Like many other aspects of our lives how we spend our money is a function of making the right choices. It shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition, it should be putting needs and wants in the proper perspective. The best way to teach children about making choices is to allow them to do it.
Children should be given an allowance or “paycheck” based on “jobs” or chores. Both the “job” and the “paycheck” should be age appropriate. One idea is to give your child an amount that is half their age. In other words a ten year old will receive $5 a week or simply shift some of the money you are currently spending on discretionary items for your children and give it to them to manage. Set up save, spend, share, and invest accounts. There are even specially designed piggy banks to help promote this concept. Check out Moonjar, My Giving Bank or the Money Savvy Pig. You can find them on Amazon.com. Help them understand what the four different money accounts/pigs are and why each is important. Then let your kids decide which account they would like to put their money into. When they want to buy something they will have to make sure they have enough money in their spend account to purchase the item and if it is something worthy of owning. If it’s a big ticket item like an ipod or a ball game they will need to decide if its worth dipping into their save account.
When it is their money, not yours, you will be amazed at how much more thoughtful they are when it comes to the purchase decision. It works with young children and teenagers alike. Just before christmas I was at the mall with my then 18 year old daughter. She saw a scarf she just HAD to have. It was $80. We considered the scarf and how much use she thought she’d get out of it. She decided $80 dollars worth. Then I asked her if she’d brought her money to purchase it. She quickly reevaluated the scarf and decided $80 was too much. The same works for gas money. My daughter has a car large enough to accommodate 8 people. She became the designated driver for she and all her friends. Those kids thought nothing of driving 100 miles for breakfast. They were blowing through gas money with reckless abandon. When I turned off the tank, so to speak, my daughter began asking her friends to contribute to her gas fund. They all quickly chose to ride the bus or hit local breakfast joints. Smart kids.
I reward my children with good grade bonuses. They know that bringing home A’s and B’s on report cards mean cash. Their number one job is school and above all else it’s a priority to do well. I also instituted a year end giving program when they were very young. I allowed them to choose a charity that they wanted to donate a percentage of their savings to and then I matched their donation dollar for dollar. Every year was a different charity. It went a long way in not only teaching them how good it felt to give to others but also about how truly challenging our world is and caring globally for human and animal alike.
We are living in tangible times and the lesson is about spending what you have, not what you don’t. Whatever your pig is holding are your assets..if it’s not in the belly of the ceramic beast it doesn’t exist.