Teaching our children solid financial values, especially when we don’t feel like we always have them ourselves, is a major challenge for a lot of families. It can be difficult to know what information is age appropriate, where to start, and how to answer the tough questions kids are so good at asking.
So, to make the process a little easier, here are 5 quick ways to involve your kids in the family budget.
Why Involve Kids in the Family Budget
Children have an incredibly difficult time learning by lecture, especially when it comes to money. In a time of credit and debit cards, money has become an even more abstract concept than it was when we were kids. That has made money confusing and mysterious to adults, never mind young kids.
The best ways to involve your children in the family budget are going to be any methods that get them physically involved. For children, if they feel like a valued member of the conversation and can see and touch your family goals, the lesson is much more likely to sink in.
Remember that the default setting for all growing minds is “monkey see, monkey do”! If we discuss money with our children inconsistently or make it clear that is an uncomfortable subject for us, the first financial lesson our kids will learn is money is mysterious and scary. Your five-year-old doesn’t need to know exactly how much money Mommy and Daddy make, it won’t make any sense to them anyway, but they are prepared for more than you think!
5 Ways to Involve Kids in the Family Budget
1 – Use Cash
Credit cards, if you pay off your full balance every month, are an awesome, convenient tool. But to young kids, it seems like you have a magical card in your wallet that lets you buy whatever you want!
Pick at least one regular expense (groceries, take out, toys) and determine to use cash for those expenses. Let your child see what $100 is, how much it buys, and how long it has to last. Make money real to them!
Related Content: Why Your Kids Need FamZoo (& Not a Debit Card)
2 – Entertainment
At the beginning of the month, tell your kids how much money you have for entertainment expenses like the movies, mini golf, and new board games. Brainstorm as a family which things you want to do, discussing price and value.
If your daughter wants to go to the movies, tell her for the price of a night at the movies you could do two in-home movie nights with pizza and let her choose which she prefers. Fully understanding the idea of opportunity cost from a young age will help her make smarter financial decisions as an adult.
3 – Savings chart
Set a fun family goal, like that big trip to Disney, and keep a savings progress chart in your home. Each week or month, check in on your budget and let your kids color in more of the chart. This comes back to making money tangible! When you’re making discretionary spending decisions as a family, show young kids where abstaining from an expense & saving instead could put them.
Get printable savings charts in the Family Budget Toolkit in the Freebie Library!
Note: Considering the future is really hard for kids so do not make the savings chart about guilt or deprivation, but celebration and options. If you decide to give them the choice to go to the movies today or put $50 in the Disney savings, most kids are going to choose the movies (if they don’t dance that kid around the living room!). But if you give them the choice between going to the movies OR renting a movie at home and putting $45 towards Disney, most kids will choose the option where they perceive they are getting two things. Congratulate them when they make smart choices and always appreciate their effort and thoughtfulness.
4 – Clipping coupons
This is one my mom used to do with me and I still remember it so clearly. She would make her shopping list and flip through the paper and weekly grocery circular, checking off which coupons she needed. Then she would hand the papers off to me and I would cut them out for her. Any coupons we used at the grocery store, we split the savings! I always wanted to help mom find more coupons and remind her to use them.
Today, many families use apps like Ibotta to get cash back on groceries, but you can still put your child in charge of watching the ads and completing the little quizzes to redeem each offer. They can even be in charge of scanning the product barcodes and taking a photo of your receipt.
5 – Comparison shopping
Bring your young kids grocery shopping and give them a budget as you look for each item. Let them search the shelf for the best options. If you have $20 for fruit this week, show them how many apples that is versus how many blueberries and let them help you decide. When shopping for bigger items, explain the difference in the prices and what that saved money could buy you in the future.
How do you use day-to-day activities to teach your kids solid money values? Share your favorite ideas with other parents in the comments!