While your child has not yet entered the realm of braces, driving permits, or group dating, they have most certainly begun to develop their money habits.
The research is slightly alarming, especially for those of us who thought we had more time to teach our child about money.
In a Cambridge University study from 2013 called Habit Formation and Learning in Young Children, researchers found that the seeds of emotional regulation, complex problem solving, and core money habits happen well before the age of 7.
That’s because kids are picking up money habits and behaviours all the time.
So, while your child may be dangling somewhere between high school and a love/hate relationship with Frozen, the fact is, they’re already well on their way to developing their core money behaviours.
You know, the ones that will follow them into adulthood?
Don’t fret because you think your child’s current spending habits – a mixture of priorities for things like checkout-counter candy, life-sized Elsa dolls, or really anything kiddy-like that comes across their field of vision – are the ones they’ll take with them into adulthood.
I’m here to tell you that a “savings mentality” can be taught.
If you’ve struggled with getting your child to save money towards either a specific target goal – Pokémon cards, or a new bicycle – or even just saving money from one allowance to the next, then you’ll definitely want to try out these money activities.
Money Activity #1: Incentivize the Efforts You Want to See
Goal setting for kids can be a steep learning curve.
It’s likely your kid won’t meet their first money savings goal (or even their second). I mean, how many attempts did you have to make – and still have to make – to be able to save up for what you want?
So, instead of praising their results (the ones that might not come for several years), praise their saving efforts.
Savings efforts that are due some praise include:
- Forgoing a purchase they want on impulse because they remind themselves that there’s something else they’d like to use that money for.
- Sticking aside $5 out of this week’s allowance instead of spending it all.
- Finding a way to cut their cost (such as nixing their vending machine habit) so that they can put the couple of dollars aside for a bike.
Your praises will keep them coming back to the money-setting goal line again and again, and in time, they’ll get it right.
Money Activity #2: Model Good Saving Behavior
Kids learn from watching you.
Don’t let that frighten you!
Even if you don’t have great saving behavior to begin with, you can ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ by having your child watch you do good saving behaviors.
These can include things like:
- deposit money into a targeted savings account
- cashing in your money coin jar to put towards your own goal
- setting aside part of extra money you receive towards savings (instead of splurging on it all)
Little efforts add up.
Money Activity #3: Create a Family Savings Goal
Creating a family savings goal is not only an excellent way to model good saving behavior, but it is an awesome way to bond as a family!
Schedule a family meeting where you’ll kick the whole thing off with your family. You’ll want to:
- Come up with the Goal: Give everyone the chance to talk about what savings goal they’d like to work towards. It needs to be one that at least partly benefits everyone.
- Choose a Location to Accumulate Money: Is the money for your savings goal going into a mason jar? A piggy bank? A bank account? Keep this as visual as possible so that the kids can see the growth (if you put it into a savings account – a great lesson for your kids – then be sure to have a visual tracker at home).
- Research the Cost: Have your children sit with you as you price shop to figure out how much your family will need to save up in order to make the purchase. Model comparing prices online to in-store, and also search for any coupons/discounts that might be available.
- Figure Out Where the Money Will Come From: You need to source money for your goal. Will this come out of everyone’s allowances? Will you have a yard sale, with proceeds going towards the goal? Will everyone cut down on electricity costs and the saved money will go into the piggy bank?
- Track the Progress and Report Back: You want someone to be in charge of tracking and reporting progress towards the goal. Either choose one person for this, or make it a rotating role.
- Make the Purchase: Once the money accumulates to your target goal amount, let your kids see you take the money from the savings location and use it towards the exact thing/experience you guys set out to purchase.
Money Activity #4: Choose a Kid-Centric Visual Tracker
Let your kid feel the excitement of tracking a savings goal – either yours, the family’s, or their own – by setting up a fun, visual tracker that they get to update.
Introducing money to kids this way can include a growth chart (use the blank tick mark side, if it has one, to track money accumulation or just create your own tick marks next to the height ones), two glass jars filled with marbles (and each marble is worth a certain money amount, like $5), or any other way you can think of to track growth.
Make updating your visual savings tracker a weekly/bi-weekly ritual so that they see the importance of doing so.
Money Activity #5: Let them Benefit from Coupon Savings
Have your child scour the weekly manufacturer coupons for you. Then any money saved from coupons (usually listed out at the bottom of the receipt), gets deposited into their savings account for a specific savings goal or piggy bank.
You can bet this will make them look for more ways to save money using coupons!
Now’s the time for you to confidently nurture a “saving” mentality in them by setting up one of these 5 money-saving activities. These activities will allow them to self-discover the lesson of saving money on their own, which is the best way for them to internalise such an awesome money habit!