12 Ways to Help Kids Form Good Financial Habits

Smart money habits rarely come naturally, here are 12 ideas for setting your kids and family up for financial success

Jessica TurnerBy Jessica Turner, Founder of The Mom Creative.

Sponsored by Regions Bank, Member FDIC. All thoughts are my own.

As a mom of three young children (ages 11, 8 and almost 5), I know how important it is to talk to my kids about money. Smart money habits like budgeting, saving, and earning money rarely come naturally; most of us learn these skills (and most of us learn these skills the hard way). Good habits regarding money are skills that will carry them into adulthood. But for many parents (me included!), sometimes teaching my kids about money can feel overwhelming, which is why I’ve teamed up with Regions Bank to make it feel a little less for all the parents out there. So, if you’re unsure where and how to start, here are 12 ideas for setting your kids and family up for financial success.

Start young: In the age of credit cards, Apple Pay, and game coins, it can be difficult for children to understand the very basics about money. Teach your children about coins and paper money, what the numbers mean, how to add it up, etc. Talk to them about the benefits of keeping money in a bank and what a bank account is. And discuss with them the value of things. You can even use apps or games, like Osmo and Monopoly to help teach your children about money.

Encourage saving: Saving money is an important habit to cultivate. A clear jar or piggy bank can help a young child see their savings grow. Use incentives like goals or small prizes to encourage them to save, rewarding them once they meet their goals.

Open a bank account: In middle school, have your child go with you to open their own bank account. My husband just took our fifth grader to the bank to open his first bank account and it was a very memorable day for them both. Opening a bank account helps a child further their understanding about saving and spending money, and empower them as a teenager when they will likely have their first job, etc.

Look for every day lessons: Use everyday situations, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, or going to an event to talk to your kids about money. When walking through the grocery aisles, my kids will sometimes pick something off the shelf and want to add it to the cart. That is an opportunity for me to talk with them about the cost of that item, and whether or not it fits in our grocery budget. I also use sale flyers and shelf stickers to teach them about how we can save money when we shop by shopping the sales.

Teach about needs vs. wants: Children are prone to having the “wants”. Teach your children about the difference between wanting something (a new toy or video game) and needing something (food and shelter). If my children want to spend their money on something, I will say to them, is it something you need or want? If they say want, I ask if they think they will still use it in six months, or is it something that they just want just this minute. Usually they recognize that the item is just a want that day and will opt to save their money.

Create opportunities to earn money: I don’t believe that children should get allowances just for living in our house. I do, however, think that giving a child the opportunity to work and earn money is important. Whether it is helping clean out the garage or baby-sitting younger siblings, give your children opportunities to earn money. (The pay rate should be commensurate with the work and the age of the child.) This teaches children the importance of working hard. It also helps prevent children from feeling entitled.

Use work to teach about money: I work full-time and sometimes that is hard for my kids to have me be away from them. But, by using money as the why, they have come to understand that work is a part of life. I said things like, “we are able to live in this house because of the work that Daddy and Mommy do. We are fortunate to be able to work so that we can earn money to afford to buy you toys and to go on vacation. Work is necessary to have financial stability and live.”

Involve everyone in the family budget: Living within a budget is a family lifestyle, so be sure to involve your children when possible. For instance, this year we sent our son to a private school, which impacted our family’s finances. We had to make some changes in our spending to make this doable and involved our kids in those changes. We gave them choices on limited activities and were very honest about saying we don’t have the budget to go on that trip or buy that outfit. This short video shares three ways to get your family to stick to a budget.

Set a savings goal: If your child wants something, help them set a savings goal. Then discuss ways that they can reach that goal. When my son wanted a big Lego set for his birthday, he asked for gift cards and pooled those cards with some savings to buy the set.

Give your kids a budget: If you are going on vacation or a special shopping trip, give your kids money and a budget to shop within. It is even better if you can give them cash (vs. using your debit or credit card) so that they can experience paying for something themselves, getting change, etc. You will find that they become much more conscious of how far money goes when they have their own limits in place for spending.

Be honest about your own money experiences: Your own money story can teach positive lessons to your children. For instance, my older kids already talk a lot about college and the schools they want to attend. These conversations have given me the opportunity to talk with them about the importance of working hard and earning scholarships so that they don’t go into debt for school. I’ve shared about the scholarships I earned and how I was an RA, which paid for the bulk of my schooling.

Teach giving: Learning that money is not just for spending and saving is also critically important. Teach your children to give their money. Opportunities for giving abound - church, a non-profit, a homeless person. Determine a way to give that resonates with your children. For instance, if they like to color, perhaps they use their money to buy crayons to donate to a local children’s hospital. This generous spirit will have a positive ripple effect throughout their lives.

For more on teaching your children about money management, read this helpful article.

Jessica N. Turner, The Mom Creative, is a popular writer and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her first book, the Wall Street Journal’s best-selling title, The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, encourages women to practice self-care and make time for their passions. Her latest book, Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter and Thrive released last year.

A veteran in the blogging industry, Jessica founded her popular lifestyle site The Mom Creative in 2006. Since then she has published thousands of blog posts and worked with the nation's most trusted brands including Southwest Airlines, Maytag, P&G, World Vision, Dyson, Rubbermaid, and Hallmark. Women from across America trust Jessica's advice on shopping, parenting and intentional living.

Jessica has been featured in numerous media outlets, including The Today Show, Hallmark's Home & Family, O Magazine, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Inc.com. She and her husband, Matthew, have three active children.