Don’t Break the Piggy Bank, and Other Finance Tips for Kids
Oh, to be a kid again! The excitement of new toys, the hope of a good snowfall, and the promise of hot chocolate after a great sledding session. The holidays can be such a fun time for your little ones, made all the more exciting by the opportunity for them to give a gift to someone else. If you’ve been waiting for a good time to teach your kids a little fiscal responsibility, now’s the time to do it! The holidays provide a great springboard for discussing things like saving, budgeting, and generosity. And it certainly doesn’t have to be as boring as you might think :-) Here’s a little step by step process of what it could look like for your family.
Step 1: Come up with a family mission statement! Have you seen those signs that say “Our Family … hugs often, forgives easily, speaks kind words…”? Same idea! Gather your littles around the table and invite their input into your own bulleted list or paragraph. Then you can print off little cards with your statement and place them in front of your child’s piggy bank or wallet. Here is a playful example: “Our family gives generously, doesn’t spend what we don’t have, saves wisely, and enjoys a treat now and then!”
Step 2: Plan ahead. This time of year, you no doubt have several people to buy gifts for. Have your child choose their favorite recipient. Decide if they will be paying or you, and set a budget. If they will be paying, but don’t have enough, do a little lesson on saving. Have them earn their way to be able to pay for the item they chose. Then do some research together! Look at that holiday catalog that came in the mail, or look up prices online. You can even have them call up a store and ask about the current price of a particular item (and if it’s in stock). When you’re still at home, have them count cash to make sure they have enough. Don’t forget to teach them about sales tax and calculate it together. What a great opportunity to practice some math skills!
Step 3: Purchase your item(s)! This is the fun part. Take your little one to the store, plop that special item in the cart, and help them hand over the money to the cashier. Success! If there’s something else your child wants to add to the total, ask them if they have enough money and remind them to stick to the budget! If they don’t have enough, have them save up again and return to the store at a later date. Note: you will thank us in advance for this. We know there are some stores you won’t go to with your kids because of the potential for … whining and begging. You’re welcome and stay strong :)
Step 4: Give the gift to its recipient. What a great way to teach generosity! Kids love when their gifts are well-received, and watching the excitement of gift opening positively reinforces the giving in the first place. Another idea is to choose a charity or cause, send in the money, and discuss with your child how your gift is helping someone in need. They may never meet the receiver in person, but talk through how it impacts someone in terms they understand, and let their imaginations dream of other fun ways to give.
Step 5: Continue these lessons year-round and lead by example. The best thing you can do to teach your kids fiscal responsibility for a lifetime is to model good money behavior year-round. Invite them into conversations, or let them overhear those the adults are having. Share the finance section of the newspaper (remember that thing!?) … have them pick and track stocks… Disney, anyone? You could also discuss your desire for a new vehicle, but say “it just isn’t in the budget right now,” and let them hear the ways you’re saving up or reducing spending in other categories.
Above all, though, keep in mind your kids’ need for feeling safe and secure in their home. Be selective about what you share and when, and only have them pitch in to the family’s finances when age-appropriate. Enjoy the season, and remember what’s most important isn’t money anyways :-)