What your middle schooler should know about money

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 [1]. 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! 

Understanding costs

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 [2]. 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!


[1] Money Talks News , [2] US News

Meet Brynn, a 12-year-old entrepreneur using Greenlight to help kids beat cancer

You’ve probably heard: If you have a talent, use it. But how about “Use it for good?” That’s exactly what 12-year-old Brynn G. is doing. Not only does she make and donate custom face masks to schools, she also sells them — and gives 20% of sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Yep, that’s a whole lot of good.

Meet Brynn

Like most 7th graders, Brynn has plenty of energy. (Remember those days?) She spends her time cheerleading competitively, skateboarding and hanging out with friends — socially-distanced, of course. Here’s what makes her different: She runs a business. You heard that right — Brynn sews and sells face masks for her own company, B Creates. And she’s not planning on stopping any time soon.

How Brynn got started

Brynn honed her stitching skills alongside her grandma, who handed down the sewing machine she uses today. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Brynn turned sewing into a business. One day at home, she used the extra material from cropping a shirt to make a face mask. Her mom posted it on Facebook and word got out: This girl’s got talent. So, she started making and selling custom masks. And just seven weeks later, she had already sold 569 masks!

Brynn gives 20% of her sales to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — to help save kids’ lives. Did we mention she chose that charity all on her own? Major kudos. Brynn has also donated 20 masks to her local elementary and middle school… because everyone deserves a cool, custom mask, right? Think: colorful leopard, purple cosmic swirls and our personal favorite, llamas.

While Brynn sews the masks herself, she passes over the iron to her mom, Janice, who’s been supportive since the start. At first, Brynn wasn’t so sure about her business idea. She thought she’d get 20 orders, if that. Talking it over with her parents gave Brynn the confidence to really go for it.

After seeing how much money Brynn was making from masks, Janice decided to open her a Greenlight account to track it all. Janice can transfer money from Facebook sales right to Brynn’s Spend or Save accounts — empowering her to take matters into her own hands. So while Brynn is in the business of creating, she’s also learning. And you can’t put a price on that.

What’s next?

Right now, Brynn is using her Greenlight account to save up for a new sewing machine, so she can make more masks and raise more money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The jury is still out on where she’ll buy the new machine, so Janice set her Greenlight account to Spend Anywhere, giving Brynn the “green light” to exercise responsible spending
 
If you’d like to support Brynn’s mask-making business, head to the B Creates Facebook Group. All of her masks are washable, reversible and only $5. And remember: 20% of sales go to help kids who are battling cancer.

6 signs your kids are ready for their first debit card

Letting your kids graduate from handling cash to carrying a debit card is a big milestone. And that leaves us with a big question: When’s the right time?

With the holidays around the corner and gifts to be bought, we’d venture to say right now is the perfect time. If you’re still on the fence, look out for these 6 signs that your kids are ready for their first debit card.

Sign #1: They’re always asking for cash (or worse, your debit card)

Hand them cash and they spend it. Lend your debit card and they lose it. Okay — we’ll give them more credit than that, but you can probably relate. While these options may get the job done, they don’t give you a long-term solution for sending money to your kids. 

With cash, kids won’t learn how to track their balances and set a budget. That’s where a debit card comes in handy — but instead of lending yours, you can get them a special one made just for them.

Sign #2: They’re starting to earn money

Vacuuming once a week or making the bed every day? We’ll leave that up to you. If your kids are starting to earn money — whether it’s an allowance or a part-time job —  they’re going to need a place to put it. And no, we’re not talking about piggy banks.

As soon as your kids start to earn, get them set up with the Greenlight card and app so they can complete chores and get paid an automated allowance. Ready for the best part? When they earn on their own, they’ll start to learn why it’s important to take good care of their money.

Sign #3: They’ve got spending down, but they could use help with saving 

Alright, so they’ve started spending money. That’s great! Spending wisely is a big life lesson on its own. But we have to ask… How are they doing with their savings?
 
The good news is you don’t have to have a long lecture about saving. They’ll learn all about it when they get a debit card and start handling money on their own. Plus, you can help them make saving a habit with automatic saving tricks, like Round Ups (so they send extra cents into savings) and Parent-Paid Interest (so you can set an interest rate on their savings).

Sign #4: They’re ready to buy things on their own

When your kids are starting to order pizza delivery or buy things online, they’ve already made the first step at managing their money. The next step is letting it happen — and putting guardrails in place to make sure they’re spending wisely and safely.
 
Every family is different, so you can use your Greenlight app to set spending limits that will work best for your kids. Let’s say one of your kids is already driving. You can set spending limits for gas only (no sneaky snacks from the gas station). Or maybe you have a child who loves spending at Target. You can set spending limits so those shopping trips don’t get too out of hand.

Sign #5: They’re thinking ahead

Ask your kids if they have anything big they’d like to save up for. Who knows? They may have big plans for their money. If they don’t, help them come up with savings goals. These savings goals can be short-term or long-term. 

Not sure where to start? Here are some of the most popular savings goals from our Greenlight families:

  • AirPods
  • Car 
  • Sneakers
  • College
  • Video games

Sign #6: They’re ready for the money talk

They’re asking you the difference between debit and credit. They’re wondering how much money you make. They’re buying you gifts for your birthday.

While these things may feel uncomfortable at first (talking about money is hard!), this is actually a sign that your kids are ready and willing to learn. Kids learn by doing, so there’s no need to sit down and have a napkin-math lesson on money management. That’s boring! Instead, get your kids their own debit card and let the learning happen naturally — with the help of Greenlight’s balance monitoring, real-time alerts and automated allowance to make your life easier at the same time.