As a freelance writer, a mom, and our home’s financial manager and coupon clipper, I’m an avid Pocket Your Dollars fan. I especially like Carrie Rocha’s Six Questions About Money series, because it’s so interesting to read how other people handle their families’ finances, and how their exposure to money in childhood shaped their thinking about money as an adult.
My favorite of the Six Questions is “What’s one thing you didn’t learn at home about money, but wish you had?” I didn’t learn anything about money when I was a child, and had to make several mistakes the hard way. Because of that, I consider teaching my own children about money a significant part of my parenting role.
Here are some of the big lessons children often don’t learn about money, and here’s how I’m approaching them with my children:
Money can only be spent once
When I was a little girl, I really wanted to go to horse camp. A few of my friends were going, and even I knew that as far as camps go, it was relatively inexpensive — only $200 for an entire week of sleep-away camp with horses.
My mom said we didn’t have $200, but that very weekend she bought $200 worth of groceries. I was furious. In my mind, my mother had lied to me — she said we didn’t have $200, but we clearly did.
Instead of keeping me in the dark about our family budget like my parents did, I’m letting all three of my kids know what’s what: that we have this much money to spend every month on food, this much on entertainment, etc. Our online financial software has some great pie charts that help illustrate the concept, and even my youngest one gets that you can’t spend too much money in one area or you won’t have enough in another.
Planning now gets you more money later
My kids know better than to whine for fast food when we’re on our way home for supper. Fast food for the five of us will cost over $50, and that means they’ll lose opportunity in another area of the budget pie. Using one of Roger Ebert’s recipes and planning a slow cooker meal in the morning means there’s enough money to attend a friend’s birthday party and bring a gift. Not planning ahead and spending $50 on fast food means there isn’t.
Comparison shopping is worth the time
I’m sure my mother must have compared deals, but I never saw her do it. Nor did I ever see her clip a coupon. Because of that, when I started shopping on my own, I only grabbed the brands I recognized, instead of looking for the best deals.
Now I make sure all three of my kids know how to clip coupons, look at per-ounce costs, and calculate the best deal even without any math. I also make sure they understand that comparison shopping isn’t just about groceries. For example, right now I’m looking for a new life insurance policy. Jon Fritz, an insurance agent at SILI, made a detailed guide to life insurance that covers all the basics and then some, and my oldest son has been put in charge of exploring the guide and finding us the best deals.
There are always ways to get what you need
My kids know that there are ways to solve problems even if you don’t have money. For example: if there isn’t enough entertainment money for a last-minute birthday gift, they can make a gift or give a gently-used book with a personalized inscription. My parents didn’t teach me that there were ways to get what you needed even without spending money, but I’m making sure to teach all of my kids.
What about you? What money principles are you teaching your children and how well are they learning them?