Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
Children who learn money management from an early age have a greater chance of achieving financial security in adulthood. Attitudes and habits surrounding money form early, even before the little ones can add and subtract. Teaching solid economic habits from the toddler years on up makes reaching prosperity easier.
How can parents ensure their children learn positive spending and saving habits? One way consists of involving the kiddos in the weekly family trip to the market. The grocery store offers a ready-made classroom for teaching kids responsible financial behaviors.
Give Them Their “Own” Money
In order to start children on the road to sound money-management habits, they first need to have some cash to manage! Young toddlers can start with the good, old-fashioned piggy bank they can save allowances in. Older children benefit from opening their own savings account to learn how to budget for big-ticket items.
Children often have little concept of how much different items cost, so prior to heading to market with a beloved little one in tow, discuss what items they hope to buy. This makes for a teachable moment, as it opens the door to conversations about proper nutrition as well as money management. Parents can teach children the basic food groups and how to budget for selecting items from each one.
At the store, allot each child a specified dollar amount to spend on foods they crave. Younger children can start small with amounts around $5. As children grow and mature, assign them a larger portion of the weekly grocery budget to spend and help them select items that meet everyone’s nutritional requirements. This makes an excellent way to teach the difference between wants and needs.
Let Them Help with the List
Budgeting for groceries or any other purchase requires planning. Sure, it’s possible to head to the local store without a shopping list. It’s also likely that failure to write down what’s needed will result in spending more time and gas running back for forgotten goods.
Teach children how to shop in their own pantries by reviewing foods they already have and asking how they could incorporate those items into meals. This is also an excellent time to discuss food waste and what can be done to reduce it. Let kids get creative like little “Chopped Junior” contestants by asking them how they could artfully use leftovers to create a new lunch or dinner.
Introduce the Principle of Opportunity Cost
Everyone possesses finite financial resources. Opportunity cost refers to the principle that every time people decide to purchase something, they simultaneously reduce their spending ability to buy a different item. Saying yes to that 24-pack of salty snack bags might mean saying no to a sweet dessert item.
At the grocery, allow children to weigh the consequences of buying certain items off their “naughty food” list. Is it worth the money, for example, to buy four or five multiples of frozen dinners when making similar meals from scratch costs less? This helps children begin to weigh convenience along with item cost when making financial decisions.
Let Them Make Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone learns from them. Allowing children to make financial faux pas while still safely under their parents’ wings means they’re less likely to make similar errors when faced with larger adult budgetary concerns.
Parents of older children can teach them how to use credit responsibly by getting them a credit card of their own with a low balance. Many credit card companies will allow parents to add their dependents to their accounts. Younger, less responsible children benefit from receiving prepaid debit cards to introduce them to the idea that spending all their money at once results in struggles down the road.
Raising Financially Savvy Children
The financial habits children develop in their youth continue to follow them throughout life. Adults who learned healthy spending and saving habits when they were young benefit from this financial literacy when the time comes to spread their wings and leave the nest. Fortunately, helping little ones develop positive attitudes toward money takes little more than a weekly visit to the grocery store.
This is a contributed post
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