I truly believe there are lessons to teach children before they have money of their own.
Lessons that can be taught without direct access to money of their own but by including them to a small extent in how you and your family use and view your money.
Because how can someone grow up with an appreciation of how money fits into adult or even teenage life unless they have had the possibility of seeing it happen from a young age?
Say no if your cannot afford to buy something they are asking for. Be honest. Teach them that sometimes what we desire is not financially possible just now and that we cannot have everything we want straight away.
Get them involved in happy family financial decisions. If you are saving up to go on holiday or a family day out let them see you putting away money towards it. We are going to Barcelona in May and Small Boy, whilst still too young to be involved in the actual financial decisions or the budget as a whole, is aware what has been bought so far (flights and apartment), what I am putting money towards now (passports and spending) and that the trip is his 8th birthday present. I am planning a little holiday celebration tea for us both when it has all been saved for next month; He is already planning a holiday to New York when he is 10 and is saving up his tooth fairy (and disco tuck shop) money towards it. The 4 day trip has turned into a family adventure in which we are both involved (and for which we are both already ridiculously excited).
Let your children help with the weekly budgeting session, again in a small way. They could count the coins or notes, for example, or put the coppers in the family piggy bank. They don’t have, or need, to know the details or the overall figures.
Take them shopping and give them a job dependant on their age. Tell them they have x to spend at the sweet shop or ice cream van, let them chose themselves (with a little help for very small children) and stick to the limit if they go over; allow them to pick the seeds or seedlings, again with a set budget, for one small area of the garden and let them see their choices grow; give them a budget for fruit and let them fill the family fruit bowl this week; send them searching for products on your list and explain to them why you chose the specific options or brands you buy; let them pay and receive the change from the cashier or complete the whole buying transaction with a list from the greengrocer or butcher; let older children chose the ingredients for a family meal with a set amount of money.
At Christmas time or for family and school friend’s birthdays give your child a budget and let them chose their own presents for their loved ones.
Save giving your children toys or special treats for Christmas, birthdays or when they have achieved something special. Small Boy gets to chose a small Lego set or book if he gets an award at school…even when he got one a week for 3 weeks in a row…but any other time he knows he will have to wait for June or December.
Our children are all influenced by the world outside our doors, but try to encourage your children to not be swayed by other people’s or other children’s insistences that a certain toy or label has to be had or is a requirement for them to be cool or accepted. Teach them to stand up for what they believe deep down is desirable, or what they truly want, not what they are told to believe. In our house the well worn phrase “but everybody else has it/does it/is getting it” is the kiss of death to Small boy ambition; I’ve even been known to change my mind to no after the phrase has been uttered even if previously I was going to give in to the request.
In addition to pressure from other people, adverts on television can be difficult for children to ignore and provide the most insistent messages of all about what they must own or eat or buy. We don’t watch live TV much, preferring to put on a film or BBC iplayer or Netflix, read a book (me) or play Minecraft (Small Boy), and the lack of adverts does play a large role in this decision. The impact of adverts cannot be avoided entirely though, and Small Boy will still request a trip to McDonalds when we out for the day (especially when Nanna is involved)…but you can only try!
You can read the rest of this Small Ones & Pocket Money series here:
Day 1. Small Ones & Pocket Money: An Introduction
Day 2. Small Ones & Pocket Money: Before Pocket Money