In some families, money is almost a dirty word. Some parents don’t tell their children how much they earn, what things cost around the house, and what they do with the money they earn. And it’s not something they learn about in grade or high school either. Financial lessons are few and far between at most schools.
But money management is one of the most important lessons a child can learn. Nothing can bankrupt their future faster in almost every way than money mismanagement. It can cause undue stress, strain on their relationships, and make their life harder than it has to be.
But how can you instill healthy money habits in your child, especially when they’re still under the age of 5? The key is giving them bite-sized, age-appropriate lessons and building upon that knowledge as they mature.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Create a Shop At Home
Kids love to play pretend, and what better way to introduce them to the concept of money and what it can do for you than to set up a pretend shop in your living room? You can make your own money or use coins to let them get a feel for handling real money.
If your child has a pretend shopping cart, let him or her wheel it around and place whatever they want in it and make sure they remember to pay you for the goods before they leave the “store.” Then you can take your turn as the shopper, and they can be the cashier.
Will they have any concept of how much money they are forking over at this point? No, but it will help them learn that you can’t go in and grab things off the shelf in stores without remembering to pay for them.
Give Them a Piggy Bank
It’s never too early for a piggy bank. When your child is still a toddler though, you’ll want to keep the piggy bank out of their reach, particularly if they haven’t gotten over putting things in their mouth yet. You don’t want them to swallow the coins accidentally.
But as they get older, you can give your child small chores around the house and pay them on the spot for performing the duties you’ve given to them. You should start small, like paying a nickel or a dime for helping you unload the dishwasher. That will give your child a chance to experience the pride they can get from performing a job and earning money for it.
Get Help Clipping Coupons
Even if you’re not ordinarily a coupon user, you can clip a few out and let your kindergartener join you, using their safety scissors. You can tell them how that piece of paper they’re cutting out will help you save money.
At the store, you can put them in charge of the coupons and tell your child to help you look for the items you need. When the store prints up your receipt, you can circle how much money you saved as a result of the coupons. When you go home, you can count out that amount of money in dollar bills or change. If you want, you can split the savings – giving half to your child for their piggy bank.
Get Them a Savings Account
After your child has saved up a few dollars in their piggy bank, make a trip to the bank to open up a savings account for them. Explain to your child that this account is theirs and only theirs – they don’t have to share it with anybody.
You’ll also want to let your child know the bank is a secure place to keep their money.
Have your child make regular deposits to their account and make sure they know how much their balance is growing and the things they could buy with that money. Tell them how proud you are of them for saving so much of their money.
Occasionally, you should allow them to take a little bit out of their savings and take them to the store. Let them spend their money on whatever they want. That’s a great way to encourage future savings because they will understand they don’t just have to put money in – they can take it out as well.
Consider Starting a Coin Collection
Children love collecting coins and seeing how different they can be. Be on the lookout for any unusual coins you might find like wheatback pennies or Canadian coins. They’ll get a kick out of seeing coins that aren’t familiar to them.
If you want, you two can start a state quarter collection too. They’ll love the idea of trying to collect quarters from all 50 states.
Another great coin to add to the collection is a Sacagawea dollar. Girls, in particular, will love seeing a female face on their coins.
This blog is part of Fathers Incorporated‘s Drive To Five campaign. The campaign design seeks to reduce father absence by engaging dads at the early stages of their child’s development, which makes them more likely to continue their involvement through all of the stages of their development. For more information visit www.drivetofive.org