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12 terrific ways to teach your kids about money
Educating your child about money and financial responsibility is a big job—and an overwhelming one at that. The lessons they learn early in life will teach them the value of a hard-earned dollar and serve as the foundation for their future spending and savings habits. No pressure there, right?
Money is such a broad topic that it can be incorporated into almost any conversation or daily routine. The trick to corralling your kid’s interest and having them learn a lesson, however, revolves around FUN. Here are some simple, entertaining, and painless ways to start investing in their financial education:
1. Invest in a coin-counting bank
Gone are the days of the pink ceramic piggy bank with the curly tail. We’re going high-tech here. Purchase an automatic coin-counting bank so your child can keep track of how much money they’re saving and spending. It’ll help with addition and subtraction skills, and they’ll love the pride and satisfaction they feel when they can actually see their progress. Next time they have a few dollars or some extra change, they just might decide to choose saving over spending.
2. Stick to a budget
Have your child grab a calculator (or your smartphone) and head to the grocery store together. Before you leave the house, though, set a budget for your shopping trip. As you walk up and down the grocery aisles together and put items in your cart, ask your child to add the cost of each item to your running total, being mindful of your budget. Compare brands and pricing and explain the benefit of buying items on sale.
Let your child see you add their favorite snack to the shopping list if you’re spending less than expected or put an item back on the shelf if you’re getting close to your max budget. Think out loud so they understand your thought process and then eventually ask them to help make similar decisions.
Did you bring your coupons? Ask your child to match them with the appropriate items and then add up all the money you saved. What was the goal and was it more or less than last week?
3. Use coin riddles
One of our favorites is “What’s in your wallet?” Grab a coin purse and a handful of coins. Next, write the clues to different coin combinations on some index cards. For example, I have three coins that equal 40 cents. Which coins are they? Take turns writing the clues and guessing the answers. It’s super easy and can be a spur-of-the-moment activity while waiting in the carpool line, at a restaurant, or in the doctor’s office.
4. Visit your local financial institution
Schedule an afternoon outing to your local bank or credit union. Kids are curious and we’re betting the drive-thru is far less interesting than what’s inside. Schedule a short tour and think about opening a savings account for your child when you’re done. Georgia’s Own’s Coindexter Club® is a great way to start learning about money and interest. An account for a child under the age of 13 can begin with an initial investment as low at $5.00 and will start earning interest at $5.01.
5. Take it online
Given the increasing amount of time kids spend online, games that focus on money and managing finances could make it less mindless, more educational, and just as much fun.
Try Peter Pig’s Money Counter. It’s an interactive game from Visa that teaches counting skills and savings strategies to kids from ages 5-8. Money Metropolis is a game that lets 7-12-year-old kids manage their own virtual bank account, and the Mt. Everest Money Simulation game lets 8-13-year-olds plan an awesome adventure on a budget. For your sport-loving kids who are ages 11 and up, check out Visa’s World Cup-themed soccer game and the Financial Football game, both of which focus on money management.
6. Let ’em earn it
Do you have a child that loves to vacuum or fold the bath towels? Do they watch you mow the lawn or water the plants? Get them involved in age-appropriate chores and give them an allowance so they understand how money is earned. They’ll think it’s fun and you might get a little help around the house.
We know you don’t always get to do the things you enjoy when you’re earning a salary, so toss in a not-so-favorite chore every now and again as they get older. While not as much fun, it’s a good reality check!
Are there other chores that need to be done in the house? Make a list of things that need doing and assign a payment amount to each one. If your child is saving for something special or wants a side hustle to supplement their allowance, they can choose an additional chore and get paid for completing it.
7. Find their entrepreneurial spirit
Is your child a crafter or an artist? Can they make lemonade or bake brownies? There are tons of opportunities to sell things in the neighborhood, supervised, of course. Try setting up shop at the home swim meets, during the neighborhood garage sale, or at the Holiday Craft Show. Discuss the cost of the ingredients and supplies, the price of the items, and how to calculate a profit. If you have an older child, help them design a colorful flyer to drum up some dog sitting, lawn mowing, or mother’s helper opportunities.
8. Make it Family Game Night
Board games are fun activities you can enjoy with the whole family while secretly teaching them about money. Buy some property and build some hotels in Monopoly Jr., go to college and choose a career in The Game of Life, and get to the next month without blowing your entire paycheck in Pay Day. Each one requires wise financial decisions and includes a surprise monkey wrench or two along the way!
9. Create a “great big board of food”
Eating out is expensive for a family, but for special occasions, or when mom or dad has had a long day, it’s always a treat. Designate a wall, board, or even the side of your refrigerator for restaurant coupons. Buy one entrée get the second free, a complimentary appetizer or dessert, or 15% off your total bill goes a long way. Keeping a list of “kids eat free” nights is a great idea, too. If you’re headed out for dinner, ask your child to choose a restaurant from the board and talk about how much you can save with your coupon. As your child gets older, you can even start teaching them about calculating the tip!
10. Teach your gamer how to game
Have a gamer? There’s a huge market for pre-owned video games. Talk to your child about buying certain items new or used and the savings opportunity it can offer. If you’re making the purchase, you might even consider giving your child the amount you saved a time or two as a way to emphasize the impact.
Discuss selling items, like old video games, toys, and electronics as a way to make some extra money and clear out that clutter. Explain to your child that when they sell items that they no longer use, the funds could be reinvested into something else they’ve been swooning over —or they can save it in that nifty coin-counting bank! As the adult, you’ll want to list the items for sale on the resale sites, but have the kids help take pictures, make up descriptions, and set prices.
11. Set out on a hunt
In the spring and summer, there are garage sales every weekend. Give your child a specific dollar amount and let them know they can buy whatever they’d like, but they have to stay within budget. They’ll learn to consider each potential purchase and decide whether it’s worthy enough to spend their cash. They might even decide to save it. As they get older, teach them how to politely negotiate with sellers. After all, haggling is all part of yard sale fun!
For older kids, head to a consignment or thrift shop to find some fantastic deals and incredible prices. Talk about evaluating the condition of the item, quality, and price. They’ll be quick to understand that one man’s discards are another man’s treasure!
12. Pay it forward
Teach your children to be generous. While healthy spending and saving are important, the value of generosity trumps them both. Whether it’s with money, time, or talent, it’s important to give back to the community. You can volunteer together to pack lunches for the homeless, visit a nursing home, or fold clothes at a thrift shop. Whether they bake chocolate chip cookies for a mom with the flu or make an effort to play with the new kid in the neighborhood, cultivating their generous nature will always ensure they have a rich heart!