Many kids see saving as the most un-fun part of having their own money. Totally understandable. Many adults aren’t wild about saving money, either. However, saving is definitely an important 1/3 of the Key Three Money Skills: spending, saving, and giving.
To be fair, the saving skill may be a bit harder to teach kids who are natural-born spenders. And yes, it is possible for a human to be wired as either a natural spender or a natural saver. Parenting odds being what they are, there’s also a pretty good chance that your kid’s inborn money temperament is the polar opposite of yours. So if you’re a great saver, your kid probably can’t wait to spend his green on anything that floats in front of him.
If your child happens to be a natural saver or even an over-saver—appreciate your good fortune! But if you’re raising a happy-go-lucky spender, these tips are just for you:
1. Create a saving system
Spenders can be impulsive with their money. Nuf said. So make it easier for your child to do the right thing by putting up some financial guardrails. You essentially want to create automatic habits, or systems, to guide your kid to save.
Every time your child gets an allowance, earns money from work, or gets money gifts from relatives, make it a rule that 10% (or whatever ratio you choose) of it always goes into savings. No exceptions.
Next, make sure your child’s savings are in a separate account, jar, bank or digital category from any spending money. The guiding principle here: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Kids aren’t as tempted to spend what they don’t see. And by the way, the system of automatically transferring money from a spending account to a savings account works great for natural-spender grownups, too. Just sayin’.
2. Incentivize Their Savings
This is the reward system at its best, used to teach your kid financial smarts. Whenever your child puts money in savings, consider matching a portion of it. If they put in $1, you add an extra 50 cents. If they save $10, you add another $5 to sweeten the pot. Your kids will quickly come to see the saving habit as a very, very good thing.
Yes, your child will earn some interest on their money, if they put it into a savings account of some type. However, interest rates are low enough right now that your child might not get excited about earning an extra 12 cents a month. Your match makes savings much more exciting.
3. Teach Kids About the “Future Value of Money”
This is a good conversation to have with kids who are in late grade school or middle school. The main lesson: Over a long period of time (years, not just months), the build-up of compound interest—and perhaps parental matching funds—on your child’s savings means they’ll earn lots of extra “free” future money.
Here’s an example. The average kid gets an average allowance of $68 per month.
If your kid hypothetically could save that entire allowance from age 8 to age 18, they would have a whopping $14,230* by the time they go to college—without even taking on a part-time job.
The “future value” of your kid’s humble $68 monthly allowance becomes more than $14,000 in 10 years. And more than $6,000 of that sum is “free” money from interest and parental matches. That’s a pretty compelling reason for kids to save.
Put another way: If your child spends every penny of their $68 allowance, they’re also erasing more than $6,000 in future money. Yikes!
4. Walk the Talk
You’re your kid’s best teacher. If you want them to understand how to save, let them see you do it. Talk out loud about saving money for that new flat-screen TV or your next family vacation.
Better yet, create a colorful savings graph and post it prominently on your refrigerator. Mark your family’s progress toward that family vacation. Celebrate your savings milestones along the way.
Help your kids (and yourselves!) see that good money things come to those who save.
* Assuming a 10% return, compounded monthly
(photo courtesy © Rich Brooks cc2.0)
Spending habits have shifted significantly over the last decade. High adoption of smartphones, social networking, tablets, and more are several reasons why people make less purchases in physical stores than ever. While you may have participated in this transition, your kids are growing up with online spending as the norm. Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Ebay, and other services have made it as simple (and affordable) as possible for their customers to make online purchases rather than going to the store. With kids spending more than 1.6 hours a day online according to online safety provider Norton, it is critical that you set ground rules for your children to follow.
- No Purchases without Parental Approval
Regardless of how old your kids are, they should be comfortable talking with you about their online purchases. Setting a rule that they must check with you first for approval gives you an opportunity to verify that the website or app they are using is safe, and the purchase is appropriate. As your kids get older, you can relax this rule to teach your children about trust. For example, you could allow your kids to spend their allowance when they want online, provided they use websites you have pre-authorized.
- Approved Websites & Services
Sit down with your kids and walk them through which websites and services they are allowed to access, and which sites they should not be using. This can be supplemented by parental controls, but not every mobile device or PC has these capabilities or makes it simple to use. A spending card and app like Greenlight can simplify this process through its simple interface while teaching children about good money habits.
- Purchasing Amount Limits
Sit down with your kids and set strict limits on how much money they are allowed to spend online at any given time. Limiting how much your child can spend at one time or each month will significantly reduce the possibility of an unwanted purchase. Link this amount to your child’s allowance because you can review their spending monthly and teach them better money management skills.
- Category Limits
Much like a dollar restriction, select specific categories your kids are allowed to purchase from. For example, you may allow purchases related to gaming, clothes, and music, but restrict purchases to junk food, R-rated movies, and more. Several allowance systems allow you to set up categories for spending which could be used to enforce the restriction further.
- Time Limits
Whether your kids are using cell phones, tablets, or a computer, set specific time limits for how long they can spend on any of the devices. In addition to limiting access, set specific hours that they are allowed to have screen time. Your kids should learn when it is appropriate to use online devices, and occasions when it is not appropriate such as family time. A general rule of thumb is allowing a maximum of one to two hours per day with an online device after they have completed their homework. Establishing a cut off time is also important so your kids don’t impact their sleep schedule.
