By Jolene Rohlkepartain

Nothing teaches your kids how to manage money better than getting them involved in your family budget. It’s a small thing you can do that will make a huge impact.

If you have a young child . . .

  • Make budgets simple and relevant to their world. When my kids were preschoolers and younger, we only talked about a “fun” budget because that was something they understood. Include movies, amusement park rides, water parks, toys, and other “fun” stuff.
  • Even though our budget categories as adults were for monthly items, we broke the “fun” budget into a weekly budget to make it more concrete for our kids. Young kids will quickly discover that sometimes you want to do a bigger fun thing, so you need to take a break from a weekly fun thing that costs money and save that money until you have enough to do the big fun thing.
  • If your child is school-aged . . .

  • Elementary school-aged kids can begin to make decisions about how they want to spend money. For example, as our kids grew older and headed to elementary school, we helped them compare the cost of a summer pass to our local water park with the daily rate cost. Since both loved to swim, they asked us to save money on a summer pass so that we could all go as often as we wished. (We then applauded them for making a smart spending choice.)
  • Talk about other budget items when the opportunity arises. For example, we often take our children grocery shopping with us, and they find many things they want to buy, but they quickly learn that the grocery list had items that were in the “food” budget. So they switched from finding things they wanted to buy to helping us find things on the list. (Finding things on a grocery list can be like a game of hide and seek.)
  • If you have a teen . . .

  • When kids become teenagers, you often need to adjust your budget to help them think through costs. Does your kid want a cell phone? If so, what’s the budget for that? (And do you pay for the whole thing, or does your kid pay part or even all of it?)
  • In high school, one of my kids loved going to school formal dances. We sat down and worked out a budget in advance. My high school student was shocked at how easily classmates spent a lot of money on a single dance, particularly prom.
  • One of our family friends created a code word for shopping and seeing something you want to buy but you didn’t intend to buy. The code word was NIB: Not in Budget. As the family shopped together, family members knew what was in budget and what was NIB. If they forgot, mom or dad reminded them.
  • That family discovered that this code word helped their kids realize the power of budgets—and also to see that the limits were because of the budget, not Mom or Dad. Even though the parents made the budget, it was the budget setting the limit, not Mom or Dad saying, “No, I won’t buy you that.” Saying, “NIB” made shopping easier and less stressful.

    Now that I have one child in college, my college kid is discovering an even deeper appreciation for budgets. He has a joint checking account with me that won’t let him overdraw the account. He’s never gotten the account down to zero, but he’s gotten close. Each month, he becomes more in tune with keeping track of his money and even saying no because something is NIB: Not In Budget. I’m so proud.

    1. Kids and Money, Parentfurther,
    2. Bank It,