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How I Taught My Child the Value of Money

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My son has always been interested in money, from coin collections to creating random businesses with his friends. He’s saver by nature, but I’ve honed his skills by weaving lessons about money into everyday life. Here is what worked for me:

Starting Young

Most kids love to play store. Encourage it. My son “sold” me everything in the house, from cereal boxes in the pantry to plastic broccoli in his little play kitchen. It got me thinking about other ways to teach him not just about money, but assigning value to things and, most importantly, learning that money is a finite resource.

Delaying Gratification

With the average American’s credit card debt nearing $16,000, our kids are in desperate need of financial education: saving, emergency funds, and living within their means. I started my son at age 8 with an old school piggy bank. He now gets his spending allowance on a reloadable debit card, and must track the income and spending with a check register.

Put Them in Charge

Give your younger child a few dollars and give them parameters on how to spend it: healthy snacks at the grocery store, craft items at the dollar store or toys at a yard sale. You’ll save to supervise carefully, of course, but they learn to make choices.

Teaching Couponing Habits

I have my son go through our Valpak envelope every month and pick the deals that would benefit our family. I have him clip coupons from the Sunday circulars based on items we buy. Matching them up becomes a treasure hunt. If he wants something online, he is required to Google it first and see if there are promo codes or discounts for it. Even if you don’t like to coupon, make it child’s play.

Grocery Shopping – A Lesson in Pricing

My son now does much of our grocery shopping. He has the list, a calculator, and a pre-set amount. What we buy must always fall within the budget. What a feeling of power! While it turns a normally quick shop into a marathon at first, this has proven to be one of the most valuable lessons. Trust me; he never forgot the day he had to choose between putting back milk or candy.

Play Restaurant

About one night a month is Restaurant Night at our house. My son, and often his friends, create a menu and prepare the food with supervision. It could also be crackers or cookies. They set the table, create place cards (their idea) and assign prices to their fare. The kids love this game!    

Moneymaking Ideas

Aside from chores, lemonade stands and yard sales are a great way to introduce your child to the concept of making money. Supervise the process and get other families involved in helping prepare and sell the goods, and tabulating and distributing the profits. Over the years my son has also sold artwork door to door, washed cars and walked dogs.

Games

We have always been a big fan of board games that teach important lessons about money. Monopoly and Life are two classics worth considering. They teach how money can be made and lost, and how sometimes things beyond our control can create a financial emergency. There are plenty of online games too, run by banks and organizations. The US Mint has a good one.

Start Now

There are so many everyday teachable moments when it comes to financial literacy. We as parents just need to be willing to start and follow through. In a month my son will be 14, old enough to become a bagger at the local grocery store. He plans to sock the money away for car insurance when he turns 16. I’m glad I’ve gotten him to think that far ahead.

 Marie Hickman is a former TV journalist who now writes about saving money, parenting, food and travel. Follow her on Twitter at MrsHickman777 and read her blog posts at http://www.valpak.com/blog/author/mhickman/ and https://mariehickman.contently.com.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Gretchen April 15, 2015

    Oh my goodness. I have done all of these! My daughter (who is a teen) sells her clothes at consignment stores too. I also do “matching dollars” for bigger ticket items. It can take kids a really long time to save money for a big ticket item (like an iPhone or computer). So I tell them if they put in the hard work I will match 1/2 the money (up to a certain amount). That way they get the gratification sooner but have to work for the item.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 15, 2015

    All fantastic recommendations!

  • comment avatar Lana April 15, 2015

    This seems kind of silly but teach them how to use checks. I went to the bank last week with my teens adn they had no idea how to fill out the deposit and savings slips. We spent an afternoon going through those and how to write a check, what to tip in restaurants. Particularly helpful for when they start dating.

  • comment avatar Kiersten April 15, 2015

    Parents, with help from their kids, can set the dollars amount or percentage towards each goal. For example, a rule could be to donate 10%, save 20% and have the remaining 70% to spend. The important thing is that kids get acquainted with the notion that every penny earned can’t be spent (think: taxes). And getting used to paying themselves first is a habit that will serve them well throughout life. There are even multi-chambered piggy banks designed for this purpose.

  • comment avatar Marie Hickman April 16, 2015

    I’m glad my tips were helpful. We all learn from one another, and it’s vital to teach kids about money.

  • comment avatar Bank of Dad April 16, 2015

    Some very good idea’s. I’ve been working on my daughter to learn the value of money for years. With luck, it will soak in someday!

  • comment avatar Ken April 20, 2015

    Hi Marie,

    Great post. Growing up I wasn’t taught the value of money and had to learn it myself through the school of hard knocks. Today’s economy is scary to say the least, so teaching children from a young age to save and manage money is very important. I think it’s also important to teach basic investment strategies. Thanks again 🙂

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