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Helping Kids Make Smart Money Choices

Your child is never too young to develop smart saving and spending habits. Here’s how you can help.

Help your child learn the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’

Discuss with your child a purchase you want or need to make, before you make it, to model your own strategies for figuring out if something is a ‘want’ or a ‘need.’ Then, when the child is faced with his own purchase, you can refer back to your decisions and how they worked out.

Help your child find ways to earn money.

Give your child the satisfaction of being paid for doing a task, whether that be taking out the trash on a regular basis, feeding the neighbor’s cat, or helping you wash windows. It is also important to pay your child on a realistic scale so she can develop an understanding of why some jobs pay better than others.

Consider the pros and cons of giving your child an allowance.

Some parents prefer to give their child a weekly allowance to cover daily expenses. If you go this route, be sure to provide clear ground rules about how the money is to be spent. Other parents would rather their child find ways to earn her spending money. Either way, discuss your decision with your child, the reasoning behind it and the responsibilities involved.

Give your child opportunities to be successful at saving.

Encourage small savings projects so your child can actually see money accumulate over time. Remember, a little money saved over time can add up to a lot! Set goals that can be reached in a short amount of time to keep savings experiences successful. As kids gain more confidence in the value of saving, set up a bank account.

Help your child shop wisely.

When your child needs to go shopping, help him look up prices ahead of time so he has a clear sense of how much money he will need. If he is shopping for several items, suggest that he make a list and add up what he estimates each will cost so he can be sure he has enough money to pay for them.

Share the family budget to help ground your child in real-world finance.

When kids hear, “We can’t afford that now,” they often think the parents are simply choosing not to buy something. It’s important to give kids a more realistic picture and to help them gain a better understanding of what it takes to run a household.

Use your next family vacation to plan a budget together.

A family vacation is a great opportunity for your child to participate in how the money needed to pay for the trip will be spent. Brainstorm expense categories (food, lodging, entertainment, shopping, travel) and agree on the total amount of money available to cover these. Then estimate how much money should be allocated to each of the categories.


More fun with money math awaits on the Cyberchase website. Find episodes, games and activities to help build your child’s financial literacy skills. Go now!

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
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Additional funding is provided by Lynne and Marc Benioff, the Tiger Baron Foundation, Shailaja and Umesh Nagarkatte and Ellen Marcus.
The JPB Foundation NSF Heising-Simons Foundation EY

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