Save, make, understand money

How to

Use the lockdown to teach your kids the value of money – here’s how

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

If you have school-age children at home, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of suddenly becoming a pseudo-teacher.

My Facebook feed has gone into overdrive since the announcement last week that schools were closing, with links to lesson plans, online teaching tools and virtual classroom websites.

Other posts I’ve seen, many from teachers and school heads, say parents shouldn’t stress themselves out trying to plan an entire school day and that any learning is better than nothing.

I guess the message is to try and get a balance between learning, play and screen time!

However, there is one real life skill you could teach your child during this period of lockdown – one they’re probably not taught at school and one that could make a real difference to their life: the value of money.

Research suggests money habits are established as early as seven years old, so the sooner kids are taught about budgeting, saving and managing their money, the better.

Here are some practical ways to teach children about finances while they are learning at home, from Dan Scholey of budgeting app, Moneyhub.

Set them savings goals

Setting savings goals – a new toy, game or even more pocket money earned from extra jobs around the house – encourages children to budget and work toward an individual goal.

It can be fun, too – which children don’t like being set a good challenge? Set a realistic, age-appropriate amount, which they can use to buy something online that that really want.

And once they reach it, not only do they see the impact of saving, but it’s teaching them to be in control of their money which sets them on the path to financial independence for the longer term.

Bring money to life

For children at primary-school age, there are practical ways of teaching basic arithmetic. Take a receipt and ask them to work out how many different combinations of coins make up the amount – so £2.50 could be two £1 coins and a 50p coin.

Or put up a snack list with prices (high sugar items cost more, low sugar less) with each child being allowed to spend up to £1 per day. Not only does this teach children the value of money, but it’s a useful tool to give them a better understanding of budgeting, and given the current circumstances, rationing too!

Use money apps for children

Engaging children in money is increasingly important as we move into a digital, cashless world. The days where children would be sent a cheque for their birthday are disappearing.

Instead, pocket money is set up as a standing order, children have their own debit cards, or credit cards are given as an eighteenth birthday gift.

Children are used to using apps from a very early age, so it makes sense to utilise these tools to bring money to life and make finance fun.

Start backwards

It might seem strange to talk to a child about pensions, but children can learn a lot about saving from older generations. Speak to a retiree and you might find that there are lessons in money they wish they knew earlier in life.

Could they have saved more had they started earlier? Would they have a bigger pension pot if they had known about pensions from childhood? It’s never too early to start saving for retirement, and the earlier in life people know about it, the sooner they can start to prepare.

Don’t underestimate children’s financial understanding

It would be a mistake to underestimate children’s ability to understand and engage with finances. Stereotypes about young people wasting their money on pointless meals and beauty products get in the way of teaching them positive messages. Why can’t they buy that expensive coffee or avocado toast, as long as they’ve budgeted it effectively?

While they can’t yet start investing, they can change behaviour toward budgeting and saving. If you have a Junior ISA for your child, it’s worth letting them see it so that they can see a longer-term view of how money works in real life, as well as getting them more familiar with the ups and downs of investing.

Small savings make big differences

Lots of banks and money apps now give users the option of sweeping money into a separate savings pot. This feature can work well for children with debit cards too.

Sweep 30p on a packet of biscuits and while it might not seem like much, it won’t take long to accumulate in the long run.

What’s more, children can see what it looks like for money to grow over time, instilling good habits early on and paving the way for bolder decisions like investing.