Parents aren’t the only ones pulling out their wallets for back-to-school season. According to a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation, teens are spending an average of $36.71 of their own money and pre-teens an average of $26.40.
This year, your back-to-school budgeting may be a little different (okay, a LOT), but one thing remains the same: A new school year means new costs. Which also means new opportunities for your kids to learn about money. Follow along for our tips on getting your kids ready for the upcoming school year!
Plan beyond the school supply list
Back-to-school budgeting brings up a lot of conversation about school supplies for the first day, but what about the whole school year? When you sit down and talk to your kids about their school supply lists, you may want to chat about other expenses that might pop up throughout the year. Here are a few to consider:
- ACT/SAT study materials
- Lunch money
- School pictures
Shifting over to a virtual learning environment? Some of the usual expenses may go away this year, but you should be ready for new ones. Think: Virtual classroom decorations, new desks and high-powered laptops.
Talk about back-to-school deals
Love a good BOGO deal? So do we. But your kids may not understand how much it matters to score a good deal — especially during a busy retail season like back-to-school season.
As you probably know, smart shopping means looking for deals, shopping early and doing research before buying. To get your kids into these habits, try comparing prices online and showing them how to find discounts. Bonus: Help your kids make savings goals throughout the school year. They can do this with their Greenlight app!
Separate wants from needs
Coming up with a back-to-school budget is a great time to talk about wants and needs. If your kids have a school supply list from their teacher, use it as a guide. If not, it doesn’t take too long to come up with one yourself — or use a quick start list of common items by grade.
Go through your kids’ school supply lists one by one. Talk about each item and whether it’s a must-have or a nice-to-have. Then, decide how they (or you) would like to budget accordingly. Maybe your kids want to splurge on a set of trendy binders but they’re okay with buying cheaper folders and erasers. Or maybe they’d rather save for something else down the line, like a laptop or an iPad. And look at that… they’re already thinking about wants and needs! Piece of cake.
Always come back to learning
Your kids might be excited about the first day. They might be nervous. You might be stressing about setting up a virtual learning environment. Or maybe you’re just not ready to think about any of it yet!
Here’s what really matters: Your kids are learning. And we’re not just talking about school. Kids learn by doing chores, deciding how to spend their money and setting savings goals. Just pull up your Greenlight app and let the learning (and fun) begin.
Going off to middle school is a big milestone — for your kids AND for you. No doubt, your kids will have more freedom. They may not need as much help with homework, and they may even ditch a few family movie nights to see their friends.
But it’s a great time in their lives. They’re growing up, learning about themselves and starting to form their own opinions about the world. While they enjoy these new privileges, it’s still important to help them learn valuable life lessons — starting with money.
Opportunities to earn
Middle school is a great age to start earning money . How? Chores, babysitting, yard work, dog-walking, the list goes on. Get creative with it!
When your kids are earning money, they begin to understand what it means to spend it. They grasp the idea that money really doesn’t grow on trees — it comes from hard work. A great way to teach this is by giving them chores and allowance (you can find these in your Greenlight app!).
Help them manage their spending
Middle schoolers are busier than ever before, and they’re enjoying their independence. When they head out to the movies or spend the night at a friend’s house, it’s important that you’re there with them… without physically being there.
Greenlight lets you keep track of their spending habits directly from your phone. When they’re spending too much at a certain store, you can add spending controls. Or when they’re not saving enough, incentivize them with Parent-Paid Interest.
Talk about saving vs. spending
As your kids grow up, they may start to have more “wants.” Use this as a chance to talk about saving vs. spending.
We recommend a “show, don’t tell” approach. Show them what happens when you save money over time. Nice car? Nest egg for college? Hoverboard? A healthy savings account will get them there!
When kids are young, they don’t always understand how much life costs. As you know, it can be… well, expensive. Not sure how to prepare them? Start here:
- The next time you’re grocery shopping, point out certain brands that are more expensive than others. See what they say!
