As a frugal parent, it’s obvious that you want your kids to learn how to save and spend their money wisely. However, as any parent already knows, it’s pretty tough to convince your kids to do anything unless it’s fun or serves their immediate best interests. Even if you can get kids to sit still and pay attention while you explain smart financial practices (a minor miracle), they probably won’t remember what you said. So, if you want your kids to internalize good saving and spending habits, try introducing one or more of these games and watch the money stack up.
Honey, We Shrunk the Bill
The first order of business in this game is to choose an incentive. Make sure that it’s an inexpensive one that will still motivate your kids to fully participate in the game, such as pizza night, a new DVD, or an iTunes song for each kid. Once you have your kids excited about getting something out of this, you can start teaching the mad frugality skills. The object of the game is to reduce one household bill each month as much as you possibly can, then keep those bills low for each consecutive month until you’ve decreased all of your bills. Have your kids choose a bill (or, if this will cause dissent, you can pick it), then have everyone start brainstorming about ways to lower it. If you have a bulletin board, whiteboard, chalkboard, or even a big blank poster or piece of paper lying around somewhere, use it to write down and display the best bill-reducing ideas. This will help everyone to remember the challenge and do their part to lower the bill. When you get your next bill, have another family meeting to show everyone how much you’ve saved. Not only will your kids learn the value of frugal living, but they’ll also develop and retain great habits to keep their own bills low in the future.
The Buck Stops Here
Have your kids inventory their monthly incomes (in some cases, it’s just their allowance) and how much of that income is left at the end of a typical month. Now, take your kids to the bank and have the teller change everything in their piggy banks over to $1 bills. Explain that the object of this game is to save money by making all purchases with $1 bills, which discourages both large and frequent buying sprees. Your kids will learn that when their money is in $1 increments, it looks like they’re spending a lot more than before. Carrying around a wad of cash and dealing with all of the coins from the change is also frustrating and will discourage spending. At the end of the month, have your kids add up their savings to see how much they’ve accrued by paying only in $1 bills. You might offer an incentive such as one extra dollar for every ten they’ve saved, but ideally, your kids will understand that the journey is the reward on this one.
Dollar Dinner Day
This game is fun and challenging for kids and other family members alike. Start by making a schedule that gives each person in your family one night a week for buying and making dinner (with a little help from Mom or Dad). For example, you might pick Wednesday as your Dollar Dinner Day and write a different family member’s name on each Wednesday of each month. Now, the designated chef gets only $1 per person in the family with which to buy ingredients. This will teach your kids to assess the food that’s already in the house, find cheap options at the grocery store, and create truly frugal meals. With younger kids, you can help them look up recipes online, inventory the pantry, and find practical options at the grocery store. This game teaches great habits for the future and can be as competitive as you’d like to make it – you can vote on the best dollar meal of the month, for instance. Depending on how your kids function, you can manipulate it to engage them even more.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education performing research surrounding online universities and their various program offerings. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
Photo: Public Domain