As I’m standing in the middle of the toy store listening to my 3-year-old son cry because we won’t buy him the giant truck that he wants, I realize this might be a good time to start teaching him about saving money, and ‘needs’ versus ‘wants.’ But is he too young to start teaching him about money? No way! It’s important to teach children to save at a young age, to lay the groundwork for habits that will help them for the rest of their lives.
What better time to start teaching my children and yours about money than during April, recognized as Teach Children to Save month! The American Bankers Association created the Teach Children to Save campaign 16 years ago. This program partners banks and students for lessons on the importance of saving. The program has reached more than five million students with saving education lessons. There are many resources available to help you teach your children the importance of saving. Here are just a few:
American Bankers Association’s Teach Children to Save Website – Tips to start teaching your children to save
The United States Mint’s H.I.P. Pocket Change – Online games for kids that teach money-saving lessons
Take Charge America’s Educator Resources – Personal finance lesson plans targeted for children in grades 1-5
PA Dept. of Banking – Money’s Best Friend – Advice, games and activities to help kids and young adults understand money
I’ve also found some tips along my journey to teach my child to save. Some I can implement now, while others will be more helpful down the road.
1. Introduce them to money by showing them coins and have them name and sort the different coins.
2. We set up three jars labeled Give, Save and Spend. A portion of the money that he receives goes into each jar. This encourages him to give to charities and organizations that we support, save a set amount, and only spend what is left after saving.
3. When giving a child an allowance, give the money in denominations that encourage these habits. For example, if your child gets $3 a week, give three one-dollar bills so that one bill can go into each jar.
4. Teach them the difference between needs versus wants. Use examples such as, “Food is something that we need in order to survive, while toys are items that we want.” Explain that since toys are not a priority, we need to save for them and buy them when we have enough money to do so. By saving for a toy, he learns the benefits and rewards of saving his money for something special.
5. Open a savings account for children and make deposits regularly. When the “Save” jar gets full, we take our son to the bank so that he can deposit the money into his own saving account.
6. Kids learn by example, so if our son sees us saving our money, paying bills on time, spending our money wisely and keeping track of our money accurately, then he’s likely to follow our actions.
It seems harder to teach children about money these days. Cash used to be king in our household, but now credit cards, online banking and automated bill pay are ‘commanders in chief.’ We very rarely have cash on hand, so it’s hard for our children to see physical money and transactions. But by being open with them about our finances and showing them that we’re responsible with the money we have, we’re subtly encouraging them to have the same healthy saving and spending habits in their futures.