“But I waaant it, “ four year old Joshua whined for the umpteenth time. Bob was TDY and I was completely out of patience with our youngest son. After taking care of five kids under the age of 11 by myself for months, my fun meter was pegged. I braced myself for a complete kiddie meltdown in the middle of the department store, and I knew what I must do to prevent it from happening. I turned to my son, “Is it in your budget?” He immediately stopped the whining, “Um…let me see.” Distracted by the question and the task of looking in his little wallet, we successfully navigated the possibility of daytime drama and I breathed a sigh of relief.
That incident happened a number of years ago and now Joshua has received an appointment to West Point and will be getting a $425,000 education in the process. Part of this is because we took the time to teach him about budgets, a work ethic and financial literacy from a young age. I believe there is a way to teach kids about money matters and help them become financially literate by developing child-friendly exercises such as “Fun Kid Budgets.”
Oftentimes, children can get family finances off track with their kiddie demands for instant gratification, but you can teach your kids about money by putting them on a budget for anything from clothing to school supplies to entertainment. And it doesn’t have to be dull, dry and boring—it can be fun! Here is where the fun part comes in, whatever he doesn’t spend, he gets to keep. Just make sure the budgets are age appropriate and be prepared to help them learn. Here are some examples of how to create your own Fun Kid Budgets:
- Restaurants — tell your child how much you will give him to spend on his meal at the restaurant. Remember, he gets to keep what he doesn’t spend. This becomes a great motivator for him to spend less than he “makes” while learning the value of a dollar! But be careful with the born savers, they might just say, “I don’t think I’ll eat a meal here at all, I’ll save the $8 and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.”
- The Zoo – When you take a child to the zoo, give her enough for the ticket, treats and a modest souvenir. She may even pass on the sweets and pocket the change.
- Theme Parks – If you have a big family vacation planned to a theme park, give your child enough for the day. We did this with our five children at Knotts Berry Farm, designating $100 per child. You should have seen how big their eyes got when they had to fork over $55 just to get into the park!
- Movies – Budget the ticket and a nice snack, kids will soon learn that theater food is very overpriced.
- Clothing – Set aside an amount you’ll pay for the article of clothing. You pay for the item, they pay for the brand. For example, the budget for tennis shoes is $40, if our teen wants the “Air Jordans” for $120, he pays the extra $80 from his allowance or savings for the brand name.
Remember that grandmas, aunties and big sisters can also teach the kids they love how to manage money with a fun budget. For more information on what your kids should know (at what age) about money matters, email a request for “Fiscal Fitness for Kids” to firstname.lastname@example.org . Please mention that you read about this resource in my blog and we’ll send it to you free!
How do YOU teach your kids about money?