10 Money Lessons for Grade Schoolers

09 May 2017

I remember when I started getting an allowance. I was a 9 years old and my parents discovered a stash of money (birthday and random cash gifts from relations) that I had hidden in my drawer. After a brief chat about where I got the money from and what my plans were, my father implemented a monthly allowance system that stayed in place until I graduated college. My allowance was thin and had to cover my food, transportation, college class supplies and casual clothes. I learnt quickly how to prioritize financially, make sacrifices, do without and be content. That discipline has shaped how I make financial choices even as an adult. It wasn't always fun, but in hindsight it was a lesson worth learning.

Over the last one year, I've been more conscious of introducing my 6 year old twins to simple financial concepts. Start them off young on a financial path where they understand smart money choices. In no particular order, here are 10 things I've started doing to sow the seeds for financial smarts for their future.

  1. Once they're able to recognize numbers, teach them how to read and recognize currency denominations e.g the difference between a $1 and $2 coin; even though a dime is smaller than a nickel, it has more value because 10 is bigger than 5.
  2. Give them a piggy bank, wallet or handbag to store their money and respect their ownership of those items. My girls have piggybanks and handbags where they keep and regularly count their money. I don't pry into what they have and don't touch without first asking permission. 
  3. Take them shopping and teach them how to read the price labels of the items on display. Emphasize the numbers before and after the dot and what it means
  4. Teach them to recognize sale signs; my kids know how to read % off
  5. Take them grocery shopping. If they want to grab the flyers in the grocery store, let them leaf through it and identify the items that we need to buy for home use
  6. If they're asking for something that's too expensive or unaffordable, I tell them no and explain why so they understand that not everything we want can be bought at whim
  7. Teach them to stick to budget. Sometimes when they're gifted money, I let them take it to the store to chose what they want to buy. With knowledge of #3 and simple addition they're able to tell what they can afford with their $10 note and what they cannot. Another perk of this is that they learn to collaborate and make deals. Sometimes my twins will agree to combine their cash to get something they both want if their individual allowance is not enough
  8. Start sowing the seeds of minimalism. "Mom can I have this?" "No because we already have something similar at home". This passes the message across, shop your belongings before you spend more money
  9. Teach them how to make choices and the concept of opportunity cost. For example, in our cable TV bundle, their 2 favorite stations are on 2 different packages but we're only paying for one package. I explain this to them and let them deliberate and decide which channel package they'd prefer.
  10. Teach them giving by having them take the money out of their piggybank/handbag whenever they want to give to a charity, church or a busker. It enforces the concept that being compassionate and giving to the less fortunate will always require a personal sacrifice
Of course, I'm aware that there's a delicate balance between teaching kids to be responsible with money and scaring them that we're a few dollars away from penury. So far, with these 10 tricks, I think we've stayed on the right side of "financial smarts" as a family.

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