We were in the store and I heard the familiar phrase, “Mom can I get this please?” from my daughter. “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a special brush I’ve wanted forever, because it doesn’t cause any pain when your hair is tangled,” she said. Sounds reasonable, right? Except we’ve all been down this road before with kids when it comes to money discussions or maybe not. Are you comfortable talking to your children about money?

It’s surprising how many children think money just appears in your wallet or that you can just “pay for it with your card”. When your child asks to you to buy something, you don’t need to let the conversation end there. Take the opportunity to talk to your kids about money. Explain healthy habits like saving and making tradeoffs. When my daughter asked for the brush I asked her if she wanted it enough to spend her own money. She was shocked and thought twice about it because she only had $20 in her purse and the brush was $15. See, we’ve had buyer’s remorse lately and several items that were purchased and got used only once or twice. The kids give a purchase a lot more thought when I ask them if they would spend their own money on an item.
Here are some situations where it’s easy to insert a money conversation:

  • You can talk about saving/spending when the kids get money for their birthday. Let them spend a small amount of the cash they receive and put more of it into their savings account.

  • Taking your kids to the grocery store is also an easy way to talk about money. Give them an idea of how much things cost. Pick something they like and ask them how much they think it costs. Show them how to shop for the best price. Give them an idea of how long you have to work to pay for a single grocery bill.

  • Eating in a restaurant is a great time to show the differences in cost. My daughter was astonished to realize that you can pay more for a single glass of milk in a restaurant versus what you pay for a gallon of milk.

Another great opportunity presented itself recently when we were considering tickets for a concert. Both of my children love an instrumental music group that has become an internet sensation. However, the concert tickets are very expensive – more than I’ve ever spent on tickets. My husband and I happen to like this group as well, so I seriously gave the tickets a lot of thought. The experience will be a great family event and highly educational (both children are heavily into music), so why not? However, before I bought the tickets, I used this as an opportunity to talk to the kids about money. I explained the price of the tickets and asked if they would be willing to put some of their saved money towards the tickets. In this instance, both children couldn’t agree fast enough. They were seriously excited and practically jumping up and down.

I did buy the tickets, but I didn’t use money from their savings accounts. The whole purpose of the conversation wasn’t about them using their savings account, but rather weighing whether or not the tickets meant enough to them for us to spend the money on this event. I want them to understand making a commitment to something and saving for it.

Looking for additional ideas on how to talk about money with your children? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has some great resources for parents here http://www.consumerfinance.gov/money-as-you-grow/

By the way, the suspense of it all is killing us – the concert isn’t until December. Even better? I splurged for VIP tickets so we’ll all get to meet the musicians before the show (the kids don’t know that part yet). The experience should be amazing and a good lesson in music and money! 

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