Teaching Money: How Some Families Handle It

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July 8, 2014

“See a penny, pick it up, then all the day, you’ll have good luck…”

And hopefully, when you grow up, you’ll appreciate the value of money and spend it wisely!

I’ve started a new line of parenting inquiry. It all started when I misplaced my debit card and had to go in for a replacement card. My teller used the time to fill me in on all of the programs for kids. Being me, I asked about her experience with the young set as a bank representative. She told me that it’s not the kids that have trouble, it’s the adults who never had any training that struggle the most with financial issues.

So, to follow that line of thinking, I surveyed some parents to see how they deal with money and their kids. Almost unanimously parents agree children need actual experience with money in order to learn. We need to emphasize wants versus needs. Here are a few of the most common ways parents I spoke to give their kids that experience.

Give a weekly allowance based on particular expectations that the children must meet – anything from chores to school work. Most parents using this method have a system for the application of that money that separates it into Savings, Giving/Charity, and Fun. One parent had this four sectioned “Money Savvy Piggy Bank” from Fat Brain Toys that included Investing.

Two parents that I spoke with put twist on the weekly allowance idea. They give their kids a large weekly “paycheck” because school is considered their job. From that paycheck, they have to pay rent, save, and give. They pay for someone else to do any of their chores that weren’t finished and are docked for incomplete work at school. After all of that, they keep the remaining money. One family even uses family bank books with the parents as the “bankers.”

Most families that don’t have a weekly allowance system allow their kids to make money from special chores around that house that aren’t everyday work such as washing the cars, raking leaves, recycling cans and bottles, or washing windows. One mom differentiated the chores as “Citizen of the House,” the ones you did because you live here and “For Pay,” the extra things you could do to earn money. You can find all sorts of fancy set-ups for this on Pinterest.

Instead of gifts for special occasions, ask the family members who won’t be offended to give money. This gives kids a chance to make decisions, follow through, and experience the positive and negative consequences of their choices. Not to mention, the kids feel like masters of the universe with all those possibilities at their fingertips.

One family struggles with money during the summer and fall when work slows. They frequently struggle to make ends meet, so any sort of extra money for the kids is out of the question. During those times, the mom explains to her kids that while they are secure in the basics like their house and food, they have to be careful with extras. All of them plan a menu then go to the grocery store knowing exactly how much they have to spend. The kids are in charge of adding up the price of what goes into the cart and they prioritize what to buy together. She said that, for the most part, the kids make very good decisions and complain less later.

If you would like to establish a new family financial pattern, these parents’ method should give you a great place to start. I have already started compiling other people’s out-of-the-box ideas for teaching kids about money. Keep an eye out for that next week!

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