Teaching your kids about money might not be at the top of your Spring Break to-do list. However, if you think about, a spring break trip—or any vacation—is an ideal time to increase your child’s money IQ. Your family makes a lot of financial choices when you travel—from which daily activities you choose to how much money to spend on souvenirs.
Here are some great ways to use your Spring Break trip to give your kid hands-on lessons about money.
Give Vacation Cash Bonuses For A+ Behavior
You can always let your kid earn extra spending money for your trip by doing some extra chores ahead of time. However, have you considered any of these smart ideas for encouraging kids to earn—and be more pleasant humans—while you’re traveling? Consider giving kids an extra buck or two for:
- Trying a new food (bonus: it makes kids more enthusiastic about experimenting at a new restaurant instead of a familiar chain)
- Trying a new activity they might otherwise skip, from snorkeling to rollerblading
- Not squabbling with siblings on the plane or while you’re driving
- Being quiet for an hour in the afternoon while you rest (they can draw, read or quietly play on electronics)
- Doing a good deed, like opening a door for another hotel patron, or letting a younger child in front of them in line at an amusement park
And don’t worry—you’re not bribing your kids. When you bribe someone, you give them money to do something they shouldn’t. These payoffs are rewards: You’re giving your kids money for doing something right.
Establish a Souvenir Budget
Rather than listening to your kids beg for money every 15 minutes, give them a set amount of money upfront. If you have young kids, you may need to release their souvenir money to them every few days, so they don’t spend it all at once.
Give older kids an amount that has to last the entire trip. (If they want to bolster their fun allowance with the extra money they’ve saved, that’s fine.) To prevent teens from carrying a big wad of cash, consider loading their souvenir allowance onto a prepaid debit card, like Greenlight. Don’t refill the card once your teen spends their entire budget. When the money’s gone, it’s gone.
Let Teens Make Family Activity Choices
Some families give their teens an assigned trip day and budget, and let the kids decide the family’s schedule. This can be done ahead of time (if you’ll need to book advance tickets, for instance) or at the very beginning of your trip.
This exercise helps teens see that having a budget means making smart choices. For instance, would they rather spend the family’s entire daily budget on tickets to an indoor wave pool and a movie afterward (with a no-frills dinner back at the condo), or a less expensive activity that leaves money for a fun dinner out? Encourage your teens to look for coupons and other deals online.
Get Creative About Other Money Choices
Every family and kid is different. You may think of some family money rules that work especially well for your Spring Break trip. For instance,
- If you have a kid who constantly snacks: Try a “one purchase a day” rule—snack or souvenir. They get to choose between the two; they’ll never get both. (And if your kid is truly hungry, they’ll be happy to take the apple and nuts you pack with you!)
- If the trip is extra spendy: Tell kids well ahead of your next trip that they’ll need to save up birthday and holiday gift money to pay for souvenirs. You’ll pay for everything else.
- To discourage a spending frenzy: Offer your kids a match on any money they bring home from your trip unspent. This is a great incentive for kids to skip buying tchotchkes that will just end up gathering dust.
What money strategies have you used with your kids on Spring Break or another vacation? We’d love to hear from you.
(photo courtesy © Carissa Rogers cc2.0)