Teaching kids of all ages important financial lessons about money and savings doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore. In fact, it can actually be fun! The trick is to make conversations about saving money as frequent and natural as anything else you talk about as a family. Of course, what you talk about and how much detail you delve into will vary based on kids’ ages and ability to understand. But they are conversations that should start early and continue into young adulthood. Here are some ways you can make saving money a family affair:
Don’t be afraid to talk about money
Financial conversations don’t have to be hush-hush affairs behind closed doors. Kids don’t need to know every detail of the family finances, but you shouldn’t keep them in the dark, either. Talk about things like getting a new vehicle, taking a vacation, or even saving for college with your kids to find out what they’re thinking. While the final decisions are ultimately yours, these are good opportunities to talk about giving up “wants” to use that money toward a bigger purpose.
Introduce the concept of saving early
Once children are old enough to grasp the basic concept that money is exchanged for the things we need and want, they can start learning basic savings skills. When they receive cash gifts for birthdays and holidays, adopt the spend half/save half rule. They will still get the fun of being able to buy a treat, and also have a chance to actively contribute to savings and watch it grow.
Use everyday opportunities as teachable moments
Going grocery shopping? Bring the kids along and have them help you comparison shop. Running errands around town? Pry kids’ eyes away from their screens and have them be on the lookout for the lowest gas price; the one who spots it and calls it out gets a small prize. The idea is to make talking about money and saving a natural and positive part of everyday life.
Let kids make mistakes now and then
Experience really is the best teacher, and that’s especially true when it comes to financial decisions. Sometimes letting kids make mistakes with how they spend their money creates a longer lasting impression than anything else. If your child is determined to make a purchase you believe is a bad choice, explain why you don’t think it’s a wise move and then let them decide on their own. Once the novelty of that must-have purchase wears off, they’ll think twice the next time they’re tempted to empty their savings.
Model good behavior
Actions speak louder than words. Talking about saving money won’t mean much if your children see you spending frivolously. Let your kids know you are regularly contributing to an emergency savings fund (you are, right?) as well as putting away money for retirement. Remember, the way your kids see you relating to money will shape the way they live their financial lives in the future.