Some people might think financial matters shouldn't be shared with children. I disagree.
My nine-year-old has always liked numbers -- and he's always been interested in money. Ever since he began to grasp the concept of dollars and cents, he's wanted to know how much various things cost.
During our last trip to Disney World, for example, he wanted to know what we'd spent on those tickets (he was shocked when he heard the answer). And when we go food shopping together, he often asks to see the supermarket receipt to get a tally of our grocery costs.
It's that very curiosity that recently prompted me to loop my son in on our household budget. And he's learning some valuable lessons.
Imparting money skills at a young age
My husband and I have been giving our son an allowance for quite some time and we've already taught him a lot about how to manage it. In fact, my son takes pride in adding money to his savings account regularly and understands the concept of earning interest on his balance.
Sharing our household budget has taught him a few key things. First, my son now better understands the value of a dollar. He recognizes how much money it takes to keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and pay for a vehicle. And he also knows (roughly) how much money my husband and I make, and how many hours we need to work each week to cover those various bills.
Secondly, my son has learned why it's important to budget in the first place. In reviewing our spending categories, he noticed a line item for travel. I explained that by mapping out our expenses and setting priorities, we're able to keep our spending in check in certain areas so we have more flexibility in others. That Disney trip we took a couple of years ago? I showed my son how we could save for a follow-up trip by making smart spending choices. And he totally got it.
Getting back to Disney
One spending category I really made a point of reviewing with my son was food. I showed him how much we normally spend on groceries versus restaurant meals. We reviewed what those numbers would look like if we were to dine out or order in more frequently. In fact, I showed him how changing that particular habit might impact another big spending category -- our travel bucket, aka his repeat Disney trip. And he immediately responded with something along the lines of, "I'll help you cook if it means getting to go back to Magic Kingdom."
Now, a lot of people I know would not share their household finances with a nine-year-old, but I feel differently. I think my son is old enough to know what his father and I earn, what our bills look like, and what we do to manage our money. And I think it's important that he understands the logic behind our decision-making -- why we spend what we do in different categories.
Of course, one thing I've had to emphasize from the start is that the information we share with him is not to be repeated. Not to his friends, teachers, or even his sisters, who are too young to really understand what the numbers mean anyway. But all in all, I think it was smart to share our budget, and I'll continue to do so as long as my son remains interested.
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