I tried something new this past back-to-school season. I gave my 12-year-old a budget.
In the past, she would just give me a school supply list and a clothing list. We would head to the stores and we would buy everything on her lists, regardless of whether I could afford it or not. We would buy without checking if we had any of the needed items at home. We just did it because it was the season to shop and it was expected.
I decided that I would try something new this year since she’s older and I want her to have a better grasp of the family’s finances. She has always been wise about money. She’s had the same backpack since 4th grade and she’s usually careful about her things.
I’m happy to report that we survived back-to-school shopping. There were no tears or arguments. She was more mindful about the price of every pen, pencil and paper. She had the money in two separate envelopes – school supplies and clothing. After every transaction, she would put the change in and count how much she had left. She put the receipts in with the money, just in case there were exchanges, and there were.
Suffice it to say, this has been the least stressful back-to-school season for me. There’s no more going back for us. We will do this every year, even with birthday and holiday money. I’m also happy to report she has money left over which she plans to put in her savings account.
Here’s why I recommend teaching your kids how to budget:
- It teaches them that sky is NOT the limit with money. When they see you swipe that credit card time and time again, at every retail stop, they have no concept of how much money you have. They think it is limitless when they don’t see money changing hands.
- They learn how to make decisions on their own. Even if the decision is as simple as getting the store-brand pens or the Uniball ones, they get to decide. Quality or quantity? If it’s not important or it’s not going to be used a lot, go for the store-branded items, I told my daughter.
- They learn how to prioritize. Going back to the three-year-old backpack story, my daughter was so ready for a new one. So she looked online, checked out the neighborhood stores and compared prices. She finally settled on a name brand, sturdier backpack because she knows it will last till high school probably (fingers crossed). Since it was pricier, she scrimped on notebooks and other supplies.
- They learn about delayed gratification. Before we started shopping, I told my daughter we probably won’t be able to buy all the clothes she needs right now. So she has to decide on what’s important now and get the rest in the fall or around the holidays. So she didn’t get the leggings she likes now (it’s too hot anyway). She’s learning how to put off pricier purchases.
- They will hopefully grow up to be money savvy adults. I am hoping that all these money lessons now will make a lasting impression on her as she navigates the murky waters of credit cards, loans, car payments and mortgages in adulthood.