We aren’t born knowing how to handle money and finances. While it seems some people are natural savers and others burn through money the moment they get it, it’s not necessarily nature that causes those behaviors. More often, it’s that we’ve been taught — likely unintentionally — to be a spender or a saver. Fortunately, it’s possible to teach our children to learn to enjoy saving money. Here are some tips for how to teach your child to be a saver:
Model Saving Behaviors
As with most things, children pay just as much (if not more) attention to what we do, rather than what we say. If you tell your child they need to save their money but they see you spending recklessly, that advice isn’t going to carry much weight. If, however, they see you regularly making careful, smart spending and saving decisions, they will be more likely to model that behavior. When appropriate, include kids in family conversations about saving money, so they see it as a natural part of daily life.
Encourage Goal Setting
Saving money is more fun when there’s a goal involved. Talk with your child about the benefits of both short- and long-term saving. Short-term saving can be about buying a specific toy, video game or new electronics, while long-term savings goals can include buying a car when they turn 16, saving to go on a school trip or family vacation, and contributing to their own college fund.
Sweeten the Pot
If you are fortunate enough to participate in a 401(k) with an employer match, you know how satisfying it is to watch your savings grow faster thanks to the additional matching funds. You can give your child that same feeling of accomplishment by matching a portion of their savings efforts. Once you’ve helped your child set savings goals, offer to match up to a certain amount when they meet or exceed those goals. It’s a fun and productive way to encourage your child to be a saver.
Allow for Mistakes
While it may seem counterintuitive, allowing your child to make a money mistake or two will teach them a lot more than if they never encounter a bump in the road. If you see your child headed for a bad spending decision, talk with them about why you don’t think it’s a wise choice. If they’re still determined to go through with it, let them. It won’t be fun, but it will teach valuable lessons about how it feels to waste money they’ve spent time and effort to save. Chances are, they will think twice next time and make a better decision on the road to be a saver.
Use Relatable Tools
For younger children, keep a chart that indicates their savings goals and how close they are to reaching them. For older kids, have them download a savings tracker app to their phone or tablet. Having those visual reminders are powerful cues that will keep the idea of saving in the forefront, rather than an afterthought.