Teachable money moments for your child

Most kids start learning about money earlier than a lot of people think and it’s usually from watching their parents. Your everyday decisions about what to buy and how to save can be teachable moments. It’s positive to create opportunities to talk to kids about money, so they learn good spending and saving habits early. In this blog we’ll teach you a few different ways you can talk to your kids about money in everyday situations.

A child in elementary school is just learning how money works. So simple lessons are best for example an ordinary trip to the grocery store can be an opportunity to play a money saving game. When your child picks an item from your shopping list, have them find the sticker price and compare it with other brands with the goal of finding the lowest price.  As he or she gets older, you can teach him or her to compare unit prices to figure out when buying larger quantities can help you save money. You can also give your child a mission to find coupons for the things on your list. As a reward you can let him or her keep some of the money that helps you save. By making the weekly shopping into a quest to get the most for your money, you are teaching your child the habit of thinking about the price of an item and its value before you buy it. Plus – it’s a great way to keep him or her entertained while you shop. The next time you’re at the toy store could be an opportunity to teach your child to make choices within her budget.      

At first your child might want to take the whole store home with you.  If you give your child a defined amount of money, he or she can figure out how to narrow down their options based on how much they actually have to spend and they’ll learn how to consider tradeoffs like whether it’s worth it to get one big toy or if they’d be happier with a few smaller ones. Now when your child steps up to the register with their toy they might notice that the total cost is a little bit more than the price tag due to adding sales tax. Understanding taxes might be a challenge for a young child but as they get older, you can look at their receipt together and show your child how taxes are calculated. You can point out the things in everyday life the taxes pay for, like schools and roads. Middle schoolers can already be more sophisticated consumers, which may mean it’s a good time to reinforce basic money habits and teach them about other things like digital spending. So for example one night while you’re having dinner you could talk about the tradeoffs between eating out and eating at home. Eating out might be more convenient and fun, but making a habit of it is bound to get expensive. Have your child estimate the cost of a dinner at their favorite restaurant including tax and tip and help them estimate the cost of one of their favorite home cooked meals. The cost of the groceries and the time it takes to prepare the food and clean up afterwards teaches your child that he can save money by doing things themselves. It can also help them understand the value of his time and effort.

Playing a game with your child on a smartphone or tablet could be a good time to talk about how digital spending costs real money. They might not realize that those apps, ringtones and 99 cent power ups that you buy in a game add up over time. They might want to set some ground rules including having them ask permission before downloading anything or having them keep track of what they spend online and setting limits. The next time a child asks to buy a movie or a video game can be a good time to talk about buying versus renting. Ask your child if they will really watch that movie or play the game more than once. If not renting it could save them quite a bit or if your child wants a video game, have them consider renting it first to make sure it’s something they really want. In high school your teenager will be much more independent and have more experience with money, but there are also more spending temptations for teens. The next time you’re shopping for clothes with your teen, remind them to prioritize what they really need, over what they really want. If they spent all their money on a few trendy dresses when what they really needed was a new jacket, they might regret it when winter comes. You can also teach your teen to keep an eye out for sales and discounts by doing a little online research. They may find that they can get something they saw in a store for less somewhere else. When you’re paying the phone bill, sit down with your teen and go over how your family’s cell phone and data plan works.

If your teen pays a fee each time they send a text to a friend, show them how these fees add up over a month can be a surprise. Looking at the bill with your teenager, can help them get in the habit of carefully looking over each bill they receive to make sure there aren’t any unusual charges. This could also be an opportunity to collaborate with them and researching alternate plans that may be less expensive for your family. Beyond learning good money habits for everyday situations, it’s also important to teach your teen about saving for bigger expenses which can benefit her future like a college education. The next time the subject of college comes up, like when you’re watching a college football game with your team or talking about their favorite subject in school, it could be a good time for a discussion about how much going to college could cost and what you can afford to contribute. Setting these expectations early can help your teen prepare for their future and encourage them to find ways to help pay some of their expenses. These are just a few examples of everyday opportunities to talk to your child about money. Once you get in the habit, it’s easy to find teachable moments like these. The earlier you start the sooner you can set the foundation for the money habits they will have in the future.



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