Teaching kids about money is not easy. No five-year-old wants to sit in front of the computer learning how to do online banking or watching their parents write a check.
Kids would probably rather be playing outside or doing a TikTok dance. Who can blame them? But teaching kids about money at a young age is important. It will set them up to be independent, financially savvy, and prepared in case of an emergency. Thankfully, there are some fun and simple ways to teach your kids all about the dollar.
Go Old School
Who remembers the Piggy Bank? One of the more fun money lessons during childhood was inserting a few coins into a ceramic pig and watching the pile grow. There’s something exciting about seeing your earned money, physically putting it into savings, and waiting until you absolutely need it to smash the pig open (or at least open the bottom). But don’t forget to also show your kids how credit cards work. With more places going cashless during Covid, use this time to teach your kid all about the different kinds of credit and debit cards.
Make A Trip out of It
When you go to the bank to withdraw cash or get coins for the laundry machine, bring your kid along (mask up!). Turn the outing into a fun field trip and explain who the tellers are, what the vaults do, and where the money goes once you deposit it. If you really want to get into the field trip idea, you could even use the time as a history lesson about money and why we have banks. By letting your kid see the physical space where money is transferred, kept, deposited, and withdrawn, they’ll be able to imagine an entire world and better understand how the system works.
It can be difficult to tell your kids how much you spend on groceries every month, what rent costs, and the cost of car insurance. We often want to shield our children from these realities, but it’s better to be up front. As they get older, they won’t be blindsided by the costs of living and will be better prepared to make smart financial decisions. This doesn’t have to be a serious sit-down talk, but rather something interactive. After you take them grocery shopping, show them the receipt. If your kid wants ice cream, steer them to the frozen food aisle and ask them to price compare brands. Also, flip the script! Ask your kids how much they think items cost. They might think your house cost $100, which depending on their age, could seem like a lot. Use their answers as a teaching moment.
We often want to shield our children from these realities, but it’s better to be up front.
Budget but Make it Fun
If you have an older kid, like a teen or adolescent, they probably have a phone. They might also be starting to work. It’s a good idea to teach them that cellphones aren’t just for Instagram and socializing. They can also be valuable tools to help them budget—and lead by example. Download money management apps like Mint or EveryDollar on their phones, something you also use and can show them how to manage. Like FitBit or other tracking devices, these tools can actually be a fun way to manage money. Try even making a game out of it. The person who can save the most money per week gets a prize.
We all know Monopoly is a classic board game and a not-so-subtle way to teach kids about money. Try to incorporate these lessons about saving, mortgages, real estate into other games too. If your child likes to play house, ask them how much their home cost and how they got the money to buy it. If your kid likes Barbies, get them to think about Barbie’s Dream House and convertible in a financial way. By incorporating money into play time, your kid will start to think about finances as just another part of life.
Money isn’t usually the most exciting topic for kids. But there are ways to teach your child about money that is both fun and helpful. Remember that the most important strategy, however, is by setting your own example. Kids are observant. If you spend frivolously, they’ll think that’s okay, no matter how often you tell them to budget.
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