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 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.
XBOX, PlayStation, Nintendo, Steam. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard your kids talking about these video game consoles and platforms along with their favorite games like Madden, Fortnite, Mario Kart and Minecraft. With 75% of American households having at least one gamer in the house, we’re not surprised by the wave of Greenlight families sharing their gaming experiences with us.
Whether your kids prefer mobile gaming or they kick it old school with Nintendo, video games can quickly become a favorite pastime and a recurring cost. Americans spent $43 billion on video games in 2018 and the numbers keep growing, which is why we think video games can be leveraged as an excellent tool for parents to motivate their kids to make smart money decisions.
Knowledge is power
With so many different consoles and video game franchises on the market, teaching young gamers to do their research develops smart habits that can apply to future large purchases. Important questions to consider include:
- How much does each gaming console and individual game cost?
- What are the differences between each video game platform and what makes them special?
- Which games interest them the most? Which platform is the right fit?
In Greenlight mom Natalie Jensen Young’s house, her three kids (ages 14, 16, 18) make the best decisions for their individual gaming interests.
“My kids each have different gaming preferences. One loves his Switch and the Xbox. One loves his PS4 and Xbox. One loves her Wii U. They all love the 3DS. They have all saved up for these machines, doing their research, and finding out which games are on which platforms. They get a set amount of money each week for jobs completed around the house — they save up for the games they want.”
It’s never too early to study the fine print
Since video games often feature in-game purchases for accessories or level boosts, it’s critical to teach kids vigilance when it comes to downloading games with monthly fees. By linking a Greenlight card to these in-game add-ons, kids gain visibility into miscellaneous charges that are often associated with mobile purchasing while parents protect their own credit cards from these charges.
“My kids have the cards attached to their XBOX, PC and phone accounts. It’s so much better than having my card attached and them accidentally buying stuff. Plus, it taught them to be careful of things like recurring charges or hidden fees. They are much more careful of what and how they buy now,” shared Greenlight mom Alysson Browning.
Level up with a video games budget
Due to the fast pace of the gaming industry, new trends can keep prices steep. Use these updates as an opportunity to talk about a magical thing called budgeting. Discuss how your child can’t get the latest game in their favorite franchise without the proper savings or budget.
With Greenlight, parents have the ability to limit how much kids spend on games, which helps eager gamers from going overboard.
Ohio mom Heather Renee Gilbert shared the secret to her game-loving son’s success.
“My son uses his Greenlight card for Xbox games. I created an Online Gaming greenlight for him where I put money specifically for that purpose into it. He earns that money with grades at school and his behavior. Having the greenlight specific for gaming is amazing because if I didn’t set a limit on what he spent on games, he would blow through all the money I gave him on just that. Now he knows exactly what he can spend on his games. No game money in the greenlight means he can’t spend more than what he has.”
Talk that gaming and finance talk with your kids
Raising financially-smart kids sometimes means getting crafty with teaching opportunities. The more relevant the topic, the more engaging the conversation can be. If your kids are into video games, why not start money talks around one of their favorite things?
Greenlight can help
Sign up your family for Greenlight today to explore your own lessons in earning, spending, saving and giving.
Julie Lythcott-Haimes, author of How to Raise an Adult, gave a TED Talk in 2015 about setting the right priorities for your kids. She quoted the Harvard Grant Study (only the longest longitudinal study ever conducted) which concluded “professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid.”
We think chores are important too, which is why we launched a set of chores features in the Greenlight app in February of this year. Since then, we’ve actually had Greenlight families tell us that their kids have asked for MORE chores after instituting a routine.
When is the right time to start chores?
All families are different, and all kids are different. A chores routine can start as early as “getting clothes to the laundry basket” in preschool years.
Back-to-school season is a great time to talk about getting back into routines, and asking your kids for input on what tasks need to be done. Another great time is birthdays, recognizing that with age comes new responsibilities.
Which chores do I choose?
Of all Greenlight families, the five most popular chores are:
Clean your bedroom is the most popular chore for all ages. Read is popular for younger kids, under the age of 10. Take out the trash heats up for children over 12 years of age. And wash the dishes is most popular around 15-17.
Some other personal favorites from the editor: pick up after yourself, scoop the dog poop and be nice to your brother. “No cussing” has also been a fan favorite around the Greenlight office. A special shout out to the parents writing their chores in ALL CAPS. But we digress…
On average, Greenlight families institute 4.41 chores per child, and recurring chores are by far more popular than one-time.
