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Ten Tips For Teaching Young Children About Money

1. Start early. I started teaching my kids about money before they could talk. I talked to them about money. I showed them money. I let them touch money — in my presence of course, for safety reasons. I let them push buttons when I was dealing with money — the grocery story, ATM, etc. Anytime I was thinking about money, which was a lot, I said my thoughts out loud so my babies could hear them. This establishes your mindset early on as a parent to make sure you never miss an opportunity to teach your children about money.

2. Use mantras. Repetition works. From the time they can talk, teach them mantras. My favorite is, "There are 4 things you can do with money: spend it, save it, invest it, donate it." I say the first part, my kids say the second part. Another one: "Take care of your money and your money will: take care of you." Again, you say the first part and they say the second part. This confirms that your children are in control of their money and not the other way around.

3. Use coupons. Save coupons for snacks and treats. At the grocery store, if your children can find a coupon for something they want, they can buy it. This lets them know that you should rarely buy anything at the grocery store unless you also have a coupon for it so you can save money.

4. Teach them to use cash. At the grocery store, show them that you are using cash so you don't overspend. Show them a credit card and let them feel the difference between that and cash. Let them know that both can be used to take care of yourself, but that when you use cash, you have more money left over for other things. As a simple example, tell them that, if you use a credit card, you're paying $1.25 for a candy bar that really only costs $1.00.

5. Teach them not to pay full price. Let them know that everything eventually goes on sale. Use newspaper circulars to teach this principle. Show them their favorite cereal in the grocery store and let them see the price in the store. Then show them a sale circular for the same product for less money at another store. Then go to the other store and buy the product (using coupons of course). This lets them see that they never have to pay full price, and they can use coupons on sale items to multiply savings.

6. Teach them about commercials. From the time they started watching kids' television, tell them the difference between content and a commercial. Let them know that commercials are trying to get them to give up their money. So, here's another mantra. When a commercial comes on, train your children to recognize what it really is. Here's a suggestion for a mantra when a commercial comes on:

Parent: What's that?
Child: A commercial.
Parent: What are they trying to do?
Child: Get our money.

7. Let them see you deposit money in the bank and pay bills. Most children see their parents take money out of the ATM, but with automatic deposits and paper transactions, they don't often see you put money in. Take some cash to the bank and let your children see you deposit it. In this way, you show them that you can't get money out unless you first put money in. Also, let them see you pay bills. Now and then, I take cash to their pre-school and let them see me pay the bill in cash. Their eyes get really wide when they see the huge wad of money being forked over. In this country, 9 times out of 10, how much education you have is inextricably tied to how much money you are willing and/or able to pay for that education. Children benefit from being aware of this connection.

8. Save money in a big glass jar. Piggy banks are nice, but kids need to see money accumulate in order to understand how that happens. Instead of a piggy bank, help them put their money in a glass jar so they can see it add up. (The smaller the jar the better, at first, because it looks like a lot more money.)

9. When the plate is passed, let them donate. Help them donate a percentage of the money they get as gifts or whatever. We use the 10% rule, helping them calculate 10% of each dollar for the collection plate at church. This can be done for any charitable organization that you and your family support.

10. Pay them for working in a business. Most families these days have some kind of small business at home. When my kids were just 2 years old, they started emptying the trash in the home office for a quarter. This money goes into their money jar right away. Make the chores age appropriate, but remember that they don't really have to accomplish much to teach the lesson. If my son empties a trash can with 2 sheets of balled up paper in it, or my daughter does something as simple as wipe off the window sills or put all the pens in the pen holder, they still get paid. This teaches them that they have to work for money. If you connect the task to your business, it also teaches them a little about entrepreneurship. (You may also be able to deduct these payments on your taxes. Check with an accountant first.)

Unlike with work for the business, we do not pay our children an allowance or for chores around the house, because life doesn't work that way. Mommy doesn't get paid for sorting the laundry, and neither will you. When they ask for money, we send them into the home office to clean it up, AFTER they've done their chores. Then they get paid.

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