Savings savvy: Three ways to teach your kids about money

Paula Sirois

This morning I implemented a new program with my kids: He or she who yells, pushes or screams has to put $1 into a jar on the shelf. At the end of the week, whoever hasn’t broken the rules gets all the cash. By this afternoon, I had already deposited $5, my son had put in $2 and my daughter dropped in $1. At this rate, none of us will ever collect the money. But all of us will stop yelling so much, my kids will learn more about money and I will have saved $7,000 by the end of the summer!

I am determined to teach my kids about the value of a buck. Here are a few other ways to keep them engaged and learning at the same time:

1. Online savings: Just like everyone else, I was compelled to do the allowance thing for my kids. It seemed simple enough to bribe them with money if they completed X number of chores. What I discovered is that as soon as I handed them the cash, they’d lose it, which was frustrating and sort of ruined the point of showing them that their work equates to money and that money leads to purchasing power. So I moved the allowance online. With automatic transfers to each kid’s account, they can see their savings grow every week. They don’t lose the money, they don’t feel a need to spend it and yet when they’re acting up, I show them their accounts and they shape right up.

2. Review receipts: While driving home one day from the grocery store, my 8-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Receipts are amazing!” She recounted how her classmates had found a receipt on the playground one day and were able to play detective. They knew how much the person spent, where they spent it, the name of the store manager, the name of the cashier, what the person bought and how much money they gave and got in return. Now that’s fun math. Make it a habit to let your kids read the receipts and figure out the most expensive item on the list, the least expensive, the coupons used and how much was saved.

3. The hard sell: Talk to your kids about advertising and how the goal of every ad is to get you to buy whatever it is they’re selling. Make it a family game to talk about ads and uncover the facts about the product: Is this something you want or need; can it be found elsewhere for a different price (higher or lower); what music, colors or words does the ad use to make you feel like you want the product?

With a few simple steps, we can all raise money-savvy kids. Starting an online allowance showcases how time and savings really add up. Using daily experiences to talk about money lets kids get a better understanding of how one trip to the store impacts your wallet. And educating kids about how advertising works is a great way to highlight wants versus needs.