Here’s a helpful guide from the moms of Sunshine and Hurricanes with kid-friendly chores from preschool through 10 years of age.
Do I pay my kids for chores?
A recent T. Rowe Price survey on parents, kids and money saw that 51% of parents give their kids allowance, but the kids have to earn it.
Ron Lieber, author of Greenlight staff favorite The Opposite of Spoiled, advises not to give allowances in exchange for chores. He says, “Allowances ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”
Chores teach accountability and responsibility. Allowances tangibly teach the practices of budgeting and saving. (More on allowances over the coming weeks.)
There are experts and Greenlight families, on both sides of the fence of this debate. We encourage each family to make decisions based on what will work best for them.
- You may institute a chore schedule that includes standard tasks (like cleaning up bedrooms, doing laundry or walking the dog), and incentivizes more high-value tasks with monetary rewards on a less-frequent basis.
- You might consider an allowance to be regular payment for jobs well done. If the clothes are piled up on the desk instead of on the floor, little Sophia’s room still isn’t “clean” to mom’s golden standard.
- You can tie chore completion to allowances. If the trash isn’t taken out, floor isn’t vacuumed and the dog poop isn’t scooped, you won’t get your allowance this week.
Whatever your chore routine, Greenlight can help you stick to it
With features like flexible scheduling and linking chore completion to allowance, Greenlight has helped thousands of families implement a routine.
Set chores that repeat weekly, or multiple times a week.
Or set one-time chores for bigger tasks like spring cleaning, babysitting or mowing the lawn.
Kids review and check off their chores as complete.
Review the chore schedule and manage scheduled payouts.
Don’t have Greenlight yet?
In many parts of the country, it’s traditional for kids to spend a week or two—or even a month or two—away at summer camp. Each camp provides parents with packing lists. However, some of them aren’t regularly updated or are provided by idealistic camp directors rather than real families. In addition to the basics, here are some things experienced parents say are essential for kids to take to sleepaway camp:
- Fewer clothes than you think: Yes, your kid will need basics ranging from shorts to rain jackets. However, when they’re away from home, most kids wear a few of their favorite clothing items over and over. Help your kid pack enough so they can deal with different kinds of weather and have enough clothes to make it to wash day. But don’t overdo it.
- Replaceable items from home: A stuffed animal for comfort is great. Just make sure it’s not your child’s one-and-only lovey—in case it gets lost or damaged. Photos of family members, friends and beloved pets can also help cheer up homesick campers.
- Helpful gadgets: Consider sending your child with a battery-powered clip-on book light (flashlights get awkward to hold), a clip-on fan for some fresh airflow and disposable cameras for taking pictures.
- Shower helpers: For simplicity, give your camper a bottle of all-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner. A small water-friendly tote is great for helping campers schlep gear to the shower. Sew small loops (ribbon or bias tape works great) on towels and washcloths to make them easier for your camper to hang them in the shower room and near their bed to dry.
- Zip-top bags: They’re great for storing items like cards, camp keepsakes and other items in your child’s bunk area. Larger bags also come in handy for keeping a change of clothing dry when your camper goes on kayak trips.
- Spending money or debit card. If the camp allows it, it’s nice for your camper to be able to buy items at the camp canteen or in a nearby town, according to the American Camp Association (ACA). The Greenlight card may be safer for campers than cash and prepaid debit cards. Why? Cash can be lost, stolen or spent outside of your agreed-upon spending plan. Campers can’t withdraw cash or get cash back from their Greenlight Card. And if your child loses a prepaid debit card, it’s as good as losing cash. If your child’s Greenlight card is lost or stolen, you can quickly lock it and block purchases.
- Postcards, paper, pre-addressed envelopes and stamps: Most camps now have a “no electronics” policy. This means your child may not be able to bring a cell phone to call or text you. This can be a great thing. Not only will your phone-free child be able to focus more fully on camp activities, you may also receive a few of those beloved, old-style letters from camp!
One last tip: If possible, have your camper all packed two full days before they leave for camp. This packing tip is borrowed from travel writer Rick Steves. Advance packing gives your camper some time to really relax before taking off for camp. It also gives both you and your child a couple of bonus days to remember any last-minute items you’ve forgotten to pack!
(photo courtesy © Camp Pinewood cc2.0)
The weather is improving and the school year is starting to wind down: It’s prime time for teachers to plan school field trips.
