Opening a savings account early at a bank is a great idea for children, but money can be an abstract concept when they're younger. After all, they don't get to see their deposits growing in a real, accessible way. Younger children just see themselves giving money to someone else - or a machine! Heck, it may continue to be an abstract concept for some until their adulthood since teens can legally own credit cards. I remember how credit cards barraged freshmen that first week of college, offering free t-shirts, cozies, and other stuff if only I'd sign up for a (high-interest) credit card on the spot.
Related: New Book Will "Make Your Kid a Money Genius"
To help our kids begin to master money early, consider the new approach to money management: tri-slotted banks. This concept is glorious for two reasons. First, the good banks are opaque, allowing kids to see their money accumulating. Second, it encourages kids to understand how money can be used in different ways. By choosing where to place the money, kids begin to learn about the power of money. Many lessons emerge over the course of filling each container.
As a parent, I hate hearing myself say "No" all the time. And while I may say that to sugary food and mid-week sleepover requests, I no longer have to say it during Target shopping trips. The spending jar helps our kiddo save for what she really wants. We tell her that we'll take care of her needs: food, clothes, supplies for school projects…but wants are up to her now. She can do chores (and extra chores) to save for an item she really desires.
Since she's super into Legos and Beanie Boos right now, it's a great life lesson: buy a $5 Beanie Boo stuffed animal now, or forego it and save the $15 for the new Lego set. The spending jar typically ends up teaching patience and perseverance. It also teaches my kiddo that toys from the dollar store fall apart easily, so it's better to wait, save up money and spend it on a toy that will last.
The main lesson here helps kids understand the importance of future needs. We talk about how we may not need money for something immediately, but we will likely want to spend money on something in the future. For example, when we take a family vacation to the beach, we take half the saved money and put it on a pre-paid card for our daughter. She's allowed to buy whatever she wants with it: taffy, trinkets, games at the arcade. It gives her a sense of pride to know that she saved the money, and that she can select her purchases without asking for them.
It also encourages her to consider how she wants to spend the money: on one big item, or several smaller items.
The second half of the money accumulated in the "save" jar is put towards post-high school. In our home, this money is saved and eventually deposited in a savings account. She makes deposits usually three times a year. While she's not sure what she wants to be yet (it vacillates between veterinarian, hair stylist, artist, and dog walker), she knows colleges and apprenticeships are expensive. During a trip to our alma mater, we perused the bookstore and showed her how expensive the students' books were. Her goal is to save money for textbooks. For an elementary schooler, that's a pretty good goal.
Related: Money Basics for Every Kid
As a parent, this is my favorite jar! This jar helps kids to nurture empathy towards others. Every two months or so, our kiddo picks an organization or person to share her money with. We tend to help with the research of local organizations. For example, if she'd like to share her money with animals, we'll look up local rescues and let her pick. We'll print a picture and tape it on the wall by the jar so she has a visual reminder of what her sharing money is going towards.
One time she wanted to share her money with the local food bank, and once the jar was full we went shopping with coupons and a sale brochure (to stretch her money-another lesson!) and delivered her purchases in person.
How parents choose to introduce money to children can vary widely. While some introduce chores, other may reward academic progress. Kids in our neighborhood hustle to be the first to knock on doors to shovel driveways or rake leaves. However kids earn money, it's important to begin teaching them about money as early as they can begin to understand it. Check out these great spend, save, share banks to help your family on its mastery of money:
· Trio! Smart Coin Bank
Many great options are out there; while the two above are gender neutral, many themed banks exist for sports fans or animal lovers. Additionally, some banks offer a fourth slot for investing for children ready to tackle the next stage of money mastery.
Do you have any tips about beginning financial literacy with kids?