Kids and Money Tip: No Spending Until You Prepare A Budget

Money is a foreign concept to most children until they are about 4 or 5 years old. It is at around this age they become aware that money has the ability to purchase things. However, most of their financial knowledge is focused on spending because that is what they SEE happening with money.

  • Mom gives money to the grocery store clerk and carries groceries out of the store.
  • Dad swipes his credit card at the gas pump, and it allows him to put gasoline in the vehicle.
  • Grandma gives money to her beautiful grandchildren (your children, of course) and you take the child down the toy aisle to buy something with it.

Since “spending” is what we see happening with money from our earliest days, it is what most children grow up knowing about money. For them, money equals spending.

The important financial principles of giving, saving, investing, and budgeting are not learned. Consequently, grown children leave the house knowing only that money equals spending. This is a recipe for financial disaster!

Here’s a simple thing you can do immediately to change that for your children (grandchildren):

Ask the child to prepare a budget for any money they receive – BEFORE they are allowed to spend any of it.

For example, my daughter receives money for her birthday. She and I count the money so we know exactly how much she has received, and then I confiscate it. Upon receipt of a well-planned budget, I release the money to her for use. Later on, I do a “check in” to ensure the money has been used according to the plan.

In a recent budgeting moment, my daughter was planning the use of $20. Her first budget had $2 for giving, and $18 for spending. I rejected it because there was no saving or investing. Her revised plan showed $2 for giving, $0.25 for saving, and $17.75 for spending. She gave the budget to me with a smile – knowing there was little chance of it being accepted.

I rejected it.

Her third try included giving, saving, investing, and spending. I released the funds to her.

Here’s the reasons I love this process:

  1. Teachable Moments This process creates space for “teachable moments” about money. It forces conversation about the importance of giving, saving, and investing. It allows us to talk about the “spender” mentality that we both share.
  2. Learned At Home Before my daughter enters the real world, she is receiving real financial knowledge that will set her apart. She knows what a mutual fund is and how it operates.
  3. The Pain of Wasting $20 is Less Than The Pain of Wasting $20,000 I want her to recognize the pain of poor financial decisions NOW when she is making $20 decisions so she doesn’t have to learn the lesson with a $20,000 purchase later.
  4. My daughter actually enjoys the process My daughter actually enjoys the process. It has helped her save a substantial amount of money toward her first car. She has financial margin. She knows her parents care about her.

I have my daughter use our FREE BUDGETING TOOL called the “Mini-Budget.” It’s perfect for kids.

My book, What Everyone Should Know About Money BEFORE They Enter The Real World, is a perfect resource for helping your child start out life with the financial tools and principles essential to life.

One Response to “Kids and Money Tip: No Spending Until You Prepare A Budget”

  1. Christy April 15, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    What is considered investing for a child? I have an almost 6 year old and not sure what would be investing for him.

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