Saving for yourself has its own challenges, but when you start saving for a family, things can get quite complicated. It may seem there is never enough to go around, or that no matter how much you plan, the money you plan to save leaks out of the wallet before you’ve had a chance to sock it away.
Include Kids in the Conversation
Saving money requires planning, time, and discipline. It also means denying certain things now so you can afford what the family wants and needs later. For this reason, it’s important to include the whole family in the conversation.
Including kids in the conversation helps them to understand why and how parents save as they do and the choices they need to make to provide for the future. When kids overhear conversation about “cutting back” or “saving money”, their first assumption may be that there is an immediate concern with money – such as a shortage. When kids are included in the conversation, they begin to understand why you are saving. They begin learning about making choices with money: wants vs. needs, instant short-term gratification vs. long-term investment, and more. They begin to learn that saving with a plan means having a goal and visualizing the steps to get there. They feel empowered to contribute and take pride when, as a family, goals are achieved. What’s more, they become more confident when making their own choices with money and are much more likely to ask for guidance and help when they need it.
Get Everyone Involved
First, it’s important that all parents are involved and in tune with the savings goal(s). It’s important that you take the time with your partner to privately discuss finances and what your savings goals should be. You need to have the space to talk freely and frankly without the kids as there will be topics that are not appropriate for everyone to know. Once you have a goal in mind, it’s time to involve the kids.
You can involve the kids in several ways:
- Share the savings goal and why it’s important.
- Ask them for ideas on how they can contribute. And remember, not all contributions have to be in the form of money. There are other ways to save: turning off lights and appliances when not in use, making and packing their own lunch, etc.
- Ask them to help come up with a list of things that the family spends money on and to help identify ways to reduce those costs.
- Take the kids with you when you shop and turn each trip into a lesson on comparison shopping.
- Have the kids help clip coupons.
- Spend more time doing things as a family that cost less or nothing at all.
- Construct a savings tracker with the kids out of craft items around the house and track your progress weekly.
Start a Savings Account for the Kids
While saving as a family is great, it’s also important that kids learn to be responsible for their own money. How involved you need to be depends on what’s appropriate for their age and development level, but be sure to be included in their own savings plan regularly.
Start by getting a piggy bank and opening savings accounts for each child. Piggy banks are a great way to start saving and be able to see the fruits of your savings at any time. They are also a great way to introduce savings and building discipline for saving in younger kids. Having a savings account teaches kids about money over time (dividends) and how to keep a savings register.
Building these habits early helps them learn valuable money lessons they will carry into adult life. In addition to including them in family conversations and helping them start their own savings, it’s important to make learning and talking about money a regular part of their life. Getting started can be overwhelming, but thankfully, there is a wealth of resources out there to get you started. Check these out, for a start:
- Money As You Grow: The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau offers many resources including FAQs, online toolkits, ready-made “book clubs”, and more to help you get started. You don’t have to be the expert; their content will help you get the knowledge and confidence you need to talk with your kids and make learning about money interesting and fun.
- The Federal Trade Commission: The FTC’s site has advice and links to resources for both adults and kids.
- President’s Financial Council on Financial Capability: Learn when to start financial topics based on your child’s age and activities to help them reach these milestones.
Stay tuned for more next week for ways to jumpstart or build on savings during America Saves Week, February 26 – March 3!