We’ve talked before about how important it is to discuss money with your children. There’s never really a time that’s “too early” to start introducing those concepts. But don’t worry — it’s never too late to start either!
No matter their ages, your kids will benefit from frequent, honest conversations about money. You don’t necessarily need to give them full access to your bank statements and credit card bills. However, being open about how you manage money in your household is a powerful way to inspire your children toward financial responsibility.
Talking about money isn’t the only way to teach your kids good financial habits. They should also have experiences that will allow them to work through the practicalities of finances. In other words, you should teach your children to budget. Here are a few easy ways to start.
1. Cover the Basics of Budgeting
Before you jump right into a spreadsheet or budgeting app, spend some time going over the fundamentals of budgeting.
- Income vs. expenses
- Wants vs. needs
- Charitable giving
- Monthly expenditures vs. variable expenses
- Financial priorities
The goal here is to get your children used to the concepts and language of budgeting. That way, when you start working through the practical aspects, they’ll understand the underlying principles of what you’re doing.
2. Include Them in Purchases
Next, give your kids more of an active role in household money management. You don’t have to go through the entire budget with them, but find ways to include them.
For example, you could bring them to the grocery store with a list and the weekly food budget. Show them how to compare prices, use coupons, or decide which products to skip if they don’t fit in the budget.
With older children, you can start giving them glimpses into bigger expenses, like mortgage payments, cell phone bills, and taxes. Include them in conversations about charitable giving, and maybe allow them to choose a charity or cause that’s meaningful to them.
Being open about your bills can help them build a realistic understanding of what things cost and give them a better appreciation of what it takes to manage money well.
3. Create and Follow a Basic Budget
Once your children have a solid understanding of budgeting basics and some real-world experience applying them, it’s time for them to practice with their own money. Depending on how old your children are, that might mean giving them an allowance each week or month, paying them for chores, or helping them manage income from an after-school or summer job.
Help your child choose a budgeting method, like a spreadsheet or even a traditional paper ledger. Simpler is usually better when they’re just starting out. Most kids — even teens — don’t need all the features of a full-scale budgeting app.
Show them how to create a budget based on their income and expenses. Then, ask them to follow it for at least a month. That means recording all their transactions and doing the math to figure out if they are exceeding their income.
If possible, help your children make and follow a budget for several months in a row. That allows you to talk about how important it is to prepare for occasional expenses like birthday gifts, activities with friends, and impulse purchases.
4. Play Budgeting Games
No matter how old your children are, you can play budgeting games with them. There are plenty of financial games out there, from classics like Monopoly to online options like the Uber Game. Budgeting concepts are also present in most video games, from managing resources in Minecraft to earning and spending digital currency in role-playing games.
And you can make budgeting itself a game! Consider using a gamified habit-tracking app to encourage your kids to get in the habit of recording transactions or transferring money to a piggy bank (or savings account). Or take a look at BudgetingBlocks™, our game-inspired budgeting tool that turns theoretical financial conversations into hands-on money management exercises.
Be Proactive in Your Kids’ Financial Education
Good money management skills don’t just happen. They take time and practice, which is why it’s important to start teaching your kids about money from a young age. Keep the conversation about finances open, and introduce more complicated concepts as they get older. The basics of saving and spending set the stage for later conversations about investing, paying for college, and living within your means.
But don’t just talk with your kids about money! Help them build some practical skills too. Introduce the concepts of budgeting, and then work with them to create their own age-appropriate budget. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a boring process. Tools like BudgetingBlocks™ make the process interactive, engaging, and memorable.
If you’d like some support for your own budget or help with other aspects of your finances, like investing or retirement planning, Guiding Wealth is here to help. We’ll listen to your goals and help you create a plan that aligns with your values. To get started, call 214-810-3835 or schedule an appointment online.