The holiday season is an ideal time for your kids to learn, teach, and model how money works.
Yes, the long lines and Black Friday stampedes have become synonymous with the worst of consumer excess and foolish spending. But with its joy and light, the holiday stretch also brings high expectations to give generously. That’s a noble cause if you know how money works, but it can be a slippery slope if you don’t. Having a giving spirit is an admirable trait and considering the needs of others should be part of every family budget if possible. However, overspending on gifts, no matter how good your intentions, can throw you drastically off course financially, stealing from your future and creating hardship for years.
The holiday season is a great opportunity for families to discuss when to give with a heart that’s three times bigger—AND—how to make money decisions like the wealthiest Who in Whoville.
Here are 5 surprisingly simple ways for families to teach and model essential lessons for children about how money works this holiday season.
Give your child cash… and teach them to save it.
Opening up a card is always a bit of a letdown on Christmas morning… unless it contains some cold hard cash! Gifts of money are perfect opportunities to teach children about the importance of saving. Before they blow their “present” on a new toy, in-app purchases, or candy, sit down and have a money conversation with them. Explain that the dough Santa left in their stocking has the power to grow and grow via compound interest. You don’t have to be a grinch and make them hoard all of it. But you might be surprised at how eager they are to save once they discover the growth potential of their money to help them purchase something even bigger and better down the road.
Help your child with their holiday budget
This process starts well before the leaves change colors and snow covers the ground. Collaborate with your kids to guide them in deciding how much they should spend per person over the holidays. Help them develop a post-holiday budget as well. Work with them to nail down a percentage of any holiday cash gifts they’re comfortable saving (20% is a good starting point) and hold them to it! Don’t be discouraged if they give you a low number. That money has time to grow and could still make a difference for their long term goals like buying a car, paying for their education, purchasing a home, or even saving for retirement.
Wants vs. Needs
Explain to your kids that the holidays are not about things. They’re about remembering what really matters, like relationships, family, memories, and traditions. Model self-control for your kids this season. That might mean foregoing luxury gifts, especially those that depreciate in value. Practicing financial discipline not only sets a great example for your kids to follow later in life, it’s also good for them in the short-term. Removing the stress of overspending and holiday debt can open the door to realistic expectations, peace of mind, and meaningful experiences. And for your family, a light-hearted mood during the season of giving will be worth its weight in gold.
Show your kids how price tags really work
Price tags are liars. The true cost of that $500 you spent on trinkets, toys, or tech will be far higher if you factor in future earnings had you saved that money. Make sense? This is a radical shift in thinking—a wealthy way of thinking. Giving is good, but consider also teaching your kids that when you buy something you’re also giving up the time value of that money—its potential to earn more money for you over time. Teach them that one day they may be able to have far more by being smart with their money now.
The real spirit of giving
The subtitle of the HowMoneyWorks book is Stop Being a SUCKER—not Stop Being a GIVER. No one wants to turn their kids into little Scrooges. Once they have the knowledge to start building wealth, they have the potential to give back in ways that would have been impossible for someone trapped in a cycle of foolish spending (which includes giving gifts they can’t afford). Teaching your children how money works means positioning them to have more for themselves AND to provide more for others. They’ll be able to give—and receive the joys of giving—for a lifetime.
Ask me how you can get a copy of HowMoneyWorks: Stop Being a Sucker. It explains these concepts in a way that makes it easy for you to teach your kids all about how money works.