Money plays an important role in our society. A person’s ability to earn, spend, and save money influences their success in life as well as a person’s skills in managing and sharing their money and their willingness to repay their debts. As with most essential life skills, a good parental example is your child’s best teacher in money concepts, but there are a number of other things you can do to teach your child to be responsible with their money.
Start by having an open relationship about money an financial issues. Discuss the various things you both need, like a place to live, food to eat, and clothing. Talk about the amount of money each of these things cost and where the money comes from. Show your child how you, your spouse, or both of you must work to earn money for these things.
Also talk about wants and how they differ from needs. Name a few of your own wants and ask your child to name a few as well. Explain that the money you make each week is used to pay for your needs first and you can only buy the things you want if there is extra money. Explain that many people save their money so they can have some of the things they want. Talk about different things you may save your money for, like vacations or new furniture, and discuss other reasons we may save as well, like for emergency situations or for gift buying.
Remember to discuss the many ways we can share money as well. Talk about charities and how to help others by donating things or money to these organizations. Involve your child in your own donations by allowing him to help choose a worthy charity or by helping to select items needed for canned food or toy drives. You can also use this opportunity to begin warning your child of scams or imposters who will not use their money to help others.
By the time your child is a preschooler or in early elementary school, she is ready for hands-on experience in money management. Give your child opportunities to earn money. They can earn an allowance for doing jobs around the house or receive money for gifts, good grades, or good behavior. Children should be expected to do chores around the house as a responsibility, but money can be earned for extra jobs and tasks.
Help your child keep track of his money. Provide him with a wallet to carry his money in and a bank to save with. Also teach him to record and track what he receives and where it goes. As soon as your child starts earning money, set your own expectations for its use. Encourage your child to save and to share before he spends anything. A good guideline is to choose a charity or cause to donate 10 percent to and to put another 10 percent in his savings bank.
Search for quality organizations that interest your child, like a wildlife fund or an orphanage, and write down a few he would like to share his money with. You may want to collect the “share” money and send a check or pay online if your child can not give the money in person. Also have your child think of things he would like to save his money for. Encourage him to set goals to save a specific amount for something special.
Allow your child to make his own decisions on how he spends his money. Offer guidelines and do set a few expectations, but let him learn as he experiences total costs, like added accessories for a toy or how snacks raise the cost of a movie. He will also begin to learn that quality often affects the price of an item and demand does as well. Use these experiences as teaching opportunities and allow your child to learn from his mistakes and bad decisions.
As your child begins to grasp the concepts of money and how the economy works, you can continue to expand and teach new ideas like borrowing and the difference in long-term and short-term savings. There are a number of games and books available to enhance your child’s learning. Educational software, like Let’s Learn: Money and Economics, are fun ways for children to gain a better understanding of earning, spending, and saving.