By Deena Lager, Director, Arizona 529 College Savings Program
January 22, 2019
Financial literacy may seem like an overwhelming topic for a young child, but, with a little creativity, learning these skills can be a fun process.
The key to teaching these important life lessons is in starting early and repeating often. Recent studies have shown that children’s long-term financial identities are established by age seven, determining whether they are more likely to become a “spender” or a “saver.”
With that in mind, it is essential to introduce and reinforce positive financial messages and budgeting habits whenever possible.
But, as with any learning opportunity for kids, there needs to be an emphasis on fun. Connecting the practice of good financial habits with enjoyment makes it a treat to repeat instead of a chore.
Here are five tips to teach kids how to save and budget in a fun and playful way:
- Break out the classics: As a kid, you may have played board games like Monopoly, PayDay or Life. Without realizing it, you experienced practical examples of budgeting, savings, and financial planning. As you play with your kids, talk to them about how their choices in the game compare to real life.
- Draw their future: Get out those colored pencils, crayons and markers. Ask your kids what they want to be when they grow up. Encourage them to use their imagination and draw a picture of their ideal future. Use this time to talk to them about college and career goals. What will it take to become a doctor or astronaut and how much schooling will they need?
- Get crafty: Make it a crafting night. With a future career in mind, create a piggy bank to help them save for their future. Let your kids decorate an empty jar or small container with a lid to personalize it with their favorite colors, stickers and pictures. As you glue construction paper, talk about a small savings goal for them and ways you can save as a family.
- Shop on a budget: The next time you take your kids to the grocery store, share your budget with them. Make it a game and have them come up with a creative menu for dinner within that budget. In addition to practicing a real-life financial lesson, this activity may also inspire an interest in culinary arts or accounting.
- Chart your progress: Encourage kids to establish goals and track them with a savings progress chart. Hang a whiteboard, poster or other homemade charts up at child-height as a visible reminder. Be sure to celebrate successful milestones with non-monetary or inexpensive rewards they choose in advance, like getting to pick the next family movie, having quality time with a parent, or making their favorite breakfast with the family over the weekend. Rewards reinforce good habits.
The key to a great activity is to find something that interests your child and presents financial messages in an active and interesting way. As an added savings bonus, make sure to select activities using materials that you already have on hand or that you can acquire at a low cost.
Incorporating these tips, and other related ideas, can spark your child’s imagination, create fond childhood memories, and set them on a path for future savings.
About the author
Deena Lager is the Director of the Arizona 529 College Savings Program. For almost 20 years, the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education has administered the state’s college savings program as Trustee. The Commission currently oversees the program’s 81,000 accounts which hold over $1.3 billion in assets in three plan options: College Savings Bank (FDIC-insured) or Fidelity Investments, both direct-sold, or the advisor-sold option Ivy InvestEd. Visit AZ529.gov for more information.