If your kids are heading out for a day trip with their class, their teacher may send home a list of items to pack. However, experienced parents know that those lists often cover just the basics. Here’s what your kids really should bring on a day trip:
- Backpack or string bag: This pack should be a bit smaller and lighter-weight than their everyday school backpack. Be sure your family’s last name is clearly marked inside the bag. Security-conscious parents suggest you not mark your child’s first name in the bag. A sketchy adult could see and use your child’s first name to suggest that they know each other. (“Hey, Jake, remember me from your dad’s work?”) Include your phone number or email somewhere inside the bag in case it gets lost.
- Cell phone (if allowed): Some schools prohibit or strongly dissuade kids from bringing phones. Instead, you may get a list of the teacher’s and chaperones’ cell phone numbers, and they’ll have your contact info. If your child takes his/her phone, consider sending them with a portable phone charger, too. The kids probably won’t have spots where they can recharge their phones during the day.
- Cash or debit card for extras: Your school may have a policy about personal money. If students are allowed to purchase extra snacks or souvenirs on the field trip, send them with a modest amount of cash or a kid-friendly debit card.
It’s a good idea to make sure your child’s debit card doesn’t allow them to withdraw cash at ATMs or get cash back (for splurges or treating their friends). Even better are kid/teen debit cards that message you before authorizing your child’s purchases.
Be sure you have account information safely stored at home or work in case your child loses their debit card. Also, make sure your child knows to contact you right away (or have a chaperone do so) if they lose their debit card. That way, you can quickly get in touch with the card issuer or use a mobile app to disable the card.
- Writing tools: Include a notebook and a pen or mechanical pencil with a clip on the side. Insert the pen/pencil into the metal spine of notebook (clip on the outside) for easy storage.
- Disposable camera: Give your child a one-time-use camera marked with their last name. You’ll develop the photos the old-fashioned way when your kid gets home.
- Wearables: Sunglasses are something most kids forget to pack but wish they had available. Depending on the weather, your child may also need a light wind or rain jacket and extra layers of clothing. An extra pair of socks is easy to carry and super helpful if it’s rainy or your kid loves stomping through any type of water.
- Refillable water bottle: An inexpensive plastic one is fine. If your child is fussy about keeping their water cold, a small, insulated water bottle is great, too.
- Packable snacks and/or lunch: If the school isn’t providing food, keep your kid’s options simple and disposable. That way, they don’t have to carry back bulky items like a lunch box or thermos.A brilliant idea: Pack your child’s lunch in one of the plastic clamshell boxes that often hold fresh fruit at the grocery store. These sturdy containers keep sandwiches and other soft items from getting squashed. Plus, your child can toss the whole container when they’re done. Need some lunch inspiration? Check out these ideas for disposable field trip lunches.
By the way, are you chaperoning a school field trip? Get the inside scoop here about field-trip volunteering, including stocking your own daypack with extra snacks, sunscreen, hand-wipes…you name it. If you actually survive taking a bus-full of kids to the art museum, planetarium or anywhere, you are a rock-star parent. Kudos to you!
(photo courtesy © Matt Stehouwer cc2.0)
Letting your kid “graduate” from handling cash to carrying a debit card can be a big milestone in a family’s life. After all, handing over that shiny piece of plastic is a signal that your child or teen is moving to a new stage in their financial life.
If you’re still the primary owner on your child’s debit card—which you really should be, as a parent—your child’s financial life is still on training wheels. However, you’re allowing your child or teen to begin making some more independent decisions with their money.
So how do you know if your kid is ready for debit card? First, you know your own child. You’re the best judge of their maturity level and spending habits. However, if you’re a bit on the fence about a child or teen prepaid debit card, here are some good readiness indicators:
1. They’ve successfully handled cash for a year or two.
It’s actually not a great idea to give kids debit cards until they’ve had some hands-on time with cash. Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests a cash practice period, too. Why? You want proof that your kids fully understand the value of money and the concept that “when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Kids and teens also need some experience separating actual cash and coins into at least the three basic categories of Spending, Saving and Giving. Using separate jars or envelopes for this task gives kids a visual picture of the budgeting process.
On the other hand, if you let kids start their money lives with debit cards, money may not seem as real to them. Plus, their funds are all lumped together into a single account they think of as “mine to spend.” So be sure give kids and teens a solid cash training period before upgrading them to debit cards.
