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7 Ways to Model Healthy Money Management for Kids

As adults, how we handle finances sends a powerful message to children. That’s why it’s essential to model the healthy money management behaviors that we want the kids in our lives to adopt.

Below are seven ideas to help shape children’s attitudes and behaviors around finances. These everyday lessons provide opportunities to model good money management intentionally.

1. Share the story of money in everyday life: Even for younger children aged four or so, everyday activities like shopping or family outings provide a chance to talk about using money. Demonstrate using different forms of money – coins, dollar bills, and credit or debit cards. Have them consider the things that cost money – toys, groceries, trips to fast-food restaurants, or admission to the zoo or a water park. Be sure to point out that things that have value can also be free. For instance, helping a neighbor, visiting a playground, or spending time playing with a friend is fun and doesn’t require money.

2. Point out the ways adults earn money: Discuss how you or other family members or friends earn money. Guide younger children to consider that the professionals they meet each day are paid an income – such as teachers, bus drivers, and mail carriers. Brainstorm with pre-teens or older kids about how they can earn their own spending money by dog walking, yard work, babysitting, or other tasks.

3. Build a basic budget: Age eight or so is an excellent time to work with kids to build a simple budget, allowing them to plan their spending for a set time or a special event. Start simple with a written spending plan for the upcoming week. A budget conversation can include measures for older kids to earn an allowance. For teens, work with them to set up an account with a monthly amount, where they can withdraw money for gas and incidentals. Also, it’s an excellent way to teach them that when the money is gone, it’s gone.

4. Plan out purchases: For kids of all ages, making a list before going to the store helps reduce impulse decisions. Have your child help list out everything you need before leaving the house. Then when they ask if they can have something else, remind them it’s not on the list. For older kids, introduce the idea of waiting to buy something they want. Delayed gratification is a hard concept even for most adults. For items on a “wish list,” talk about how much it costs and help them plan for the money required to purchase it.

5. Be an intelligent shopper: When grocery shopping or making larger purchases, ask your child to help locate coupons or sales. Bring children along when comparison shopping so they can understand price differences. Set aside enough time so kids can help you scout out the best prices when buying clothes or preparing for a party. For older kids, read reviews and compare items when online shopping.

6. Model good use of credit: Introduce children to the idea of buying things with credit. For example, let the kids witness you swiping your card at the gas station. Remind them that you’re borrowing money to fill the tank, and you’ll have to pay back the purchase (possibly, plus interest). When the credit card bill for that purchase arrives, review it with the kids. Highlight the importance of honoring your agreements with the lender by making on-time payments and keeping balances low. For older kids, introduce the topic of a credit score and credit report. Pull up your history as an example. Teenagers should be aware that a positive credit report will help them in the future.

7. Stress the habit of savings: From an early age, teach the importance of setting aside money, whether from earned income or a small portion of a child’s birthday or holiday gift, to be used for emergency or a special future purchase. Visit a local bank, credit union, or other financial institution for a kid-specific savings option for caregivers to open in their name. Research other kid-specific programs or accounts the financial institution might offer.

Set a Foundation for Financial Health

Our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness emphasize that these tips, and other everyday money lessons you might want to try, set a foundation for a lifetime of financial health.

Connect with a GreenPath counselor for more financial wellness insight.