Do you remember how you first learned what money is? Engaging your kids in learning about the ways of our deeply transactional and contractual world is no simple task. We learn about money both theoretically and experientially; our numerical skills are honed from any early age using monetary value (‘Kate has 20p, how much more does she need to buy a 40p apple?’).
But learning how money operates in the world and learning about the value of money are two very different things. The former is necessarily covered by our educational system, whereas it is the job of ours as adults to guide the young in the value-arena. Find here some useful suggestions as to approaching the money question with your children.
Give them pocket money
The decline of pocket money in the age of ‘invisible money’ is far more problematic than you’d ever imagine. Gifting your child with pocket money isn’t merely a means to keep them happy. Having a set amount (50p, for example) given to your child consistently (per week, or month) is a sure-fire way of teaching them about the limits of money.
By giving them ownership of their pocket money, rather than just going out and buying them the item they desire that week or month, allows them to think about how much certain items cost. Also, they are taught the concept of being able to afford something and saving their cash until they can go and purchase it. Allowing them to handle their pocket money themselves puts the responsibility of keeping it safe in their own hands – if they lose it, it has gone and won’t be replaced. This is an important lesson to be taken into adulthood.
Take them shopping with you
With the rise in online shopping, less children are physically going with their parents to the shops and supermarkets. Repeatedly taking your child to the checkout with you will remind them that items do indeed have to be paid for, and the cost of such items.
Paying with cash and allowing your child to hand it to the cashier (or self-checkout machine) will help them to visualize and understand the transaction they are partaking in. Simply buzzing in our contactless cards lessens the value of items on a conceptual level for both us and our children by delaying the impact of our spending; try bridging this by always taking a receipt, and showing the amount to your child when you can.
The savings jar
Purchase a physical jar for spare change around the home and each month come up with a (useful, but not immediately necessary) item together that you will save for. Gradually add to the jar, and count coins together each week to calculate how close you are to buying that item. This will enable your child to firstly understand how to save money incrementally, as well as further teaching them that not all items can be bought immediately. Make sure you explain where the money is coming from such as work or change from the shops etc.
Play ‘guess the cost’
This can be played in virtually any space, given that we are always surrounded by items that cost something. Hand your child an item and have them guess how much money they think it costs. If they guess correctly or close enough, you can offer them a small reward. Follow-up by repeating the items to see if they can remember how much each thing costs the second time around.
Introduction to financial products
Remarkably, kids are quite attuned to the sophisticated financial products used in the adult world. For instance, plastic credit cards are commonly included in mini play shops and cash registers that you can buy and install in your children’s rooms. Credit cards can also be found in modern versions of Monopoly as a way of paying for things. So whilst children might think of them as magical money machines, it can be worthwhile to explain actually how a credit card works.
Similarly, when playing maths games and problems, it can be useful to include the ideas of short term loans or savings accounts and how much you would earn or repay each month as a way of testing multiplications.
Open them a savings account
With a savings account for children, it enables them to explore adult methods of money-saving, how banks operate, how to keep your money safe and eventually how interest works. You can even open a savings account for a new-born; why not get them babbling about financials from the beginning?
Ensuring that children have an understanding of money and worth is certainly more difficult today than ever. So often do we find ourselves desensitised to our own spending that it is no surprise that our children are following-suit. Engaging them in our transactional processes and teaching them some simple lessons in spending and saving not only equips them better for adulthood, but also serves to help us keep on top of our own spending habits. This way your own children will eventually be able to keep you in check financially. Who needs a budgeting app when you have a little one at hand, anyway?