We have all heard the saying “money doesn’t grow on trees.” That is how parents used to respond when a child asked to purchase something. That method worked when kids actually saw green cash. Today, we live in a world of invisible money. Most consumers use credit/debit cards, and bank and shop online. Kids don’t often see physical cash exchange hands. That makes it even more difficult for children to understand its value; they think it is abstract and there is an unlimited supply. How can you make what appears to be intangible, real?
The answer is that they need to earn and spend cash. Some parents and advisors think they should get paid for chores and others think they should be given an allowance. I am not going to debate that in this article, but whatever method you choose, it is important that physical cash makes it into their hands and into their piggy banks. They should separate their money into categories for spending, saving and sharing.
Once they see the cash, they should set goals for spending it. Is there something short-term they want to purchase or something more expensive they would like to save for? What charity would they like to share their money with? After they have a plan for their money, take them shopping or involve them in financial decisions when you go shopping. Compare prices for generic brands, buying in bulk, using coupons, etc. and show them how much further their money can go based on purchasing decisions.
In-School Holiday Gift Shops are great ways for kids to apply what parents are teaching them about budgeting and spending in a setting where they need to make financial decisions on their own. Schools that use Fun Services for their Holiday Gift Shop are given budgeting envelopes for each student. The outside of the envelope has a form where the child can write the name of the person they would like to shop for and next to that is a space to write how much they would like to spend on that person. After they do that for each person they would like to shop for, they total up the amount of money they need to purchase a gift for everyone on their list. Then when they are shopping, they take that envelope with them with their money inside it, and look for items to purchase for their friends and family. If they find an item for less for someone on their list, they can spend more on someone else. Through Fun Services, approximately 80 percent of the items are under $5 and range from $.25 to $12.85, so there are gifts for any budget. Making these small financial decisions will help them make larger financial decisions in the future.