Budgeting with kids

Last night I told my son that tuition had gone up significantly this year so he wouldn’t be able to stay after school just to play. We don’t have any extra money laying around. He asked if his $4 would help. Then he said, “Well, it’s actually $3 because I lost a dollar.” Mind you, this isn’t the first time he’s just lost money. Instead of putting it in his piggy bank or wallet, he takes it out and plays with it (rolls it across trays, throws it in the air). We tell him to put it away and he goes and plays with it in his room. Who knows how much money we’ll find when we finally move his bookcase.

The boy has no concept of money. So, next paycheck, we are going to play a game. He’s going to help me with the budget and with grocery shopping. I told him how much we get paid every two weeks and he was impressed. I seems like a lot. He’s going to quickly find out how much of it goes to bills, gasoline, and groceries. He’s going to go shopping with me to see how to stick to a budget. I will show him how much we usually spend on groceries, then I will take him shopping with what I think is a reasonable budget. I will give us one that’s a little tight to prove a point and let him help me make the trade-offs that will need to be made to stick to it.

He’s going to be 10 in less than a month, it’s time that he got a sense of money. Right now all that he knows is the theoretical stuff – a Nintendo DS3 costs $150, there are four quarters in a dollar, a Pokemon pack costs $5. But that doesn’t really mean anything to him yet. He thinks that a loaf of bread should cost $5 because it’s so important and that we should pay that even if it doesn’t cost that much. Right now money is a nebulous sort of thing, it’s theoretical. I think I’ll take out the grocery budget in cash and let him pay for it, too.

There is an interesting “game” called Spent that polianthus made me aware of. It’s worth a look and I may have my boy play it. Maybe not. He is very soft-hearted and it’s quite possible he will get emotional and want to immediately donate all of the money we have left over after paying the bare-bones bills to the organization that created the game. Since money is theoretical to him he constantly wants to give all of his away (and ours). It’s a wonderful impulse, but I need to show him how money works so that he knows what he has to give and what he needs to keep. We’ll get it figured out so that he can satisfy the impulse to help while still keeping his own head above water.

That’s the plan at least.

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2 Responses to Budgeting with kids

  1. youmeanme says:

    Best of luck! I love the grocery idea.

    • Yes, he’s excited, thinking he will get to buy chocolate and ice cream. I told him he could help me make the choices on what we were going to buy. Lol! He didn’t take into account that he has to feed his father and I, too. The choices are going to have to be healthier than he would like. I think it’ll be a good exercise though.

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