- Tell them about variable expenses and fixed expenses . For example, your car payment is a fixed expense — you know it’s the same every month, so you can budget around it. But a nice dinner out? That will vary depending on the restaurant, and we call that a variable expense.
- Show them the utility bill (fun, right?). Some people are shocked when they get their first utility bill. Do your kids a favor now and help them learn what drives the cost up or down — they’ll thank you later!
Keep the conversation going
Your kids will still be under your roof for a while, so don’t let the conversation drop after middle school. Their understanding of money will evolve and so will your conversations. And when you hit a roadblock, you can always count on Greenlight to help you out!
You’ve made it to the finish line. After diplomas, passed tests and signed acceptance letters, it’s finally starting to feel real.
If you’re scrambling at the last minute to send your kids off with all the knowledge and tips they need for the real world, take a breather. We have a step-by-step guide for raising financially-smart high school graduates.
No matter what financial background they have or career path they choose, there are some basics that every high school senior should know before college.
- Credit vs. debit. Once they’re 18, they can get their own credit card. Here’s the thing: they have to be able to prove their independent income or have a co-signer (probably you!). Talk about credit vs. debit to decide if this is the right time for them.
- Everything costs money. Teach your kids how to budget and monitor their spending regularly so they don’t find themselves in a bad situation.
- Wants vs. needs. For some kids, this is the first time they’ll be paying for gas on their own. For others, college loans are about to start piling up. Take this as a teaching moment to explain why needs should always come before wants.
Return on investment
Whether they’re picking a major or starting their own business, an important lesson is return on investment. Start with something like, “What you do now affects what you do later. If you decide to push off your mandatory classes, you may wind up in college longer than you wanted to.” You can also use a calculator to figure out the ROI for a major or minor .
Keep communication open
Just because they’re leaving home doesn’t mean they’re all alone — remind them of this. They have you and they have us. Setting the stage for strong communication is really important!
Let Greenlight help
Family finance, big decisions, money management… it’s kinda our thing. They may not be right down the hallway from you anymore, but you can use your app to stay connected and keep up the financial learnings.
Or, send them a nice Greenlight Gift to let them know you’re thinking of them. With all of this help, they can handle anything that comes their way!
The money talk — not as scary as the birds and bees, but still a big deal. In fact, 49% of parents say they’re not sure how to explain money to their kids . Enter: Summer Break. More time at home means more time to talk about money management. Follow along for some conversation starters and tips on how to have the money talk.
EXPLAIN WHY BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT
79% of Americans keep a budget , which is great. Budgets may be a bit more involved for grownups, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t start learning the basics. How? Start off by explaining why budgeting matters. There’s a good chance they’re already wondering that.
Conversation Starter: “What’s something you really want but you haven’t had the money to buy?” Maybe it’s something you can’t fit into your parent budget, or maybe it’s something you think they should buy on their own. During the summer, there are lots of opportunities for your kids to make money — help them figure out how to manage their earnings.
BREAK DOWN COMMON BUDGETING TERMS
Fixed expenses and variable expenses — ring a bell? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, these are important words to teach your kids about budgeting. Break it down into Summer Break terms and they’ll get it.
Conversation Starter: “A fixed expense is one that doesn’t change. Like, our Netflix subscription. It’s the same price every month. A variable expense is one that does change. Like, a meal at a restaurant. It can go up or down, depending on where we eat.”
TALK ABOUT SAVING MONEY
Budgeting for Summer Break is one thing — saving for it is another. Instead of handing over a wad of cash and hoping they stash it away, make it a hands-on experience with a bit of fun along the way.
Conversation Starter: “Saving money lets you buy things that you might not have enough money for right now. When you add a little bit of money to your savings over time, it adds up so you can buy those things one day.” Tip: Help your kids make a savings goal (or better, lots of goals). Then, work together to plan out how they’ll reach that goal.
GIVE KIDS THEIR OWN DEBIT CARD
The fun part about the money talk is giving your kids their own debit card. Unlike a credit card, they can only spend what’s on it. The best part? They won’t realize that they’re learning valuable lessons every time they use their card — but trust us, they are.
