Chances are, you weren’t taught about money. If that’s the case, hopefully you’re changing that pattern with your kids. No matter how old they are—even if they are at college, or raising kids of their own, it’s not too late to teach them. This of course, comes only if they’re willing to hear you out. There are ways to take advantage of teachable moments. If they’re not willing to listen, back off—but then don’t give in to kiddie tantrums or phone calls for money. I recently read that baby-boomers are far worse off than their parents when it comes to knowing how to save money. Their parents may not have had as much, but they knew how to save—and did. Begin now to teach your kids and your grandkids easy ways that add up.
One teachable moment can be offering choices. “The two things you want are out of your budget. You can get this toy for $1 today, or save and get that toy for $5 another day. For older kids, you can give them an allotted amount for clothing and tell them “This if what I’ll put toward your shoes. If you want the more expensive ones, you need to make up the difference.” If you send your teen to the grocery store for an errand, give them guidance. Send them off with a coupon for what you want, give a price range, “Get bananas if they’re less than .50 lb”, or give them directions to buy what’s on sale, “If bananas are more than .50 lb, see what’s on sale. Check the prices on strawberries.” If they have a cell phone, you can always ask them to call you from the store if they have questions. If retired husbands can do this, so can kids. For the child who moves back home and still spends money. Have them pay rent to you for the purpose of you putting the money in a special account to be given to them when they’re back on their feet, and have enough money put aside to move out.
You get more bees with honey. Praise your kids for things done right. If you can, do this in front of someone else. This includes good behavior and wise money choices. A phrase like “You’ll be so proud of Joey for how well he handled his $1.00 at the store today” is a better reinforcement than, “You’ll never guess who behaved at the store today!” Make sure your praise is genuine and not sarcasm, or a left-handed compliment.
Eat before you go shopping. I remember as a kid and into my teens going shopping with my mom. If it was around lunchtime, we’d always eat at home before heading out. Two reasons: To save money. To keep blood sugars and therefore emotions in tact. As I got older, I’d insist I wasn’t hungry, and that I’d be fine. We’d pull into a parking lot and sure enough, I was hungry! I wasn’t interested in eating out, I just had a high metabolism, and if I hadn’t recently eaten, hunger pangs and crankiness set in. Like magic, my mom would pull a cut apple or some other form of portable sustenance from her purse. As an adult, I know I can go from not hungry to head-spinning hunger. If I’m headed out the door, I’ll bring food with me. A banana, a cut apple, some crackers, cuties or a sandwich for mid-trip. If you tire of a cranky child, try staying a jump ahead, offer a snack at home or in the car on the way to your errands.
Everyone will be better off.