2. They can keep track of their belongings.
Carrying a debit card is a privilege and a responsibility. Kids who constantly lose things, from their coats to their phones, may not be ready for one. Today’s EMV chips do make it much harder for thieves to use lost/stolen debit cards, since they also need to enter a PIN code to complete transactions. However, who wants the hassle of dealing with a lost debit card?
Wait until you see signs that your kids can keep their valuables safe. However, if your kid does lose a debit card, be sure you know how to quickly “freeze” it so thieves can’t use it. Greenlight makes it easy: Simply log into your mobile app and turn off the card. Then let us know that you need a replacement card.
3. Your kids responsibly handle “school bucks.”
Many schools let you load funds onto kids’ ID cards to pay for school lunches and snacks. Unfortunately, you may already have dealt with that shocking first semester when your middle-schooler drains all their prepaid lunch money by buying extra junk food or feeding their ravenous friends.
This experience isn’t unusual and it doesn’t mean your kid is a financial deadbeat. However, it is a sign that they don’t fully understand the responsibility of having funds attached to a card. So first, talk to your kids about your expectations for how they spend lunch money. And wait on the debit card until your kids prove they can spend their school bucks carefully.
4. Your kids need to be able to make purchases on their own.
For many kids, this is about the same time they get a cell phone. You’re no longer with them 24/7. They’re getting more independent, so you give them a cell phone to get in touch while you’re apart. Entrusting them with a debit card so they can buy a movie ticket or get lunch with friends can also be a nice convenience.
5. Your kids need to buy things that cost more than a latte.
If your teen is doing his own back-to-school shopping, he’s going to need to carry more in his wallet than, say, $5. When your kid starts carrying enough cash that it makes you a bit nervous, that’s the time to consider a special child or teen prepaid debit card. The safety factor alone may be worth it.
6. Your kids start asking questions about debit cards.
Now, no one is implying that kids who show interest in cards automatically are ready for them. However, kids’ questions often are good indicators of changes in their development. A kid who asks about debit cards may be starting to notice how you use your debit card, or may see friends getting debit cards, and be curious.
This is a great time to open the discussion about when and why you will allow them to start using a debit card. Even if your child isn’t quite ready for a card, use this time to show them how you responsibly use your card, how you check your account balances, and to talk about the big difference between debit an credit cards. By the time your kid is ready for a card, they’ll be well versed in how to use it with care.
If you’re ready to teach your kids to be financially independent, check out the Greenlight Debit Card for Kids here to learn more!
(photo courtesy © NASA Goddard cc2.0)
Savvy grandparents know the #1 secret to holiday giving: Money is the gift everyone loves.
Tucking a few fresh bills or a generous check into that holiday card is a surefire way to make grandkids light up. However, if this year’s grandparent gift was extremely generous, you may want to talk this month with your kids about how best to use their windfalls.
Help kids plan their purchases. Guiding your kids toward smart spending choices can help stretch their gift money. For instance, if Grandma and Grandpa gave your child enough green to buy a spendy gaming system, show your kids how to watch for sales or discounts before they shop. They might end up having enough money to buy an extra game, too.
You could also require your child to write down things they want to buy, then take a two-week “cooling off” period. If your kid still wants the item when their waiting time is up — and the purchase fits in with your family’s values and rules — you can greenlight the purchase.
Use money gifts to grow more green. Talk to your child about saving and investing that holiday money so it increases over time. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a few suggestions for teaching middle-school-aged kids about the power of compound interest. The Charles Schwab Foundation also suggests opening a custodial investment account if you’d like to help your child learn more about investing.
Make savings a habit. Some parents require their kids to put a small portion (say, 10%) of money gifts into a savings account. This routine is good practice for later, when your child has an earned income. By then, they’ll be well in the habit of tucking away a set percentage of their money for emergencies or planned, bigger purchases.
Chat with grandparents about future gifts. Do your child’s grandparents regularly dole out extremely generous financial gifts? If so, it’s perfectly OK to share your thoughts (respectfully) on how that money could be used.
For instance, could Grandma give a bit less in holiday cash and invest the rest in a 529 college savings plan for your child’s benefit? A study by Upromise (the savings arm of college loan provider Sallie Mae) found that 68% of all parents prefer that grandparents add cash to their kids’ college funds instead of giving other holiday gifts. Just be sure to talk with grandparents well before next year’s holiday season about how their gift funds can best help your family.
(photo courtesy © Ben Smith cc2.0)
The Greenlight Prepaid MasterCard® is a debit card paired with an app that allows parents to view, approve, and manage their kids’ spending.
