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  • Boost your kids' money smarts with these teachable moments.

Making big purchases:

When your family buys big-ticket items, like a car or a new TV, take this opportunity to explain to your kids what goes into saving for big purchases. Discuss trade-offs the family may need to make along the way.

At a candy store:

You and your kids see a tempting barrel of jelly beans at a candy store! Use your kids' requests for treats as a way to teach them how to avoid impulse purchases in exchange for saving toward a longer-term goal.

While using a credit card:

When you charge something at the store, make sure to explain to your little ones that the things you are buying are not free, instead you are borrowing money from the credit card company. They will send you a bill later, and you will pay them the amount of the item you purchased.

While online shopping:

Show your children the process of online shopping, including how you have to enter your credit card information and then they send you a receipt confirming that you will pay a specific amount.

In the car:

Buying a new or used vehicle is an exciting time for a family and a great chance to explain larger purchases to your kids. Explain the importance of planning ahead and saving for a new car while still driving your old one. Let your kids know that it is important to research different types of cars and that choosing a smaller vehicle or an older model might be a better fit for your family's budget.

Picking up dinner:

Some nights, life is too busy and ordering takeout is the preferred option. This can be a great way to talk to kids about the increased costs of to-go meals versus cooking at home. Keep track of how much dinner costs to make at home and how much it costs to eat out. When they choose a home-cooked meal, offer to split the savings with them. This may help them think twice before demanding pizza again.

Wanting to play multiple sports:

Suggest that your kid picks their favorite sport. Explain that it can become costly, and remind them of the other activities they do that also cost money. Help them calculate the total cost of all the activities they want to do. Then, explain that you have a budget for their activities. If the total cost for activities is beyond the budget you have given them, offer to let them contribute to the total so that they can do all the activities they are interested in.

Giving a weekly allowance:

Teach your kid about saving versus spending some of their weekly allowance. Help them choose a savings goal–could be a bike, video game, toy, etc.–and then set aside a specific amount each month until they have enough to purchase what they want.

At the grocery store:

The grocery store is a great place to talk about the idea of making trade-offs. Let your kids choose the menu for a special dinner during the week. Then help them understand that, in order to purchase all of the ingredients for that special dinner, they may only be able to choose one extra treat for the week.

On a weekend trip:

Explain hidden costs associated with a quick family getaway—gas, hotel, eating out, and more. Ask the kids for help when budgeting for the next family road trip.

When you've earned something you saved for:

You’ve put money away all year, and it’s finally here—the big family trip. Make sure your kids understand that you’re able to go on this trip because you made trade-offs all year long to save—now you can cash in and enjoy.

When discussing weekend plans:

When your children plan for weekend fun with friends, ask them how much the activities will cost. Since parents often foot the bill for these activities, have a conversation about how fun activities need to be prioritized because there isn't an unlimited amount of money to cover trips to the movies, shopping, or other outings.

Reflecting on summer activities:

Ask your kids about their favorite camp or activity this summer. Talk about which activities were not so great. Discuss the costs of each activity and help them prioritize what activities they will want to do again next summer, which ones they might pass on, and new activities they could try with the savings.

Unexepcted expenses:

Wake up to a flat tire? Toilet overflowing? Use these setbacks as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of a "rainy day" fund.

Back-to-school shopping:

Teach your kids about budgeting and planning while shopping. You can also educate them about sales and when a bargain isn't really a bargain.

Opening up a college savings account:

Bring your child along to introduce them to the importance of keeping track of personal finances and the role that saving plays in planning for their future.

At a baseball game:

Give your kid a set amount to spend. Explain that if they want to buy a hat, they may not have enough money to buy a snack, too, so they need to prioritize their spending and only pick the things they most want.

Asking for a cell phone:

Explain to your kid that there are ongoing costs associated with having a cell phone, in addition to the initial cost of buying the phone. This is an opportunity to explain that many purchases have two costs: the cost of buying (the device and accessories) and the cost of owning (monthly fees, app purchases). Decide how you might split the cost with your kid, and see if they want the phone enough to pay for part of it themselves.

When setting a savings goal:

Pick something that everyone in the family has been wanting, and have each person help work toward achieving that goal. Keep track of your progress, and help kids prioritize their saving for this and other things.

When a birthday or holiday is approaching:

Talk to your kids about what you can get the guest of honor for their birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Then set a budget and have them help you shop within it.

Downloading a mobile game app:

When your kids ask to purchase a mobile game that cost money, use this as an opportunity to discuss spending decisions and consider having your kids use their own money to buy apps and make in-game purchases.

When filling up the gas tank:

Filling up the gas tank is typically a weekly responsibility for parents. If children are in the car during trips to the gas station, be sure to emphasize the importance of budgeting for weekly expenses. Without budgeting and proper allocation of spending money, simple responsibilities can be overlooked.

When paying bills:

Everything from the lights in the house to internet access needs to be paid for each month. Let your kids know how utility billing works, and how you anticipate expenses each month. Explaining how usage costs money may help kids understand the importance of turning off the lights when leaving a room or shutting off the water faucet when brushing their teeth.

When receiving a monetary gift:

When your kid receives a monetary gift for a birthday or holiday, use this as an opportunity to discuss spending and saving habits. Propose saving some of the gift and using a portion for spending money. Kids will feel as though they are still receiving a gift, but being smart about saving for the long-term or bigger purchases.

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