Everybody wants to raise their kids to be financially responsible adults. You want them to learn how to make (and stick to!) a budget. You want them to learn how to save responsibly. You want them to learn how to use credit cards well, etc.
There are lots of ways to accomplish this. You can have your kids go shopping with you and help you balance your bank account (when we were kids we learned by helping our parents reconcile their checking accounts each month, but who writes checks anymore?). You can set them up with an allowance or monetize their chores. You can give them books to read and shows to watch. The best way to teach your kids how to responsibly handle money, though, is to be transparent about how you handle yours. You are your kids best example, after all.
This is difficult for many parents to do, especially when money is tight. Parents do not like having to admit to their kids that they have trouble with money. Sometimes, though, it is the best thing you can do. And, even better, getting your kids in on the brainstorming of ways to save money (or earn more money) is a great way to teach them the value of a dollar.
Of course, not every method your kids suggest is going to hold water. Here are some ideas that you can use to supplement their suggestions.
Use Coupons Responsibly
My grandmother had a coupon problem in that, if she had a coupon for something she’d buy it–even if she had zero use for it–just to get the thrill of getting something at a lower price than the manufacturer might have intended. This is not the best use of your coupons or your money.
Instead, show your kids how to find coupons and discounts on the things that you already use regularly or that you know you are going to buy. For example, when your family decides to have a pizza night, check sites like CouponBox.com to see if your nearest pizza restaurant might be offering a special deal. Search for discount codes for online purchases before checking out, etc.
Pay Attention to Item Pricing
Holy cow, the paper towels you wish you could afford are on sale! Hooray! You can now get one roll of those paper towels for the same price you usually pay for your store brand rolls. It seems like a great deal. But look closer. The more expensive paper towels have much smaller rolls now. You would have to buy three rolls of the expensive stuff to get the same number of actual paper towels that you get in just one roll of the “cheap stuff” so…is it really worth it to buy for brand name recognition?
Teach your kids how to figure out what something costs per item (like paper towels, kleenex, etc) to find the real savings when you go shopping.
Shopping is a Utility, Not a Hobby
One of the ways in which we both fail to save our own money and fail to teach our kids how to be responsible with theirs is when we treat shopping as a fun hobby instead of something that we have to do to keep ourselves fed and clothed. Everybody likes getting new things from time to time, it’s true. And you don’t want to teach your kids to hate shopping because that might not serve them well in the long run either.
You should, however, do your best not to teach them to shop when they are bored. Or to spend more time in stores than they have to. Get used to making a list before you leave the house and then sticking to it when you are in the store. Get out of the habit of going to the mall on days that you’re bored or when you need to kill time before, say, seeing a movie or meeting someone after an after school program (or waiting to pick a parent up from work). Teach them to look for other ways to occupy their time. For many of us, the impulse purchases we make when we shop out of boredom are where most of our budget leaks occur. Nip this habit in the bud!
Remember: if you want your kids to be responsible with money, you have to be open and honest with them about how you use the money you earn. It might be uncomfortable but it is the best thing that you can do for your kids’ financial futures.