Gifts have long been a way to show some affection to another person, and most parents and caregivers can’t help but want to shower their kids with special things. All too often, though, all those gifts do is end up in a corner, under a bed or shoved in a box, covered with dust after all of maybe a week in the daylight. Instead of providing your child with one more extra “thing” they won’t really use, you can focus your desire to give on smart gifts that will teach him about money.
A oldie but tried-and-true goodie, piggy banks are especially great for younger kids. They give children a centralized place where they can store the money they get, and kids are able to watch their savings literally get bigger over time. But don’t think you have to stick to the old-school porcelain models. You can if you want, of course, but these days, there are plenty of more high-tech options, complete with digital displays and automatic coin sorting. Some even talk!
Money Apps (bankaroo anyone?)
What kid today doesn’t love a computer or cell phone? Programmers quickly are producing app after app designed to teach one or more elements of finance to kids, and many are fun, quirky and engaging games that are really a blast. Many are free, but some have a small fee (usually no more than $5.00 USD, and usually only $1.00) if they offer a ton of above-average features. Your child can use these apps for everything from tracking whether you’ve paid them their allowance to working on their own budget.
With the typical modern parent so pressed for time, why not knock off multiple needs in one go? Books like Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday and Joe the Monkey Saves for a Goal let you get some much needed one-on-one time, encourage your child toward better general literacy and introduce important money concepts. For your older kids, you can look for titles on more advanced topics, such as how to build a good portfolio or how to invest in the stock market. And yes, many are available as e-books. These are a great option because they are tangible references.
Stocks, Bonds and Education Fund Donations
When kids want something, the word “now” is usually attached somewhere – delayed gratification, a key element in goal setting, saving and investing – is one of the toughest money lessons for them to learn. No, your child probably won’t jump for joy when you hand them over (come on, Mom/Dad, they don’t even have batteries – so lame), but stocks, bonds and education fund donations force a child to wait to reap benefits, and they provide an excellent transition into larger discussions about how to make some financial plans for the future. You also can talk about the basics of loans and raising capital.
Wallet or Purse
Ok, so you give your kids an allowance, or you pay them for the chores they do. Good for you! Now it’s off to the store with the piggy bank to shop, right? Um, no. The piggy bank is a great place for storing money, but it’s probably not durable or practical enough to carry. Get your child a wallet or purse so s/he can practice transporting money the same way you do – s/he’ll feel like a big kid for being able to copy you, and you can offer lessons in how to keep money safe while on the go.
This one’s a little unconventional, but it works. Roll up or creatively fold some bills around pipe cleaners or other materials to make a money tree or flower. You can use whatever amount of bills or denominations you want. Your child then can use it in different ways. For example, you can let him “prune” one bill a week to teach delayed gratification and budgeting, or you can let him take one whenever he likes but put 25% of every bill in his piggy bank, planting “saving seeds.”