When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a little wallet that she had sewn herself. It contained 3 pockets that could snap shut. She told me that this little wallet was for me to keep my money in and to learn how to budget. The pockets were labeled: Save, Spend, and Share. She instructed me to put half of everything I got into the “Save” pocket. Then at least 10% was to go into the “Share” pocket. The rest was mine to spend. When the “Save “ pocket was too full to hold anymore, I would give it to my mother and she would put it in the bank in a savings account that she had set up for me. This was money to be saved for long-term goals, such as a college education, or for purchasing a car or a house. The “Share” money was to be given away. In my case, it went into the tithing fund of my church. This taught me to be willing to sacrifice and think of the needs of others. I was always able to put in more than 10% if I wished, but my mom said that 10% was the minimum. And then, the “Spend” pocket was mine to spend in any way that I wanted.
Children need to be taught how to handle money. Teaching a child to understand the different currencies and how to calculate change are just the basics of finance. When you teach your child to save and to share with others you are building character traits of responsibility, self-reliance, thrift, patience, sacrifice, caring, and love. These principles can be taught at a very young age. My mother gave me my “wallet” when I was about 5 years old.
Here are some tips on teaching a child to budget:
- Give them a source of income. Whether it is an allowance or extra work around the house, children can’t learn to budget money if they don’t have any. Don’t just give them money. They need to know that they have to work for it.
- Give them a place to keep their money. It helps to have 3 different containers, or pockets, or piggy banks, so that they can separate it into the categories.
- Teach your child to count money, how to figure out percentages such as one-half or one-tenth, and how to figure out proper change for transactions.
- Help your child set financial goals. If your child wants to take their “Spend” money and buy candy every time they go to the store, then they do not learn how to be patient and work toward a distant goal. Have them choose a special book or toy that they would like to have and save for that purchase.
- Give your child opportunities to practice handling money. Take them shopping with you and have them purchase an item, pay for it themselves, and check that the proper change was given.
- Have your child choose where to give away money. Talk to them about the poor and needy and how we have an obligation to help them.
- Teach them about the cost of things, such as electricity, water, gas, phone service, and a mortgage, so they have a greater appreciation for the cost of living. This helps them learn to take care of things – and hopefully to turn off the lights!
- Let older teens open up a joint checking account with you and learn to manage and balance a checkbook.
- Set up a computer spreadsheet to track income and expenses and have your child learn to use it.
It is never too early to start teaching your child the financial skills they will need to be a self-reliant, responsible, and caring adult.
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