Donate and Volunteer
Teaching your child about money can also be a great time to share the value of giving. Take time as a family to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or collect items to donate to a local charity or shelter. You can also add a ‘Giving’ category to the savings jars that everyone can contribute to.
After enough money has been collected, take your child to the store and help them pick out items to donate. By going directly to the charity, your child will see the direct benefit giving can have on the lives of others.
Show and Tell
Finally, your child also learns by watching you. Let them see the choices that you’re making when it comes to money, and the importance of saving for the future. It might take some self control sometimes to model responsible savings habits, but the fact that you keep working toward smart saving decisions will encourage your child to do the same.
This list doesn’t cover every possible way to teach your child about money, but it’s a start, and the sooner you begin having the conversation, the better prepared your child will be for their financial future.
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