Making Money Real For Kids (Part 2)


November 8, 2018


Last week we shared ideas to teach kids about money in real world contexts—things like using a clear piggy bank and taking advantage of every opportunity to teach budgeting. But making money real doesn’t always need advance planning or focus on an activity. You can teach your kids about money in real world contexts through everyday conversations, too.

Show them your paycheck.

Whether you get a physical check or an online transfer, show them “proof” you’re getting paid. Explain where that money goes—the mortgage? Groceries? The car? If they’re too young to grasp the numbers, these categories, at the very least, will help.

Tie the cost to value conversation to good things.

As kids grow up, they may—as we all do—find money to be a source of stress. But money isn’t just about that; it can also be a means to contentment, entertainment, excitement. Explain how much their favorite activity—say, after-school sports—costs. Does the uniform cost as much as their favorite pizza? Is it worth it? Find things they’ll say “yes” to, and start the discussion about worth there.

Share stories with money themes in everyday conversation.

This one’s simple: when your kids and you are debriefing each other on what you did that day, don’t be afraid to throw in some money stories. Did you sit down and draw up a vacation budget? How about that money you saved at the grocery store? Did you write a check for a major expense? What about any difficult decisions based on money you’ve made recently? Mention these to show how money is part of our everyday reality as adults.

Explain how much everyday problems cost.

Your kids have probably seen you get frustrated over a leaky faucet or flat tire, but they might not know the numbers behind your bad mood. Explain that part of inconveniences as an adult is often paying for unexpected expenses, or “emergencies,” so it’s important to have emergency funds. Explain that if you don’t have one, you may end up having to find money elsewhere—possibly making sacrifices of “fun” money. If your kid has a money emergency—maybe their favorite glittery sneakers got torn, and their out of back-to-school shoes—go through the same “adult” process for their situation, and work together to “find money” to pay for it.

Engage kids in the money parts of shopping.

Whether they count out the bills at the check-out line, price compare brands in the grocery store, or make the tough choice between two kinds of cereal, don’t just bring them along as taste testers.

Beyond the practical money lessons these conversations can teach, they all serve one very important purpose. So many adults believe that “finance” is intimidating. But by including it in day-to-day conversation, money will come across as an approachable topic—something that’s just part of everyday life and everyday choices. And though some discussions, like explaining your paycheck, may fall outside the realm of your day to day life, for the most part these are all discussions you already have—just with another adult (or at least in your own head!). Be sure to break down more complicated ideas into super simple, kid-appropriate examples, and you’ll be all set.

What everyday money conversations do you have with your kids?

Article by Katie Simon

Katie Simon Katie Simon is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. She earned a BA in creative writing and marketing at New York University and an MA in nonfiction writing at University of East Anglia in England. She is from Boston, MA.

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