Teaching Young Children Healthy Spending Habits

Isn’t it interesting how one person can do a wonderful job brushing and flossing their teeth each day and still end up with cavities, while someone with poor habits can sidestep cavities altogether? In the few minutes it’ll take you to read this article, you’ll get a glimpse into one reason this happens. We’ll start by making a bold statement. That is: the primary reason people get cavities has a lot less to do with brushing and flossing, and a lot more to do with something most of us know little to nothing about: pH. We promise to make this easy on you – understanding pH is simpler than you think. No need to dust off your high school chemistry book!   Understanding pH  In order to make sense of pH, you only need to know two things. First, that “pH” is just a word used to indicate the corrosive nature of any watery solution (it’s simply a unit of measurement, like the words “teaspoon” or “mile”). And second, pH measurements are plotted out on what is called the “pH scale” represented by numbers that run between 0 and 14. On that scale, the number seven represents the midpoint, or “neutral” point of measurement. Also, in case you’re wondering, it is possible to have negative pH, and numbers higher than 14, but generally speaking those are results produced in a lab, and not something you’re likely to run into while navigating the grocery aisle.  Now that you know what pH is, consider the pH scale not as a rating system of chemicals, but a rating system of things you would want to put in your mouth. The further away you get away from the neutral seven, the less likely you are to enjoy the experience. For example, hydrochloric acid is measured at the very bottom of the scale (zero) – and we sure as heck don’t want that stuff in our mouth. Stomach acid is just above that at 1.5 - 3.5. A lemon, though, which comes in around 2.0, we could probably handle. Wine? Between 2.9 and 3.9. Water and milk are measured at seven – completely neutral, and saliva typically falls between 6.5 and 7.5. How about on the other side of the scale … the alkaline side? Well, eggs come in around 7.6, and baking soda, an 8.0. Beyond that it gets kinda’ icky, literally. Borax is a 9.0, and Lye is a 14.0. Definitely not items we’d want to swirl around in our mouth.   Applying pH to Your Teeth: It’s All about Acid  So how does pH affect your teeth? When we think about what causes cavities, most of us naturally think about sugar, because that’s what we’re told to avoid. However, it’s important to understand it isn’t sugar that destroys your teeth, it’s the digestion of that sugar by certain bacteria in the mouth that does the damage. The final result of that digestion process is a byproduct you won’t be surprised causes damage to teeth: acid.  So, basically, think of avoiding sugar as essentially avoiding acid, and you’ll be thinking about sugar as it relates to your teeth in the proper fashion.   Given what you now know about pH, you’ll likewise want to avoid consuming too much of anything that’s already acidic – things like soda, energy drinks, sport drinks and acidic fruit – they’re clearly bad for your teeth. Coffee, wine and tea are also pretty acidic, so be aware of their threat to your enamel as well.   Lastly, since pH isn’t something you’re going to find labeled on foods, here is a fantastic list of food items that will help bring the pH scale to life. Without a doubt, being mindful of what you put into your body will protect your teeth, and better fuel your body.

When’s the last time you had a serious conversation with your child about money? For most of us, such conversations take the form of “no, we can’t afford to be buying all these things,” which is usually a pretty easy conversation to have. But what happens when your child actually comes into some money of their own – whether it’s from a birthday, holiday, allowance, or part time work? Can they count on you to help them make sense of spending it wisely and productively? Instilling good spending habits early on can really pay off – so here’s some advice from the professionals on how to get that done.

  • Give an allowance: Author and parent educator, Vicki Hoefle, recommends you start providing your children with an allowance as early as age two. The belief is that if you can trust your child not to put the money in their mouth, they’re ready to learn how to manage and spend it as well. This works by providing youngsters with money to manage, but also money to “lose.” “Give them a small allowance early and let them spend it away,” she says. “They’ll soon see the pains of losing what they have and the satisfaction of saving patiently for what they really want.” Hoefle also thinks having a child learn the importance of earning “one’s keep” is equally important, and suggests you cut allowances in half at age 12, in favor of outside the home work, and eliminate allowances altogether once your child reaches the age where part-time work becomes available.
  • Use everyday events as an opportunity to teach: Jayne Pearl, author of the book “Kids and Money: Giving Them The Savvy to Succeed Financially” likes the idea of teaching kids about money all day, every day. Her ideas center around leveraging trips to the store, the bank and the ATM to routinely talk about money with kids. Likewise, when playing with younger kids at home, integrate real money into games involving imaginary restaurants and stores, for example. Then, when they’re older, take them to the bank to set up an account so they have a place to put their money. Pearl also likes the idea of involving teenagers in watching a stock portfolio grow as well, learning about interest and using pre-loaded “value-cards” for budgeting and charitable gifts.
  • Demonstrate the value of saving: With most Americans in possession of more debt that savings, Beth Kobliner, author of the uber-successful personal finance book “Get a Financial Life,” believes we really need to start teaching the next generation the value of a good piggy bank. One of Kobliner’s popular ideas works like this: “create three jars – each labeled “Saving,” “Spending” or “Sharing.” Every time your child receives money, whether for doing chores, or from a birthday, divide the money equally among the jars. Have him or her use the spending jar for small purchases, like candy or stickers. Money in the sharing jar can go to someone you know who needs it or be used to donate to a friend’s cause. The saving jar should be for more expensive items.” Kobliner has been at this a while, so for more tips about working with kids in every age group check out her interview in Forbes magazine.
Teaching good spending and saving habits is something you want your kids to embrace early in life. What little you dish out in allowance money can really make a difference in their understanding of money, and saving can allow them to feel empowered, even as a little person. For more on this subject check out Parenting Magazine’s rather large list of articles about kids and money.