As a personal finance writer and someone who has had a long-time interest in money and finances, I’m working hard to build good money habits in our children. A recent MSN Money article notes that, “Behavior experts David Whitebread and Sue Bingham of the University of Cambridge reviewed previous studies to determine how children learn in general, and how they learn about money in particular. They concluded that money habits — including the ability to plan ahead and to delay gratification — are typically formed early in childhood.”
While it might sound like just one more aggravating thing added to a litany of items on the “things to teach the kids” to-do list, some of the activities that help children build proper money habits are things that we regularly do ourselves and that the kids can participate in relatively simply.
Grocery shopping is educational?
Grocery shopping can seem mundane to us adults, but for a kid, it can be a real learning experience. The MSN Money article I referenced previously noted that, “Being involved in decision-making can help kids understand the trade-offs required in economic transactions, which can make it easier for them to delay gratification.”
Our family takes the kids along with us to the grocery store weekly. We point out prices, have our oldest child make selections out of the choices we provide him, and we note the similarities between name brands and store brands in many aspects but price. We hope that in this way our kids will have an idea as they move into adulthood of what the products they consume cost and how money is used to purchase the things we eat and in what amounts. We also hope that this leads to decreased waste as they grow older due to them having greater appreciation and education of product prices.
Learning more than just how to save money
There is more to practicing good money habits with kids than just learning how to save money. We also want them to learn how to appreciate money. And even little things can help them in this area.
We do simple things like picking up a penny or nickel on the street, in the store parking lot or in a store itself. We take our kids to the bank when we go. We let our oldest check the coin return on the change count machine at the bank, and he’s super excited if he finds some foreign coins returned in the slot. We then discuss the type of coin and country of origin. We sometimes buy him collectible coins for his birthday or the holidays, and family members bring him back coins from their travels to Europe.
In these ways, we teach him more than just how to save, but we teach him about the money itself and money appreciation in the process.
Teaching delayed gratification
In our world of fast-paced technology and “if I want it, I get it” consumerism mentality, delayed gratification seems to be a fading practice among many adults. And if we aren’t practicing a little self-denial occasionally, how are our children supposed to learn such responsible money-saving habits?
Often times, a simple reminder that “Christmas is coming” when our child brings up something that he wants or that he saw in the store or on television is enough to delay his requests. And many times, by the time the date arrives, he no longer wants it anyway; and if he does, we actually know that it was more than just a whim, and he appreciates it all the more when he gets it…maybe a valuable lesson to all us adults as well.
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The author is not a licensed financial or parenting professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.