Sometimes getting kids to save money is like navigating through the living room in the dark with Lego landmines. It almost feels like a no win situation. Just like every store is full of shiny, colorful, super awesome things you can't help seeing, no matter how well you thought you picked up, there's a stay Lego waiting to pierce the most delicate part of your foot.
When it comes to pretty new treasures, let's be honest, most of us adults feel that way too. Money tends to burn a hole into our pockets on vacation. Whether it's the thought of, “I'm on vacation! I'm going to splurge!” or, “Ohhh if I buy this, I'll remember that!” or even “It's such a good price! I will regret it if I don't buy it,” we tend to want it all. We adults have the advantage though of a bit more income than the little people do. That's why in our house, I make saving up before a trip a major priority.
We all know once we are surrounded by a sea of plush toys, action figures, light up everything and Mickey ears galore, the hard part isn't finding something we want, it's figuring out how much we can spend.
To ease the heartache for your kids of finding the perfect THING on an empty wallet, we've got some tips so that shopping is a fun experience, not a stressful or tearful one, for both you, and the kids!
1. Making saving a priority
Just like you tuck away a little bit for a rainy day, your kids should to. Even moreso, if you know there's a family trip coming up. The earlier to start, the more they will have. Designate a dollar of each allowance into a Hands Off area. It can be an envelope, an old peanut butter jar (my kids choice), that piggy bank from Grandma, or even an old sock hidden under the bed. Just make sure your kids commit to it and have some part it making their home for their savings. At first, and possibly even along the way, you are going to have to remind them to put that dollar aside, but after a while, and as the trip or other big purchase they want draws closer, they are going to see how those dollars are adding up!
2. Think about the future
Most kids get money of some sort for a holiday. Birthday, Christmas, maybe a few dollars for Easter in the egg hunt. Up front, before that happens, let them know that a little bit of that is going to go into their savings fund for the future. Chances are, they won't argue, but if they do, a reminder of how unhappy they'd be standing in the middle of Disney World and not able to buy anything might change their mind.
3. Teach them to manage money
One of the things I've had the most fun with, is around age 4, giving my kids 8 quarters on a Saturday morning, then turning them loose (holding my hand, of course) at yard sales to see what treasures they want to spend their quarters on. I always tell them any quarters they don't spend, they get to keep. With my oldest, it was almost 2 months before he realized that if he used his quarters on that toy, he didn't have any left when at the next sale, there was a better toy. I was gobsmacked when the very first week, my youngest, who does not like to let dust gather on his dollar and can always find a toy he wants, was reluctant to spend it. Something about those quarters jingling in his pocket, and the realization that his pile would get smaller and smaller really spoke to him. I almost wonder if because a pile of quarters seems like it's more than a few dollars if that's it. No idea.
4. Encourage them
This one is so important. Encourage your kids. Tell them how proud you are that they chose not to get that toy that's so similar to others they have, but instead, are saving up for something bigger and better. The more you encourage them and praise them, the quicker they feel that pride in their actions even when you aren't around.
5. Show them how to save
While it is super important to help them save, and to make sure they do, there's something about see others do it that really motivates you, or makes you feel like you aren't the only one doing it. It's just like when you are around other adults who are making healthy food choices, kind of makes you want to do it too. Or at least save those calories for later! Be sure you kids not only see you saving, no matter how much it is, but hear you talking about it too. When they want ice cream, suggest buying a carton at the grocery store for $3, versues $9 for cones for everyone. Talk about how you'd rather save that money up for something else, something that's more special, not just something that you eat then it's gone. After a while, kids completely get that concept. That's not to say that you cna't splurge, go ahead if it fits in your budget, but make sure, if you are looking at the $4 t-shirt and the $11 t-shirt and get the cheaper one, you tell them why you did it. Help them learn. Take every opportunity you see to point out good choices and not so good choices with spending.
6. Give enough and offer them ways to earn extra
If it fits in your budget, find a fair amount to give you kids, and offer them a chance to make a little extra if they want. It doesn't have to be a lot, but even those small amounts add up, and it's not really so much the amount size, but the teaching of work = reward/pay. It's important for a kid to have ENOUGH money to actually manage. A kid who just get's 50 cents sepdning money a week (And I have seen that) will have to save up for a very long time to buy anything, therefore they are either going to spend it on dollar store stuff or candy, because that's cheap and didn't take long to save for, or else is going to get so discouraged, they have no desire to learn to manage their money.
7. Finally, admit your mistakes
Just like you've shown your kids how you save and how you choose to spend money and why, make sure you tell them about the mistakes you've made too. How quickly you blew your money on a bunch of piddly little things that were only a quarter each, then BAM! That $20 was gone, or how you got a little too hooked on a new snack or drink and bought so much because it was on sale only to discover you really didn't like it after all and wasted your spending money for the month. (Yep, both of those are me!) Remind them everyone makes mistakes with their money, but the best thing to do is just do better in the future.
Do you think any of these tips will be useful in your house? Have you ever had a money mistake you'd like to pass on so others can learn from it? How do you save up?