Simple ways to help your child learn to be clever with money
The new year is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your finances. Bring your kids along for the ride and make learning about money simple and fun with these easy tips
The new year is the perfect time to clear out and refresh – and that can apply to our habits just as much as our stuff. Taking a quick skim through Direct Debits to trim out the things we no longer need, for example, takes just a few minutes but can leave us a bit better off each month.
Similarly, getting the new year off on the right financial footing for kids is also a great plan. It’s easy to feel kids shouldn’t need to think about money – childhood is short, after all, and they’ll spend the rest of their lives dealing with money matters. But teaching good money habits from a young age is likely to leave your child significantly better off in adulthood.
Research by the government’s MoneyHelper service found that the adults who manage their finances well had been used to speaking about money as children. They were also given cash, such as pocket money or payment for chores, regularly. Crucially, they had responsibility for their own spending and saving from a young age.
The good news is that we as parents don’t have to be magicians with money to get kids thinking in the right way about finance. Start simple, with some fun activities and an easy-to-manage account for your child’s money, and pretty soon you’ll find they’re learning good habits and future-proofing their finances without even realising it.
Here are our top tips to get you started...
1. Get appy
There’s no quicker way to a child’s heart these days than through a screen – and that applies to managing their money as well. Luckily, the days of dragging them to the bank or building society to stand in a queue to deposit a few quid are gone. Money apps for kids, such as the multi award-winning GoHenry, make pounds and pennies fun, relevant and instantly engaging.
From the age of 6, your child can get a debit card (prepaid, with spending limits that parents control) and an easy-to-use app that shows their balance, spending and savings goals. And in a sweet touch, GoHenry lets your child customise their card. It comes with their first name on the front and they can choose from more than 45 designs. MadeForMums members can get 2 months free using the code AFUKMFM2M.
With GoHenry, parents and kids can work together to agree tasks and behaviours to help educate them on the value of earning money. Whatever task you want to incentivise, parents can boost their child’s money with just a tap. Which leads us on to…
2. Just got paid!
Getting their own money regularly is really important for building good financial skills. Younger children may be getting used to receiving a couple of pounds in cash on holiday or for their birthday.
As they get older, paying children regularly, whether it’s as pocket money, rewards for helping out, or both, sets them up for a future where they’ll likely have to manage a fixed amount of money each week or month. As such, we’re showing them (in a safe way) that as far as money goes, when it’s gone it’s gone.
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Being able to manage their money in cash and online is important for kids. When parents make regular payments to their child via an app like GoHenry, they’re helping the child to learn the value of money. A toy priced at £20 might be hard for a small child to contextualise. But when they can see its price in terms of time taken to save, it suddenly becomes clear whether it’s really worth it.
3. Set a budget
It’s never the most appealing prospect but setting a budget and sticking to it is good money practice at any age. If your kids only ever see you spending but you don’t show them this part of the equation, who could blame them for thinking there’s a magic money tree in the garden?
This is when it can be helpful, if you haven’t already, to introduce the concept of ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’. The beauty of this is that it applies equally to the parent as to the child, so there’s no need for kids to feel like they’re being singled out. From a parent’s perspective, ‘needs’ are things like food, accommodation and transport. It’s even possible that some children won’t realise things like this have to be paid for – so it’s a good opportunity to make that point. ‘Wants’ could be anything else – the things that make life fun (but no one is going to suffer if you can’t afford them).
Once we’ve got that established, it’s easier to set out a budget either for the family or the child. Just start with the ‘needs’ then work down to the ‘wants’. Sometimes, getting things down in black and white can help you reassess your priorities and identify areas where you could save some cash. The same goes for kids – that gimmicky toy might not seem like such a good purchase when it’s jostling for priority on the budget with a video game they really really want.
4. Teach them a lesson
When it comes to money, there’s more to learn than just spending and saving. It’s important that all of us understand the bigger picture of the financial world – things like where money comes from, how banks work and all those irksome things like why interest is always higher on credit than savings.
In primary school, kids are likely to be taught how to calculate sums of money, flexing their arithmetic skills as well as helping them recognise different coins. To build on this learning, the GoHenry platform has a host of in-built ‘Money Missions’: simple videos on the fundamentals of money, sorted into age-appropriate groupings.
By working through the Missions on the GoHenry app kids can start to learn about things like credit, how to avoid scams and even take an early peek at the world of investing. And like everything on GoHenry, it’s designed so that the parent can oversee it all to make sure they’re happy with the info being shared.
5. Supermarket sweep
Even the current inflation rate doesn’t hike the cost of the weekly shop as much as having a child in tow. While it’s not as much fun as a toy shop, a supermarket is a great way to show them the value of shopping around. With so many purchases under one roof, they’ll very quickly get the hang of comparing and compromising.
They might reach straight for the branded cereal, but if you show them the difference in cost they may think twice. Make it into a game by working out how much they can save if they substitute their favourite treats, either with cheaper alternatives or looking to the long term and bulk-buying (the cost per 100g label is your friend here).
And use their size! A sneaky trick some supermarkets use is putting the more expensive options at eye level so we reach straight for them. But often the cheaper equivalent is right down at the bottom. Challenge your mini helper to see if they can spot any deals that the grown-ups might miss
6. Cost of living
As any parent knows, children can be very perceptive. It may be news to them that we have to pay for things like hot water and electricity (or is that just in my house?!) but few of them will have missed the phrase ‘cost-of-living crisis’ over the last year. In fact, in a study conducted by GoHenry, where they surveyed 2,000 6-18 year olds and gathered data from over 435,000 GoHenry customers, they found 71% of the children asked claimed to be worried about the cost of living crisis.
While financial education is about building good knowledge and habits for the future, it’s probably a good idea to be as open as possible about the current situation as well. They might worry that they or a friend will have to give up sports or clubs, or even that they may lose their home.
If you’ve cut back, it’s okay to tell your child the basics of what’s going on. And when you find yourself saying no to something that would blow the budget, why not put some money lessons into practice? Saving as a family towards a shared goal can be really rewarding.
If the headlines mean your child is now starting to tune into the needs of others, GoHenry has partnered with the NSPCC to make it easy for kids to donate straight from their account to help others. (Warm glow included at no extra cost.)
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