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How to Make a Family Budget With Your Kids

When you and your spouse decide that you need to tighten the purse strings and start socking away money, how do you do it? Chances are, you rearrange your deposits so more cash goes into savings, you vow to be better about your household budget, and you work together to make your long-term financial goals possible. But what about your children?

If you don’t take the opportunity to sit down and teach your kids about saving money, you could be missing out on a chance to impart a valuable lesson and an experience that could bring your family closer together. By making saving a family affair, you can teach your kids about money while also making your efforts more effective.

The Family Budget

Calling a family meeting is the best way to present the idea of saving as a team. That way, you can explain why it’s important, and map out a method for success. For example, if you need to save for a trip to Disneyland, enlisting the help of your entire family can help you save up faster, and teach your kids the important lesson that the trip doesn’t come for free. You’ll probably find that your kids are excited about the idea of saving, so don’t be nervous about their reactions. Instead, be open, frank, and clear about how you’re going to save up the money you need.

1. Use a Shadow Box
Kids are very visual. Putting their extra money in a bank account might not give them the full effect of meeting their financial goals. Instead, try using a shadow box as a way to save.

Pick up a shadow box from the dollar store, and then place a picture representing your goal as the background of the box – a vacation picture, a picture of a new home, or even a printed number as a financial goal can work well. Then, cut a slit in the top of the box – you can make one for each of your kids – and hand them over. As your kids put their dollars and coins into the top of the shadow box, they’ll be able to see their goals and the money they’re saving concurrently, which can help motivate them to do more.

2. Decide on a Percentage
While it’s important to teach your kids to save up for something big, you also want to explain balance when it comes to making a budget. Asking your elementary-aged child to donate all of his allowance or chore money to the cause could give him negative feelings about saving.

Instead, agree on a percentage that both adults and kids live with. For instance, you might decide that everybody contributes 10% to 20% of their earnings to the family savings account, and can then spend the rest.

Decide Percentage Savings

3. Match Offerings
If you have the means, you can get your family enthusiastic about saving by offering to match what your kids contribute. In most cases, it’ll be a pretty nominal amount, but it can be the plan that tips the scales when it comes to getting your kids excited to save money. Plus, they’ll love to see you counting up the savings jar each day to see what your contribution will be, which makes saving a positive experience for them.

4. Talk About Ways to Save
As adults, we know that saving money requires a lot more than dropping a few coins in the bank at the end of the day. Instead, a lot of budgeting and saving relies on what you don’t spend.

As a family, talk about ways to save money around the house, whether it’s turning off the lights when your kids are done in a room, having a time limit on showers, or vowing to eat a vegetarian meal once per week. Involving your kids in these discussions on money-saving ideas can help them realize how precious of a commodity money actually is, driving home the ways they can save every day.

5. Let Them See the Products
If your original goal was to save extra money for a family trip to Disneyland, make sure that you pull through and let your kids see the fruits of their labor. Without seeing the positive reward of being frugal, donating their allowance, and being smart with money, they may start to believe that saving isn’t a valuable way to deal with money.

Even if you don’t meet your financial goals, it’s the perfect time to sit down, talk about the amount of money that was saved, and what the family wants to do with those funds. You might be surprised at how your kids handle the idea if you present it to them in a positive way.

Final Word

Saving money shouldn’t be left as a burden on you as a parent. Even if your kids are young, enlisting their help in saving for something special introduces them to the concept that money doesn’t grow on trees. This lesson will benefit your children throughout their lives. The better their understanding of money and the way it works, the more they’ll think about what’s involved in a purchase, and the better spending and saving habits they’ll have as adults.

What do you do in your family to save money and teach your kids to save?

Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.

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