As a finance blogger and a Scout leader, I am passionate about teaching young people about money. To me, it isn't just a one-shot deal, it is a daily string of opportunities to both teach them and show them some how to manage their money. Not just being thrifty, though that's part of it, but teaching them to use credit wisely, pay bills on time, make good choices, etc.
I am starting to get those tiny glimmers that my boys are finally "getting it". The other day, I got a text from my 16 year old son, during the school day. Naturally, my first thought was what does he want NOW? Permission slip signed, money for something, a ride to some school activity? No. He was texting me to tell me that his school bus had gone past a gas station and he had noticed an unusually low price on gas. Now, this is a kid who doesn't even drive yet and doesn't have to buy gas, but he is paying attention to the price of gas. That is flat out AWESOME!
My older sons are in on it too and even my newest daughter-in-law. They frequently share great bargains they've found or talk about raises they have gotten or promotions they are angling for. I praise them to the skies for it and give them any tips I can share with them. I am genuinely more impressed with someone who gets a good deal and is smart about their money than I about about someone who has a very expensive designer watch, shoes, purse, or whatever, and I think that comes in through in every conversation with my kids. I can honestly admire that quality in them and encourage it (OK, it's mainly because I don't want them sleeping on my couch, eating potato chips when they are 40) but still I do get really impressed with them.
And not just with my own kids. We were in the car with one of my son's friends the other day and he was talking about some fancy gaming laptop he wanted to buy, and I was like - honey, why would you even want to do that, when you could buy TWO regular laptops for that same price and have money left over to buy more games. I mentioned that he could do some price comparing on Amazon or Ebay or look at a model that is like a year older. And he was really thoughful. I don't know if anyone had ever had a conversation like that with him before.
Same thing with my Scouts. I teach the Family Life and Personal Management merit badges, which both have a big financial component and I give these boys a real grilling about their choices. I also share a lot of stories with them about things I've done with my own finances - both good and bad. I think kids really need to have people like that in their lives and so many kids just don't have that example.
Our pastor has an interesting theory - he says to preach the gospel to everyone you meet and to even use words if you must. That's how I approach finances. My kids are learning by example every single day. I use them as my human calculators in the grocery store or at the Mall - quick, what's 25% off that price? Which one of these cereals is a better deal?
And they know better than to ASK me for money. I see other Moms handing out $5 and $10 bills like a human Pez dispenser. That doesn't fly around here. If you want something that isn't just food, shelter, or other basic necessity, you'd better have a plan in your pocket for how you are going to work for it, save for it, or share the cost on it. That's just a no-brainer for us. Even the Scout Jamboree last year - I think he was the only boy who had to earn $500 of his nearly $3,000 fee for it. He hated doing all that work, but he knew that I wouldn't hesitate to pull the plug if he didn't hold up his end of the deal.
I think most parents do the same basic things - save/spend/charity, work for your allowance, save for college, etc. But are we all doing enough? What else can we do? Even if it requires using words....
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