Is your kid a “saver” or a “spender?” Most of us were probably a combination of both when we were kids, but we likely also knew some kids who fit the extreme.
Some kids are savers by nature. They like to hold on to the cash they get. Whether it’s for a specific item they want to buy or just because they like to see the their money add up, they can hold on to money like nothing you’ve seen before. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s all about balance.
Other kids are spenders. Money burns a hole in their pockets before it even reaches their pockets. If they just earned a few dollars for helping with the groceries, they’ll likely be off to the store to see what goodies they can score with their newly earned riches.
In both scenarios, there is a need for balance. The uber-saver needs to know that he can’t hoard money. There will be a time and place where it’s okay (even necessary!) to spend. Your super-spender needs to learn how to tighten the reigns so she’ll have money when it’s time for important purchases.
How do we teach kids how to save the right way? Here are ten things kids should be saving for throughout the year that can help to guide them into good money management skills.
Kids should be saving money for…
1) Birthday presents. It’s inevitable that they’ll be invited to a number of birthday parties throughout the year. A great way to teach about saving is to have them set aside a small amount of their money each month to help with birthday gifts for friends. Giving from the heart will take on a whole new meaning for them when they are responsible for at least a portion of the money for the gift.
2) Sports. Soccer and basketball and volleyball, oh my! Those fees add up. Whether you have a child who only plays one sport or an all around sport enthusiast, having them be responsible for a portion of their sports fees or equipment each year will teach them how to be responsible when they receive money.
3) Musical Instruments. Treat musical instruments and lessons just like sports. They can help pay for lessons or the equipment for the lessons.
4) School Clothes. Assuming they don’t wear uniforms to school, having them help buy their school clothes at the start of each year will be a great lesson in economics. If you feel that’s too much, maybe have them keep savings ready for when they just “have to have” the latest jeans or shoes. That would be a good to time to help them think through if the purchase is a priority and decide if they are willing to spend the money to get them.
5) Entertainment. The newest video game, the latest movie, a new tablet or phone, all these things can be pricey. Often kids will expect their parents buy them without regard for how much they cost. Having them save a little each month in a special “entertainment” category can go miles in helping them decide if having the latest game is really worth the cost since they’ll have to help pay for it.
6) Benevolence. It should be mandatory that each child pick a place to donate money to. Donating time teaches them that we can’t just throw money at things and expect them to get better on their own. It’s a great lesson to learn. Donating money helps to teach that even though we may want something for ourselves, sometimes it is better to give to others.
7) Christmas. It’s fun to receive gifts at Christmas. Most parents want to surprise their kids and make them happy at Christmas with things they’ve been wishing for. Even as adults we cherish this holiday and look forward to receiving gifts from loved ones. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying gifts that have been given to you, it can also be easy to get caught up in receiving gifts and start to forget that Christmas is also a time for giving.
Childhood is the perfect time to teach children that they can make someone else just as happy as they are by giving gifts to others at Christmas. People they can give to include siblings, parents, grandparents, or best friends. They don’t have to spend a lot or give to a lot of people, but by consciously setting aside money for gift giving they can learn to think of others.
How much should kids save?
The question now becomes “how much should they be saving?” To answer this, let’s start by remembering that they are only children, and should be treated as such. That just means that we shouldn’t expect them to stash away $100 each month in anticipation for Christmas or anything else.
The biggest reason for having them save for various expenses is to teach responsibility with money. In doing so, the amount of money isn’t necessarily as big of a deal as the attitude in which they complete the task.
For a young child, setting aside a dime or quarter each week can help them learn to be gracious givers and to appreciate what they have. An older child may be able to set aside a dollar each week. It really depends on the rules you set, and how much money each child begins with.
It’s even okay not to save for every one of the things mentioned above. Have your child choose one or two things to save for. They will still be able to learn the same valuable lesson about money.