With the Greenlight debit card and app, your kids can:
- Set savings goals.
- Learn to make trade-off decisions. Keychain or shark-tooth necklace? It’s their call.
- Earn allowance through chores. Cool fact: Greenlight kids who earn allowance save 26% more. Woohoo!
A few other things you can do in your app:
- Manage access to ATMs. Are they withdrawing a bit too much? Set limits.
- Choose stores. You decide where they can and can’t spend. Gas only? Just at restaurants? Adjust the settings in your app.
- Get real-time notifications and monitor their spend levels.
GET SET FOR SUMMER
Join Greenlight today and help your kids get a head start on budgeting for their Summer Break — and for life! Sign up now
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding families across the globe as we navigate a new time full of many changes. As parents, we’re all spending a lot of extra time in our homes, with Netflix binges and family game nights to keep us entertained (read: sane).
Times like these can present opportunities for very teachable moments with your kids. Whether you’ve become a teacher in a literal sense or you’re trying to set a good example during this unique time, we’re here to back you up and give you the tools to help your kids navigate the world of money…. starting with Financial Literacy Month.
April is Financial Literacy Month, and we’re ready to jump into savings goals, helpful Greenlight features and mini-lessons for you and your kids to learn together. Now that you’re spending more time at home, let’s explore financial responsibility and all that it can unlock for your kids!
Cover the basics
Smart saving habits are the cornerstone of financial health and happiness. If you can get your kids thinking (and talking) about saving at a young age, they’ll have an easier time with it as adults.
We’re all about rewarding smart saving skills, so we’re giving Greenlight kids the chance to win $500 when they add to their savings goals this month. As long as they’re contributing to their goals throughout April, your family will be automatically entered for a chance to win. Make sure your kids download the app!
Talk it out
There’s no need to teach your kids about money all at once. Instead, start with simple conversations that get them in the money management mindset.
For example, talk to them about wants vs. needs so they can start to understand why they need to allocate their money toward certain expenses. Or introduce them to credit and debit — two totally different concepts, but both very important for your kids to understand.
Join the community
Now we want to hear from YOU! Join our conversations on social media and stay up to date with our blog. We’ll keep you in the know on our Savings Goal Sweepstakes, share kid-friendly finance tips and give you all kinds of ways to get connected with other parents like you. Let’s let off some steam but keep it supportive — we’re all navigating this crazy world together!
From our family at Greenlight to you and yours, Happy Financial Literacy Month.
Today, it’s not surprising that Americans have shifted from the traditional use of cash to more modern methods of payment like debit and credit cards. According to Fundera, 70% of consumers prefer using cards as a form of payment and 54% prefer using debit cards.
Debit and credit cards provide convenience, more security than cash and are accepted nearly everywhere. It’s safe to say that while cash may not be going away, teaching children the basics of what credit and debit cards are now will prepare them to use cards responsibly in the future.
Prepare them for the reality of credit cards
A credit card is a form of payment issued by a bank or business that allows the holder to purchase things on credit. When making purchases with a credit card, you promise to pay back the money you owe (plus any interest!) at a later date.
When you carry a balance over month-to-month, the lender charges you interest on top of the amount you owe. Carried balances and interest can add up quickly and many families find themselves in a position where it’s tough to pay credit cards off.
In fact, 41% of America’s households have credit card debt. It’s important to introduce your kids to the concept of credit cards while they’re still in the nest – that way, they are prepared to carry one later in life.
When it comes to teaching your kids, we recommend starting their money management adventures with a debit card. This protects them from overspending because they can spend only the money they have, and allows them to build healthy habits early before they enter the world of credit.
Teach them to manage money with a debit card
Debit cards provide more security than cash and fewer worries about debt than a credit card. A debit card is a form of payment that deducts money directly from a bank account to pay for a purchase. With debit cards, owners can have easy access to their available funds and can often also put money aside for something special using a savings account.
Kids need to learn how to manage a debit card just like they need to learn how to drive. Whether your child runs their own lemonade stand during the summer, starts their first job or gets an allowance, a debit card can help kids learn to manage balances, save money, and more!
