The Surprising Challenges of Raising a Kid Who’s an ‘Over-Saver’

We know what you’re thinking: A kid who saves too much? Is there really such a thing? And can that truly be a problem?

Believe it or not, yes, yes and yes.

Most kids probably are in the opposite camp: they’re more than happy to spend every penny they can get their hands on. And if they do save, it’s probably a modest amount. Most likely they’re saving up for something they want to buy later.

However, a small number of kids are extreme about saving money. Parents who have an over-saver know exactly what we’re talking about, and raising them isn’t always a picnic. A few of these kids are natural-born tightwads. Others may have heard family members argue or worry about money. Anxiety about “having enough” can lead these kids to hoard away every cent of their allowance and earnings—just in case.

Why over-saving can backfire

Now, don’t misunderstand: Saving money is an awesome habit. In fact, it’s a critical part of becoming a financially responsible person. However, if saving is the only thing your child does with money, their financial life can get out of balance.

The long-term result: Your kid may carry their over-saving pattern into adulthood. Adult over-savers argue with their spouses or partners over even the smallest purchases. And when an extreme saver needs to make a significant purchase, like a car or a house—watch out! They may get paralyzed by the decision or become overly anxious after writing a big check or signing for a loan.

How to teach kids financial balance

If you’ve got a budding money-hoarder in your family, now’s the time to teach them how to loosen up. (Their future friends and families will thank you!). Here’s how to start:

  • Create a beginner’s budget. Budgeting actually is a very calming tool for anxious over-savers. Here’s why: Once kids put money into categories (envelopes, jars, or digital) for specific purposes—friends’ gifts, saving for an electronic item, etc.—that money is “protected.” Your child can now feel comfortable with any leftover money. It’s safe to spend.
  • Encourage the “small splurge.” Make this a family ritual so it takes the choice (and associated stress) out of this for kids: Whenever your child gets extra birthday cash or a special check from the grandparents, teach your kid that they are supposed to spend a little of it right away. You can tell them it’s part of showing gratitude for the gift.

Have your child take 10% of the money ($2 out of a $20 gift, for instance) and buy an inexpensive toy or food treat. The amount is small enough that even extreme savers will feel OK spending it.

  • Teach them to give. The donating habit is an important one for all kids, but especially for extreme savers. How much or how often is a family choice.

Be sure you help your child separate their “giving” money from their other funds. Keep donation dollars in a special container or a digital category. Setting the money aside this way and adding the label “Donating” or “Giving” helps kids psychologically separate themselves from it. Later, it’ll be a little easier for them to let go of this green.

Again, it’s definitely important to teach kids to save. However, children also need to learn this: Part of having a healthy relationship with money is being able to let go of it responsibly, too.

(photo courtesy © Tauno Tõhk cc2.0)


Using your kids’ debit cards to talk about money this summer

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 [1]. 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.


79% of Americans keep a budget [2], 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.


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.”


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.


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.


Join Greenlight today and help your kids get a head start on budgeting for their Summer Break — and for life! Sign up now

[1] [2]

Everything you need to know about National Decision Day

For many high school seniors, May 1st is an important day: National Decision Day. It’s the day they decide what comes after high school — the first of many big decisions they’ll make for themselves. This year, it also marks a day in which their decisions are heavily impacted by the world around us. 

They did the work, took the tests, made it through the teenage years and now have their sights set on graduating high school. While you and your family explore different ways to commemorate this milestone (perhaps with video calls and virtual graduation parties?), we hope you can still find time to talk about the next chapter of your child’s life.

The new-age debate

Our Gen Zs live in a world of entrepreneurs and self-starters. They’re seeing success as seven-year-old YouTube influencers make millions and 16-year-olds start their own companies.

So it makes sense why your kids will have different thoughts and considerations surrounding the college talk. That’s not to say that they don’t want to go to college — they just may not see it as the only option. As parents, we need to listen to that so we can guide them toward a decision that we all feel good about.

To sign or not to sign? What to consider

The college talk isn’t just on National Decision Day — it’s year-round. It’s a good idea to stay in the loop with the merging views on the subject. When you delve into the college talk, you may come across split views on a few things: 

Student loans: 

Because every financial situation is different, student loans are a hot button for many parents. If you and your kids are thinking about student loans, take time to explore every avenue and talk about how it will impact them throughout and after college. 

In 2018, the average individual student loan amount was $29,200. Loans may or may not be an option for your family. Either way, National Decision Day is a great opportunity to talk through the numbers with your soon-to-be grad. 

Public vs. private vs. community:

The good news is we’ve got lots of options. The not-so-good news? Well, it’s hard to decide! It’s no secret that most private schools come with a heavy cost and community schools are typically the most affordable. Public schools tend to sit somewhere in the middle of the two. 

Talk to your kids about finances — how they’ll be managing their money throughout college, pros and cons of an expensive school and what matters most to them. Your conversation could bring you to a cost-benefit analysis (bonus!) or it could spark up a new outlook on the entire decision-making process. 

Career analysis: 

Anyone else feel like their kids are too young to decide on a career path? In many ways, they are. That being said, they may have a different perspective. 91% of high schoolers believe they know their dream job, according to a survey done by EY and Junior Achievement. 

To them, a career is fun, exciting and adulty (their word, not ours). You know better than them that careers are not just about fun — they’re about financial security and stability. 

The transition out of high school is a prime time to have an open, honest conversation with your kids about this. You have the best insight into your kids’ strengths and interests, and you can use this knowledge to help them choose a path that will give them the biggest return on investment. (Props to you if you can make ROI sound fun!) 

Looking for a way to start the conversation? Try these: 

“Are we there yet?”

You’ve got a lot to think about, but no need to stress about it. National Decision Day is an exciting time for you and your kids. No matter what path they choose, the most important thing is that they have you. 

And… they have Greenlight! They may be growing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop helping them make wise money decisions. If you haven’t already, join Greenlight to keep your kids financially-healthy and happy throughout this next chapter of their lives.