Holiday Weekends Are a Great Time to Teach Kids About Money

People often ask us when the best time is to teach kids about money. Our quick answer is always the same: when they want some! Which is why long holiday weekends are a terrific time to talk to your kids about spending in particular. Because holidays like Canada Day and July 4th come with open invitations for families to spend – on everything from ice cream, to flip flops, theme park visits, and bike or boat rentals. And at Gifting Sense we know that letting kids build strong spending habits, long before they become adult income earners, is one of the easiest ways to help them avoid future financial pitfalls.

What we see every week when we’re teaching kids how to be money-smarter, is that even younger Tweens are fully capable of making well-thought-out consumer decisions, when we give them tools to help them do so. Those tools can range from an allowance to spend over a certain number of days, to a full-blown plan to ensure that there is sufficient budget for a much-wanted wish-list item in time for back-to-school shopping.

The allowance approach often brings about one of the best teachers ever: buyer’s remorse. Because most kids blow “their own” spending money on frivolous purchases they come to regret first time out of the gates. A longer-term plan to fund the future purchase of a wish-list item can help a child stay focussed on the inherent trade-offs that spending creates. You can spend your summertime babysitting wages on weekly visits to the local burger place or water park, but then you probably cannot buy those pricey Air Jordans you’ve been eyeing online, because money spent today is money we don’t have to spend tomorrow.

When are kids really interested in learning about money? When they want some! Which is why long holiday weekends, with all their open invitations to spend, can be a great time to get your kids into the habit of thinking before buying.

Kids expect that thinking before buying will save their family money; discovering that it is also a seriously effective disappointment avoidance tool, not to mention a “planet protector”, comes as a pleasant surprise.

What won’t surprise parents is that kids are typically more interested in getting what they want than saving their family money. But the good news is, thinking before buying can accomplish both!

We teach a simple but structured approach to TBB: one that allows children to quickly research the true value of a possible purchase and how much they will really use and appreciate an item or experience, before anyone spends a dime. But we’re in favour of any approach that allows a young person to understand why being thoughtful about spending isn’t boring, but rather powerful and rewarding. Our workshops on Outschool are actually entitled “Money Smarts 101: Thinking Before Buying Is A Powerful and Rewarding Life Skill”. The subtitle “And a Lot More Fun than You Think” is there for a reason. Kids intuitively understand that thinking before buying will likely save their family money – but it comes as quite a pleasant surprise to discover that TBB is also a seriously effective disappointment avoidance tool, not to mention one of the easiest ways ever to help protect the planet.

What won’t surprise most parents, is that kids are typically far more interested in getting what they really want, then saving Mom or Dad’s money. But here’s the good news: teaching your kids how to graciously ask for what they really want, will use, and/ or appreciate can accomplish both. In fact, thinking before buying improves family harmony, financial well-being and your response to climate change. Because when no one is wasting time or money buying things or experiences that their family doesn’t even really want, or can’t appreciate, there are fewer arguments and fewer donations to landfills in the form of gently used articles of clothing, uneaten food, or the like. And there is less energy expended. Imagine never having to make a return again. Think about how much that would reduce your family’s carbon footprint. We remind kids all the time that just because a UPS or post office truck is picking up an online return, doesn’t mean fuel isn’t being used.

We hope everyone has a fantastic long weekend. Goodness knows we are long overdue for some casual, relaxed face-time with our nearest and dearest. When the inevitable surge in “Dad, can I…?” or “Mom, could we…?” rears its ugly head, consider responding in a way that lets your kids understand that although you love making them happy, it just isn’t always financially achievable. Perhaps Miranda Featherstone said it best in her recent guest post for “Parent Data by Emily Oster” : “…while some questions don’t need to be answered until they are asked, children do need invitations to ask questions…so that they know a topic is one that you are willing to discuss.” Planning for summer fun is just such an invitation. In this case, one that lets your kids know you are absolutely willing to talk to them about money.

If you want to learn more about and/ or test drive our free and safe tool, the DIMS – Does It Make Sense?® Score calculator, click on the pink and green buttons below. Happy Canada Day to our fellow Canadians. Happy July 4th to our American neighbours to the south. Here’s to early financial education and all that it can accomplish – which is a lot!


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