How Greenlight helps
Greenlight helps kids learn how to manage money and form strong healthy habits that will serve them as adults. According to Greenlight CEO Tim Sheehan, the reason Greenlight is a debit card is to “help kids learn to effectively manage the money they’ve earned, as opposed to spending money they may not have.”
Parents are the primary account holders and have the controls to choose where their children can use the card, manage chores and allowances, set parent-paid interest rates on savings, and more. Kids are able to monitor their balances, create saving goals, and learn how to make financially-smart decisions in a safe environment with their parents’ guidance.
Mistakes are just mistakes
With Greenlight, there is no chance for a child to overdraft or overspend since we decline any purchases greater than the child’s available balance. Mistakes are just mistakes! Parents get alerts when kids try to spend more than they have to spark conversations about budgeting and wise spending.
Parents are able to allocate funds to their child’s “Spend Anywhere” account or choose specific stores where kids can spend and how much they can spend. They can even help their child create a savings goal and contribute money to meet that special goal.
Ready to teach your child how to manage money responsibly?
Join Greenlight today to start adventures in personal finance with your kids!
Studies have shown that financial health is strongly connected to physical and mental wellness. There’s no better time than now to start routines that set your kids up for financially-healthy and happy futures. Let Greenlight help you set new year resolutions that you’ll actually keep to jumpstart your progress.
Resolution #1: We all need a bit of balance (tracking)
Our goal at Greenlight is to make sure all kids are empowered to make financially-smart decisions. We think empowerment starts with knowledge — working with kids to make sure they understand how much they earn, how much they spend and how they should save.
Tip #1 is all about making sure kids take the time regularly (dare we say it, daily?!) to track their spend history and account balances. This new year resolution will naturally spark conversations around trade-off decisions, teaching your kids responsibility in budget management.
Within the Greenlight app, kids are able to monitor their spending, earning, saving, and giving history. This allows kids (and parents!) to track:
- How much to expect in allowance
- How much is available to spend
- Progress toward their saving goals
“I have two teens (13 & 14). Being able to see their spending and balances digitally via the app has made them much more mindful of how and when they choose to spend their money.”Antoinette K, Greenlight mom
Resolution #2: Save! Save! Save!
We know it’s hard for kids (especially the young ones!) to understand the difference between wants and needs. Starting kids out with a savings account early can teach them to save for what they want and be prepared to cover what they need because unexpected things happen.
Consider mapping out a monthly plan with your kids to help them articulate, save for and reach their goals.
The most popular saving goal for Greenlight kids in 2019 was a car!
If your kids earn an allowance based on grades or chore completion, write out how much each grade or task is worth. That will help them calculate what they need to do to accomplish their goals.
Parents are also able to help their kids reach their goals by setting aside a portion of allowances into their child’s Greenlight save account, helping reinforce wise saving habits.
Setting up saving goals within the Greenlight app helps kids visualize what they’re saving for and regularly track their progress.
Greenlight kids who create saving goals save 29% more than kids who don’t.
Once a week, consider having a family meeting to talk about how close your kids are to reaching their goal. Reviewing their spend history can help kids rethink a plan for the next week on how to spend less and save more. This regular routine can turn into a long-term habit that magically reduces the number of times you get asked for money.
Resolution #3: Watch savings grow with Parent-Paid Interest
After you get your family into the habit of saving, it’s time to learn about how to make your savings grow. Greenlight helps teach the power of compound interest by offering parents the ability to pay a parent-paid interest rate on top of their child’s savings.
On average, Greenlight families set a parent-paid interest rate of 18%.
Once your kids understand the concept of compound interest, you can set your parent-paid interest rate to a more realistic one and have conversations around what grownup savings accounts typically earn.
Resolution #4: Have you done your chores?
Chore routines can be a great way to show your kids that money has to be earned. A recent poll of Greenlight parents showed that 73% give allowance, and 47% say their kids have to earn it.
