My Story: A Frugal Budget Lesson
11 Ways to Teach Kids about Money
Modeling Money Behaviors
"Here you go, Steve," I say, handing my fourteen-year-old his $30 allowance. "Got any plans for it?"
Besides the obligatory ten percent for savings and another ten percent for church giving, the rest is my son's monthly spending money. But sometimes it hurts to watch my hard-earned income pour like water through Steve's ready-to-spend fingers. The only consolation is that sometimes he learns a much-needed economics lesson.
"Well," he replies tentatively, "I'd like to get that computer game I've been saving for."
"How much is it?" I ask, knowing what's coming.
"Forty dollars. Or maybe forty-two, with tax."
"Hmm. How much have you saved?"
"Eight from last month. With this month's allowance, I'll have thirty-two dollars." He looks doleful for my benefit, but my expression does not change.
"Not quite enough, is it?"
"Well, if you put all of it away this month, you'll have the rest when next month rolls around."
Sulkily, he turns toward the stairs leading to his bedroom. "So you won't lend me the rest?"
"You know our policy on debt, son. It's a bad habit to start."
I could have given him the ten dollars, or I even could have let him wash my car or clean the basement to earn it. But I want Steve to learn how to budget for higher-priced items. Immediate gratification is risky at best.
Thus begins my teenager's lesson on long-term savings. As it turned out, he spent part of his allowance for another computer game that went on sale for $10. But his birthday brought cash gifts from relatives that put him over the top for buying the long-awaited computer game.
Consumer debt is at an all-time high in the United States, and bankruptcies are climbing as well. It's a good idea to start kids off on the right foot with learning to manage money and even cut costs on the things they buy. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to help them work toward these goals:
Teaching kids the value of money doesn't have to be difficult. Catching them early and being consistent are two ways of helping them learn to master the challenges of making do or doing without rather than living beyond their means.
Rose Alexander teaches college writing. She and husband Mike enjoy reading and travel with their son and daughter.
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