Involve Your Kids in Buying Friends’ Birthday Gifts

If your child is one of 30 kids in her school class, how many birthday party invitations will she get this year? Now, take that guesstimate and add birthday parties for neighbors, friends from extracurricular activities, and family members like cousins…and whoa! You’re not imagining it: Buying birthday gifts for other people’s kids—an implied responsibility when your kid attends a party—can be a family budget-buster.

The silver living: Birthday gift shopping is an ideal opportunity to teach kids hands-on life and money skills. And as your children get older (say, age 11+), you can even use friends’ birthday gifts as a reason to transfer some money responsibility over to your kids.

  • First, decide what you’re willing to spend. Yep, you as a family can actually plan in advance for your kids’ friends’ birthday gifts. If you have younger children, you, the parents, decide whether that’s $25 a month or $250 a year. With older kids, you could work out a gift budget together.


  • Set gift-price guidelines. Many kids are incredibly generous. They want to buy their friends awesome—and often $$$—gifts. However, you may want to help kids set price limits, whether they’re spending your money or their own. LearnVest experts suggest setting up some general gift-spending “rules of thumb.” For instance:


      • Family members, like cousins, might take top priority, with a gift budget of $25.
      • For your child’s good friends, allocate $20-$25.
      • School friends might get a $10-$15 gift.
      • Acquaintances may warrant a modest $5 gift, or something homemade.


  • Involve kids in gift shopping. Even very young children can help choose gifts that match your dollar limit. Yes, it takes more time to let young kids help with the shopping. However, it’s a valuable skill they’ll need later. It’s even more important to have older kids gift-shop with you. Don’t be that parent who shops for, wraps, and efficiently plops a gift (contents unknown) into your kid’s hands as they walk out your door to the party.


  • Help older kids create a “friends’ gifts” budget. By the time they’re about 11 years old, it’s smart to let your kids—with your coaching—manage some of their own gift-buying. That’s what Sara, who blogs at GoGingham, does. There are many ways to do this:


    • Save as they go: Require kids to set aside a small percentage of every allowance or earned money toward friends’ gifts. They should keep the money completely separate from their spending money. You can use a special envelope, jar, subcategory of a bank savings account, or online budgeting category.
    • Lump sum: Give kids a set amount of gift money at the beginning of each month or year, and let them choose how to spend it. But stay involved. Require your kids to discuss purchases with you ahead of time, so you know they’re reasonable. Ask kids to show you receipts afterward.
    • Work for it: Tell kids they’ll need to do extra tasks around the house (or for neighbors and family) to earn money for friends’ gifts. If they don’t earn enough money to buy a reasonable gift for a pal, they don’t go to the party. Simple as that.
  • Give kids a party limit. Some parents tell kids they can only attend a certain number of parties each year. That way, your family is only on the hook for a set number of gifts in a 12-month period. Be sure you help your child prioritize family members’ and good friends’ parties over those for neighbors and acquaintances.

And don’t worry: It’s not lame to set some boundaries around kids’ birthday-gift spending. You’re teaching your child a great lesson: We all have to pick and choose the social events we’ll attend—and what we can afford to pay for them.

(photo courtesy © Anthony Crider cc2.0)

How To Talk Money Management With Your Kids

The money talk — not as scary as the birds and bees, but still a lot to think about. We get it and so do other parents. In fact, 49% of parents say they’re not sure how to explain money to their child.[1] Enter: Spring Break. It’s the perfect time to open the conversation, starting with budgeting. 


If you’re like 67%[2] of Americans, you keep a budget — nice! Time to get your kids on board. But how? You could start off by explaining why a budget matters, because chances are they’ll ask.

Conversation Starter: “When you make a budget, you know just what you’re spending, and how much you need to save for things you want, like those AirPods.”


Fixed Expenses and Variable Expenses — ring a bell? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, they’re important words to teach your kids about budgeting. Break it down into Spring Break terms, and they’ll get it.

Conversation Starter: “A Fixed Expense is one that doesn’t change. Like, our plane ticket. A variable Expense is one that does change. Like, meals. It can go up or down, depending on where we eat.”


Budgeting for Spring Break is one thing — saving for it is another. Instead of simply handing them money (and hoping they stash it away), show them the importance of earning and saving.

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 savings over time, it helps make future purchases possible.” Tip: Name something you’re saving for, and how you plan on reaching your goal.


After you have the money talk with your kids (you’ve got this!), think about getting them a debit card — like Greenlight. Unlike a credit card, they can only spend what’s on it. (More on the differences between credit and debit here.) The best part: debit cards like Greenlight empower your kids to make smart money decisions, long after Spring Break ends.

With the Greenlight debit card and app, your kids can:

  • Set Savings Goals. Even staycations cost money. Teach them to save for it.
  • Learn to Make Trade-offs. Keychain or shark-tooth necklace? It’s their call.
  • Earn Allowance Through Chores. Greenlight kids who earn allowance save 26% more.

As they start learning about money management, you’ll be right there with them. The Greenlight app lets you:

  • Control Access to ATM’s. Are they taking too much out? Set limits.
  • Choose Stores. You decide where they can and can’t spend.
  • Get Real-Time Notifications and Monitor Their Spend Levels. Perfect if they’re vacationing without you.


Join Greenlight today and help your kids get a head start on budgeting for the break — and for life! Sign Up Now

[1] [2]

Why kids should understand the difference between debit and credit cards

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. 

How parents send money using the Greenlight debit card.

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!