Use the beginning of the year to reassess your family’s chore routine. With age may come new responsibilities, changing the chores typically assigned to your kids.
However, if ever, you choose to reward your kids for chores, Greenlight can help with task management. With the Greenlight app, you can set one-time or weekly chores based on the routines you set for your family.
In 2019, Greenlight helped kids finish 1.8 million chores!
If your child does dishes weekly, Greenlight allows parents to assign tasks and regular deadlines. If your child contributes to other household responsibilities by cleaning the gutters once a month, one-time chores may be assigned with an optional monetary reward upon completion.
Whatever your goals, Greenlight is here for you.
Greenlight is here to help your family feel empowered to talk about money and form smart habits with all the tools to raise financially-smart kids. Not a Greenlight member? Sign up today!
You did it. You celebrated the birthdays, packed lunches for soccer tournaments and survived the endless conversation about Minecraft. Congratulations, Moms and Dads — you’ve made it through 2019.
As we look toward 2020, allow us to celebrate the unsung heroes of financial literacy – YOU! The hundreds of thousands of Greenlight parents teaching their kids the value of a dollar and the art of making smart trade-off decisions.
In 2019, Greenlight kids did 1.8 million chores and collectively managed more than $150 million. But that’s not all.
Looking toward 2020
In 2020, we’ve got big plans to improve the Greenlight app and add more features for your kids to learn the full-spectrum of money management.
We’ll be weaving more educational layers into the Greenlight app, making it fun (and painless!) for kids to build smart earning, spending, saving and giving habits.
Our team is also building tools for kids to learn all about the world of investing, with a new suite of features that allow kids to invest in multiple funds and even buy fractional shares from their favorite companies.
Our single most important job is to support you – the parents doing the hard work. Together, let’s make 2020 the Year of Financial Literacy.
*Data captured from Greenlight families based on activity from Dec 2018 to Nov 2019. Average monthly spend calculated only for kids who spent.
We love the holiday season at Greenlight. It’s a time when families have thoughtful conversations about what they’re thankful for. Many talk about the importance of generosity and reflect on our responsibility to give to those less fortunate. Some families offer their time to support noble causes and give back to their communities. Some choose to make donations to nonprofits.
Throughout this Thanksgiving season, we encourage you to share with your kids the gift of giving.
Generosity is part of human nature. And it leads to happier lives.
A research study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2015 explored generosity in toddlers by putting a container of marbles at shared tables to see how their children would distribute the marbles. Most of the time, the kiddos would distribute their marbles equally.
In another variation of the study, toddlers were given separate trays and the researchers randomly distributed the marbles between them. In situations where a child was given more marbles than their partner, one-third of the time, the lucky toddler with more marbles would give up their extra marbles to their partner to even the score.
A different study by the University of Zurich in 2017 found that generosity actually makes people happier, even if they only give a little.
Choose your way to give.
Ashley Noto, Greenlight’s SVP of Product and Analytics gave us a look inside how her family gives back during the holidays: “With all the gifts from friends and family during the holiday, I think it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate the joy of giving with my kids,” she said. “At the beginning of the season, we adopt a family in need. We all contribute earned allowances and participate in buying items for the family. As the season comes to a close, my kids give back — either a toy or a portion of gift money they received — to a charity of their choice.”
There are many different ways kids can share their generosity and give their time, effort or money!
- Time: Choose an organization to volunteer with as a family. Volunteermatch.org is a great place to identify opportunities to donate your time. You can even search by different causes.
- Unwanted items: Involve your kids by encouraging them to clean their closets and donate old clothes to local organizations.
- Toy or food drives: Many schools and local businesses run toy and food drives around Thanksgiving to give to those less fortunate.
- Money: Donating money helps enforce lessons in budgeting with kids while instilling the importance of generosity.
Set monetary donation goals.
In anticipation for the holiday season, work with your kids to set individual or family donation goals. As your kids are gifted money for the holidays, work with kids to put funds back for an end-of-year donation.