(photo courtesy © Lucélia Ribeiro cc2.0)
First and foremost, when you’re shopping for back to school supplies, make sure you know what you have. Go through your kids’ rooms and take inventory of their clothing and any supplies they might have laying around. Clean out old backpacks and school bags. Take stock of supplies in your home office, in your kitchen drawers, in the hall closet. This way, you won’t continue to buy a protractor every year when you have a forgotten pile of them tucked away somewhere in your house.
Once you have a list of what you already have, you’ll be more focused on what you need. Using your inventory list, create a new list of items your kids absolutely need for the upcoming school year. Make copies of your finalized need list and give them to everyone in your family. If you and your family are tech-savvy, consider creating a shared google doc, or something of the like, so that you and your children can edit it together. This way, there should be no confusion on what’s been purchased and what you still need to buy.
Start buying early and plan your time
Planning ahead is really the best way to save money on back to school shopping. If you start looking at supplies and prices early, you’ll be better equipped to recognize and take advantage of the best sale prices.
Also, if you make a plan ahead of time, deciding which stores you and your kids will need to visit to get their supplies, you can track those stores easily by subscribing to their Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Often, stores will post reminders of sales or even surprise offers to their subscribers. Following these stores early and often will help you get the most for your money.
Another benefit to starting your shopping early is the option of shopping online. Many times, you can find great deals shopping on Amazon, Overstock, even eBay or Craigslist. And, some stores offer online specific sales with better deals than you can find in store. So, don’t wait until the last week of summer to scramble and get your kids their supplies! Give yourself time to browse the internet too, and leave plenty of time for the great deals you find to be shipped to you.
Shop Tax Free Weekend and End of Summer Sales (but beware…)
Shopping on tax free weekend and during end of summer sales can be great ways to save money on back to school supplies. Parents should absolutely be aware of when tax free shopping occurs, and they should keep track of when their (and their kids’) favorite stores hold their end of summer sales.
However, it’s also a good idea to be critical of these seemingly fabulous sales. I worked at Old Navy throughout my high school and college years, so I have firsthand knowledge of some of the sneakier sides to summer sales. For example, sometimes stores will mark their prices up to full value during tax-free weekends, and other stores will actually run better sales before and after the big advertised “summer sale.” So be wary of the sales you see, and take the extra time to determine whether you’re getting the best deal. Don’t be fooled by the “tax-free” excitement of saving 7% on a shirt that costs $25 when it will be 50% off during next week’s less advertised sale.
Avoid unnecessaries and compromise with your kids
Fancy pencil pouches? Your kid has a backpack… that’s a pencil pouch right there. Cute, trendy, or graphic covered binders that cost 4x the amount of a regular, plain, binder? Who needs it? Chances are, your kid is going to either stuff some papers in there to keep for later, draw on it with markers or pens, or never take it out of his/her locker. Cutting down on the unnecessary items your kid wants but doesn’t need is a surefire way to save money.
But, if your son really wants the expensive backpack with a built in organizer, a hard-case pocket for his laptop, and a cool design on the front, compromise with him. If your daughter will not stop asking for the Vera Wang lunch bag she saw online the other day, compromise with her. Strike up a deal that they have to pay the difference between the backpack or lunch bag you want to buy for them and the one they want. They could cover this difference using saved up holiday money, allowance money, or by doing extra chores.
Be wary of teacher required lists
This last tip is a little variable, but here’s a secret from someone who’s taught high school for the past 5 years: Take our “required” school supply lists with a grain of salt. Again, this is the experience of just one teacher, but honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what our students will need for the entire year. My best advice is to buy the basics: pens, pencils, paper. Your child will always need something to write with and something to write on, but hold off on any excess- colored pencils, glue sticks, a binder for each class, rulers, etc.- until you know exactly what they’ll be using on a day-to-day basis
Tips for Parents from a Self Proclaimed Stylish College Student
Whether you’re shopping for the classy Southern belle or the modern boy, here are some tips and tricks to keep your kids looking stylish on a budget.
1. Ask In-Store for Promotional/Seasonal Items
Sometimes it’s best to plan ahead and shop for the outdated clearance racks! As the seasons change, look to buy for items that are out of season. They may not be worn for some time, but they will be in your kids closet when they ask for more money to buy clothes the next year!
2. Factory Stores
For the non-shopper savvy parents out there, factory stores are a blessing from up above. Factory stores are essentially all of the excess clothes that they produced that never make it to the retail stores. Most people think that the quality isn’t as good, but the clothes are usually 50% off, and are the same quality as if you were to buy them in a regular retail store.
3. Sign Up for Email Newsletters
They might be annoying and email you every single day on what new styles they have on sale, but you can usually set the emails to be sent once or twice a week/month. The sales that they offer are usually not available in stores.
4. Thrift Stores
Thrift stores might be the most interesting stores to shop in because you never know what you’re going to find. One of my friends found a Harlem Globetrotters jumpsuit. Another one of my friends found multiple Polo shirts that looked brand new, while others just found really hip and unique shirts. Visit your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or community thrift store. One of them is bound to have some appealing options.
5. Discount Codes
Most online stores have a little box available for promotional codes during checkout. Visit Google and type in: (Name of the Store) coupon code.
6. Shop Online. It’s the 21st Century.
Online shopping is one of the best ways to shop in my opinion. You can do it from the comfort of your couch with a cup of joe in your hands. If you aren’t already shopping online, it will become the best thing since sliced bread to you once you give it a chance. Going shopping with the kids isn’t ideal when you have a 13-year-old middle school kid who doesn’t want anything to do with shopping, and an 8-year-old kid who bounces off the walls in big crowds.