The best way to help your kids avoid the debt and bad habits common to many U.S. adults today is to start teaching them good habits now. If your kids start learning ways to save money while young, those good habits are more likely to stick with them when they’re older and have easier access to credit cards and loans.
Below are three creative ways you can embrace better spending habits together as a family. Some suggestions may be more appropriate for older kids than younger, but most could be applied with some variation for kids of different ages.
Here are 3 creative ways to teach good savings habits from an early age:
1. Make any allowance you provide tied to chores.
The link between hard work and money earned is a good lesson to learn early. Kids are less likely to take the money they receive for granted if they have to earn it.
If you already require certain chores without pay, there’s no need to change that. But in just about any home, there’s always more to be done. Make up a list of the chores not already covered, pick a price for each based on the relative amount of work involved, and post it where your kids can see the extra earning opportunities.
Bonus tip: To teach good savings habits, give kids a choice between taking their money right away in cash, or letting you hold onto it for them until they reach a certain amount. If they choose the latter, you can throw in a bonus few bucks to teach them the value of saving and demonstrate the way interest-bearing savings accounts work.
2. Work on creating a family budget together.
Bring the kids into the budgeting process. They might find it tedious, and perhaps a bit dull, but it will help them understand why they don’t always get everything they ask for. Be willing to bring up the family budget and your weekly spending limit anytime they ask for a new toy or a meal out, so they start to get the idea that the thought needs to be applied to every spending decision.
You can use crafts to help younger kids understand the concept. Use paper plates to represent the whole budget, and divide it into slices to represent the different categories your family spends the most on. Then explain how your goal is to make certain slices smaller.
Bonus tip: Enlist them to help you make the grocery list and talk about the different costs of the items you usually buy and how they fit in (or don’t fit in) to the family budget. Review menus together at the house before you go out and have the same discussion. Talk about trade-offs: what else can you buy later if you choose to skip the appetizer and sodas now?
3. Encourage kids to a pick a specific goal to work towards.
Whether it’s a new bike, an especially coveted new toy, or a party with friends, having something specific to work towards is a powerful savings incentive. A reminder of this goal can be helpful in the discussions you have around numbers one and two.
Bonus tip: Look for opportunities to point out choices your kids can make that could lead to more savings. If a birthday’s coming up and they’re pushing for an ice cream cake, point out how much they would save by making a cake at home and offer to add the extra to their savings if they choose that option instead.
Not only will your family benefit by implementing these ways to save money together, but it presents opportunities to spend more time together as well.