- Allocate a percentage of allowance payouts into your kids Give accounts which can only be used with charitable organizations.
- Create a Greenlight Savings Goal to help kids track progress toward a larger donation. Did you know that kids who set saving goals save 29.5% more than kids who don’t? Have your kids research their favorite charitable organizations — ones they identify with the most. If you need someplace to start, these are the 3 most popular organizations for Greenlight kids.
It’s always important to remember the power of the collective. Even the smallest donation is part of a much larger community of givers.
It’s also important to reward your child’s generosity. Praise them for contributing to causes larger than themselves and weave giving back into regular conversations. You’ll notice how naturally these conversations emerge – whether it’s an ill classmate in need or a school-sponsored food drive.
At Greenlight, we are proud to celebrate generosity. In December, we have some special things planned to encourage the giving nature of Greenlight kids and reward them for their efforts. Stay tuned!
Give with Greenlight!
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were financially-smart kids. The secret to setting your kids up for a solid financial future is to start with the basics. Deeper than the value of a dollar, budgets and why it’s so important to save lies the very basic lesson of: wants and needs are not the same thing.
While the difference between wants and needs may feel straight forward to grownups, the concept can be complex to kids. Breaking down needs, wants, the fine line between the two and how to make trade-off decisions is critical for instilling money management and financial planning skills.
Know your needs
Needs are essentials. When teaching your kids how to determine what a need is, it’s important to highlight what is a true necessity and what is a needy request —it’s all about perspective. Here are the categories we consider bare necessities:
We find that getting as specific as possible when explaining necessities helps kids master the concept and begin to apply it in real-life trade-off decisions.
Tell me what you want, what you really, really want
If you’re a parent, you’re probably used to hearing the rally cry “I want _____” from your kids. Wants can be described as the things your kids may circle in a magazine or put on an Amazon wish list for the holiday season. Greenlight mom Bonnie Koon even shared that her son once requested $10,000 via his Greenlight app.
Wants are often inspired by peers, pop culture and hobbies. Here are some hopeful requests made by Greenlight kids. We’ll wait while you have a giggle or two.
When raising financially-smart kids, it’s important for parents to let their kids know that wants are a part of life but making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success.
The gray area
No lesson in needs and wants with a child is going to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, so it’s important to get specific for clarity’s sake when dealing with such an abstract conversation.
Is ice cream a food? Yes, but ice cream is certainly not a necessity. Are Yeezy’s shoes? Yes, but $300 for a pair of shoes is not necessary or a requirement.
It’s important for parents to let their kids know that it’s okay to want certain things. But making smart choices around those wants will set them up for success. In general, having a discussion around “wanting” things in life can be a powerful and inspirational discussion. You can want to make the soccer team. Want to be president. Want to have a family when you grow up. It is wants and dreams that put humans on the moon and brought us Beyonce. But when it comes to finances – you can’t always get what you want.
Being able to tackle these types of questions head-first will help kids understand the true meaning of a necessity instead of something they very much want, crave or think they need to meet the status quo.
One way to help kids fully understands wants and needs would be to have them write a list of what they think are needs and what they think are wants. From there, break down needs — if they are a true necessity or not — and tackle what goes into getting a want (such as saving for that pair of Yeezy’s or picking up extra babysitting opportunities to help pay for the spring break trip to New York City). To take it a step further, discuss a budget of $1,000 with your child and include a mix of needs (rent/groceries/phone or car payment) and wants (a new iPhone/concert tickets/new shoes) to showcase that all needs must be met before money goes to wants.
Want it? Save for it
Wants and needs make a perfect opportunity to teach the importance of saving money to reach a goal. Want a new pair of jeans? Save for it. Have $100 extra each month after covering necessities? Add extra money to your savings goal to buy a new MacBook. These wants can act as perfect motivators to increase saving.
Setting up clear savings goals with Greenlight will not only teach kids how to set a savings goal and budget to meet their desired goal, but it will motivate them to save more in the long run. We’ll be talking more about saving in November, so stay tuned for tips from Greenlight families on how to have the right money talks.