Teaching Kids to Budget and Save

February 7, 2019 by Maggie Bonecutter

My 10-year-old daughter loves “squishies.” They’re those exaggerated, stress-ball-type toys that come in every shape and theme imaginable. She would buy every, single, blessed squishy she sees if given the opportunity. However, because she uses our system of “Share, Save, Spend,” she knows she needs to pull back on the squishy reins, lest she miss out on something even more fabulous later on.

Here’s how “Share, Save, Spend” works for us. When she comes into a bit of money through doing extra chores, dog sitting, or through a gift, she splits it three ways: 10 percent goes into a jar marked “Share,” 10 percent goes into a “Save” jar, and the rest gets dumped into a jar marked “Spend.” Here are some tips we learned along the way to make this work:

Make it deliberate

My husband’s Grandma Ruby always told him, “Think and then do.” That works with money, too. Talk with your children about goals for the funds. For the “Share” money, research various charities, determine which are most compatible with your family’s values and let your child make the final choice. For the “Save” jar, what does he want to save for? A vat of squishies or a car? If the latter, talk about timeframes and milestones for success. For the “Spend” funds, discuss the best ways to spend that money – on her fifth rainbow unicorn squishy, gum, a movie ticket or extra school supplies.

Make it visible

Kids are very tangible, so the more we can make the process visible, the better. Print photos of your child’s goals and charity and tape to the jars. So kids can see their progress as they save, perhaps you could create marks on the jars with tape and label them as “Getting Closer”, “Almost There” and “Let’s Go Shopping!”

Make it manageable (and thrilling!)

Dollar bills just float to the bottom of a jar and don’t provide that satisfying “clink” like coins do. Plus, it’s difficult to split a $5 bill three ways. We found that paying in quarters (it’s a pain but stick with me) makes division easier. Plus, watching those silver coins pile up in a jar can be thrilling.

Make it a super-fun, super-big deal

Once your child’s goals are reached – sharing 10 hard-earned bucks with a pet shelter, spending $10 on a movie ticket or saving $20 toward that cherry-red Mustang – celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. Kids will learn how fun delayed gratification can be and the tremendous value of Grandma Ruby’s rule of “think and then do.”


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