Greenlight was designed for parents
-Give money to your kids from anywhere, instantly. Sending your kids a Greenlight lets them know how much money they can spend at specific stores
-Review real-time spending requests from your kids. You can approve, edit, or decline the requests and communicate with your kids within the app
-Receive instant notifications for all transactions approved or denied with the Greenlight card
-Powerful transaction history view lets you monitor where the money is going. View individual expenses or group by store to see a full analysis of spending
-Each of your kids can have their own card managed within the Greenlight app
-Kids lose things? No problem. Turn the card on or off in the Greenlight app with one touch
-Give your kids an allowance weekly or monthly with automatic transfers to their “Spend Anywhere” Greenlight
-Use the “Return Change” feature to receive any leftover money automatically after a purchase
Here’s why Greenlight is the SAFEST and most SECURE way to give your kids money:
-You can limit where money can be spent
-If your card is lost, the parent or child can instantly turn it off. If turned off by a parent, only that parent can turn it back on
-Spending history shows everywhere your child has used their Greenlight card, including declined transactions
-In-app messaging allows for documentation of requests, reasons, and discussions about money
-Parents can move money on the Greenlight card back into the Parent Wallet at any time
-Push notifications are sent to both the parent and child for each transaction
Kids love Greenlight, too!
-View your Greenlights in the app to see where you can spend money
-Check your allowance and view savings
-Request money at specific stores or locations. Take a picture or chat with your parents so they’ll approve your request!
-Receive real-time notifications each time you make a purchase with your card
-Track all of your spending within the app to see where your money is going
-Lost a card? No worries. Simply turn it off. Find it? Turn it back on right in the Greenlight app
Our team at Greenlight understands the challenges of busy families because we have kids of our own! We wanted to teach them how money works and help them develop good money management skills. Greenlight is the safest way to give your kids money and prepare them for financial independence.
Click ‘Sign Up’ below to get started!
Dave Ramsey is an American financial author, radio host, television personality, and motivational speaker focused on encouraging good money management skills for all ages. But, he didn’t start out this way.
Dave made plenty of money when he was young, but poor money management decisions resulted in significant debt. As a result, he lost everything he saved and was embarrassed to ask for help. Dave was determined to figure out how money works and to better manage his situation. He read every book available, interviewed older wealthy individuals, and more. Ultimately, he realized that the world wasn’t out to get him. As it turns out, it was his own decisions that ruined him financially.
After moving back into real estate and bailing himself out of financial distress, Dave realized he wanted to help others with all the knowledge he had gained. He began Ramsey Solutions in 1992 to “counsel folks hurting from the results of financial stress.” Dave wrote several books on the subject and eventually started a radio call-in show that airs nationally.
As you can imagine, Dave has several tips for your kids to learn early. Check out just a few of these below!
Elementary School Age
- Use a clear jar for saving. There are a lot of piggy banks that are pretty cool looking! Try to find one that is also clear so your child can see their money growing. This should be a fun thing for you and your child to sit down and discuss. Watching three quarters turn into 8 quarters is a big deal! This will also encourage saving.
- Show them that stuff costs money. It’s one thing to have money and another to understand what it actually means. The next time you take your child to the store, have them bring some physical money with them from their piggy bank. When they find something they want to purchase, have them hand their money to the cashier. This will be far more meaningful than a simple lecture about money because they will visually witness the result.
- Teach them opportunity cost. Your kids need to learn that when they decide to purchase something, it generally means they can’t purchase something else. So, if they want to purchase a video game, show them that they won’t have enough money to pay for the new pair of shoes they want as well. Tradeoffs are critical, and can easily be taught in this manner.
- The importance of giving. Once your kids start making or saving money, take time to discuss the importance of giving to others in need. If they are passionate about animals for example, help them pick a shelter they can either give money or time to help out. Your kids will see that giving helps others, but that they will also feel good about it as well.
- Work for money. Your children will have a lot of free time during breaks, summers, and more. Helping them find a summer job at their local ice cream shop for example is a great way to show how working will provide them the additional money they seek.
- Teach them the danger of credit cards. As soon as your teen turns 18, they are going to want a credit card and will receive mail from banks trying to provide it to them with “attractive” promotions. Teach them why debt is dangerous and how to protect themselves.
These are just a few of the tips you can use to teach your kids how to manage their money. Its best to start as early as possible promoting positive money management skills because it will be a critical asset for your kids as they grow up.