We aim to teach our kids financial responsibility from a young age. We use age-appropriate lessons to relate the concepts of work, compensation, earning, giving, savings, and trade-offs.
But what does that look like in real life? It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster in these younger years. While some days it’s understood that mommy or daddy has to go to work so we can have money for our food, shelter, and toys, other days we’re met with an all-out tantrum as we walk out the door.
“NO TOYS! STAY HOME!”
Which is a lesson in and of itself to all involved. Amiright?
But there’s other ways we’ve been successful, and sometimes had success surprise us. Out of the mouths of babes you’ll hear your own values, and learn what’s really valuable in life. Here’s what’s happened as a result of teaching my toddler about money.
You want WHAT for Christmas?!
This time of year we really hone in on the Santa thing to modify behavior. Maybe we’re wrong for doing so. Or maybe we’re really right. Because it works. As we’ve been discussing naughty and nice, we’ve also been asking the age-old question, “What do you want for Christmas?”
Want to hear what my toddler said?
We looked at each other in shock. They must have heard us talking about our goal. They must understand it’s a goal. Maybe they’re cramped. Maybe they want their own room. Maybe they don’t want to have to walk half a mile to the nearest park just to play outside.
Maybe they don’t really understand, and just know they’ve heard us talking about it as a “want.”
Unfortunately, Santa’s not going to be able to deliver this year. Even if he could magically fit a single-family dwelling into a stocking, we’re still saving up money for that down payment. Even though we know we won’t meet our goal by Christmas, it has lit a fire under us to keep on keeping on, and not get discouraged by set backs, or the super long timeline around this financial goal.
Infantile Savings Goals
Savings has been up and down over the course of their young life. For their last birthday, a family member gave them a sum of money to go on a child’s dream: an all-out toy store shopping spree.
It was fun to say the least. We let them have total control over what they picked out. And were all too happy when one of those things was a kids’ bank.
Over the next couple of weeks, we encouraged them to do things like clean up or put laundry away. In exchange, they’d get a coin to put in the bank. Those coins were being saved up for another trip to the toy store. The lesson was being understood.
But then the memory of that trip to the store faded. It became more and more abstract with the passage of time. Defiance kicked in and we found ourselves cleaning the living room without teeny hands to help.
The other week something magic happened. Recalling our super fab, super frugal trip to Myrtle Beach, our toddler started talking about it. Begging us to go. Recounting all the things we did and all the people we met. Their memory is getting longer.
At first, we said it was too far. We asked if they wanted to spend all day in the car. The answer was no.
But the beach demands continued. We checked ourselves. The real reason we’re not heading for warmer climates right now isn’t the drive. It’s the obligation to work. It’s the extra money required to take time off.
The next time we got asked to go to the beach, we told them we needed money to go. You know what happened? The living room was suddenly being cleaned, and not by the adults. The clinking of coins returned to our household as that bank started filling up a little quicker. The tantrums when we left for work slowed.
Our toddler has a financial goal.
We didn’t just leave it at savings. When we’re struck with incessant pleas to go to McDonald’s, we ask which they want more: McDonald’s or the beach? The answer is always the beach. We’re learning about sacrifices and prioritization. We’re learning about financial responsibility. It’s all being done before full sentences are emerging from their mouth.
Teaching My Toddler About Money
It’s never too young to teach your kids about money. I don’t think they should be stressed about it. Everyone deserves a childhood free of adult-classified worries. While we’re not telling them why Santa won’t be stuffing a new house down the chimney, we are taking advantage of small opportunities to teach responsibility. To teach about long-term savings. To teach about trade-offs. And once that bank is full, hopefully we’ll be able to impart lessons about giving, too.
How do you teach your kids about money?