Want to raise thrifty kids? Here are six things you need to start doing now

Want to raise children who have a healthy relationship with, and respect for, money? Here are six things you need to start doing right now, if you’re not already.

Teaching children the value of a dollar is a daunting task. Especially with young children, who have yet to develop a strong sense of numbers, let alone currency. The idea of exchanging money for products or services is a skill than many children don’t develop until at least age five. 

However, being a thrifty kid doesn’t mean a child is aware of spending. It also takes a certain amount of self control and patience, two things that children only begin to experience at around three years old. (And many people struggle with these two things well into adulthood!) 

While the idea of raising children to be thrifty can be a challenge, it’s certainly not impossible. You won’t be able to rush your children into learning the valuable math skills necessary to be fully aware of what being thrifty entails, but you can start building a thrifty mindset without those ideals in place. 

Keep reading for six helpful hints on what you can do to encourage your children to develop healthy spending and saving habits that will stick with them into adulthood. 

1) Start young

There’s no magic number when it comes to the age that you should start encouraging mindful spending. As young as age two, children are able to count. This is a great time to expose them to different types of coins and paper money, allowing them to explore the various textures and sizes. 

They can count the number of coins or dollars, but don’t expect a lot of accuracy. This age is just to get children interested in money, and to develop some number-related vocab. Their minds aren’t ready to do much more than this, and pushing them too far will just lead to burn out. 

2) Model appropriate behavior

This is something that’s important with anything we do as parents, and spending and saving is no different. Exercising control when shopping, and expressing the importance of only buying what you need is something you can introduce at any age. 

When children start to ask questions, they’ll inevitably start making demands while shopping. This is a great time to start explaining the idea of saving money and not buying everything we want. There will be fits in public, but don’t give up and don’t give in. 

3) Frequent the bank 

Take your children with you to the bank with you as often as you can, and walk them through all of the steps, whether you’re making a deposit or taking out cash. As children get older, this will spark questions and encourage an open dialogue. 

If your children are intrigued by the bank, you can go the extra mile by setting up a bank play area at home. Allowing children to act out their own bank scenarios with guided play will help them gain a better understanding of what banks do, but in a way that’s developmentally appropriate. 

4) Encourage saving

Yes, this one can be hard because it means cutting back on our own spending. Creating a visual that helps children link the thought of saving to an actual concrete task, such as putting money in a piggy bank, is always a great place to start. 

While young children won’t yet be able to grasp the concept of how much money they have, they’re still developing the sense that they can put money away to use later, and that will encourage a good sense of saving. 

It can be fun to shop the sales and grocery advertisements with your child. Give them a few items from your list and ask them to search the weekly flyers for them. They often enjoy searching through the coupons to find ones that match what we’re looking for.

You can also encourage your kids to save money by being more environmentally concious. By making small changes such as turning off the faucet while they brush their teeth, they can not only save money, but also have a positive impact on the world around them.

5) Exercise budgeting 

As children settle into their understanding of the way numbers work, you’ll be able to start explaining how much things cost.

When I go to the store with my daughter, we play a guessing game and she has to try to name the price before we put something in the cart. She’s only four, so sometimes the prices she says are outrageous, but she’s getting better. 

With the knowledge of addition and subtraction comes the ability to keep tabs on how much is being spent. Tell your children how much you’re going to spend at the store, and have them help keep you accountable. 

I sometimes like to throw in a few extra items that we clearly don’t need, so then when we’re over budget before we check out, we’ll have to put back anything that’s not on our list. We really try to monitor the overspending together. 

6) Associate money with work

Children often think that you can just go to the bank and ask for money, and the kind people working there just hand it over. Teaching children where money comes from is very important to helping them develop a positive financial mindset.

Giving children an allowance is a great idea, but they should have to earn the money. Put a monetary value on certain chores like mopping the floors, or doing the dishes. Don’t force them to help, just let them know that they’ll be able to earn money by doing the chores. 

As they get older, the children will really start to link the idea of working, and earning that money. If parents make this part fun, children will see working as a positive, and they’ll learn how they can contribute to society at the same time. 

Again, we’re looking to build real life links to abstract thoughts. Money, spending, and budgeting are all fairly complex ideas that children will only understand as they grow, but we can help them build the foundation for this future knowledge. 

The more exposure they have to positive spending and saving habits at a young age, the more likely they are to maintain these habits into adulthood. 

Peter Gray is a writer, retired plumber, and DIY aficionado. Peter is passionate about green energy and water conservation. Peter enjoys spending his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, go low-flow, and reduce their footprint all while saving money.

Photo by Annie Spratt