Let your kids get wild this month. (About saving, that is.)
April is Youth Month, when credit unions look for ways to help kids learn about the value of a dollar. There are many ways to do this, but if you need some fresh ideas keep reading.
Give them examples they understand.
Our furry friends in nature are always busy setting some great examples for ways to get wild about saving. Squirrels for instance – the bushy-tailed savers spend months stockpiling mushrooms, acorns and tree cones for the winter. Deer mice construct intricate tunnel systems under the snow to hide their supplies of seeds. Beavers take the time, even during dam-building season, to gnaw down saplings of aspen and cottonwood for safekeeping in their ponds. If wild animals can do it, so can your little critters!
Make money part of the daily conversation.
When your little one asks for the toy of the moment, throws out food, or even plays with mommy’s purse, bring up the idea of finances in a non-threatening way. When children ask why you have to go to work every day, have an answer ready: “I would rather spend all day with you and Timmy, but going to work means we have money for this house, your dinner and all your toys.” Talk about money in ways that stresses its value as something to be earned, valued and conserved.
Incorporate games and books.
Monopoly is the classic board go-to for teaching kids about saving and investing, but it’s not the only game in town. Cashflow for Kids, The Game of Life and The Allowance Game are just three options among many that build money consciousness among children as young as 5, emphasizing responsibility and planning for real-life events.
Take them shopping.
Turn your weekly grocery trip into an educational experience. Start by having your kids make a list, broken down into “needs” and “wants” for the family. Put them in charge of coupons. At the store, challenge them to comparison-shop for prices among name brands and generic labels. Reward them by choosing between the “wants” on the list, so they’ll learn that spending less per item means better snacks down the road.
Set up an allowance system.
Some families keep allowances simple, with a set amount per week, while others create complex systems where kids can earn more by doing chores. The key is to be consistent about the rules while offering guidance. Smaller kids might need permission to break into their piggy banks, while middle-schoolers can be allowed more independence. Once they’re teens, make them responsible for budgeting their own gas, movie tickets and fashion statements.
Encourage them to set goals.
Kids are bombarded with images of stuff they suddenly really, really want. Talk to them about how long it will take them to save up for that blinking gadget or those talking boots, and they might reconsider. Or they could surprise you by faithfully socking away enough for their dream toy. Both possibilities are valuable learning experiences.
Let them make mistakes.
Don’t feel the need to step in every time your youngster blows his allowance on candy. It’s easier to learn hard lessons about money in kindergarten than college, where credit cards and emergency loans get financially inexperienced students in hot water.