“Mommy, I’d like a fitbit for my birthday.”
“What is a fitbit?”
“Mommy!! You know. They track your steps and how much exercise you do each day.”
“Oh, how much do they cost?”
“I don’t know, mommy. But if it is too expensive you don’t need to buy it for me. Depending on the price maybe I can buy it for myself.”
My eldest son is almost 10 years old. He is an athlete and very health conscious. I have no doubt that he would use a fitbit and it is a great birthday present idea. He is aware, though, that our family of six has a limited budget. He and his siblings know that often we cannot afford the things they want us to buy.
Yesterday morning the kids and I purchased five pairs of used roller blades for $40. The kids help me shop on kijiji and they usually come with me to view and purchase the items. They also help me grocery shop and they know to look for items that are on sale as opposed to full price.
The kids are starting to learn how to analyze the value of the things they want. They don’t yet have part-time jobs so they don’t yet calculate how many hours of work would be required to purchase the item, but hopefully that will come in future. Their money sense is slowly, but surely developing.
I worked part-time from the time I was 13 years old. My first job was at the Byron Public Library. I loved that job and earned $3.75 per hour. I would come home each night with at least four new books I wanted to read. That job taught me how many hours I needed to work to pay for the things I wanted. That job also made me appreciate that other jobs might make me more money and thus take a shorter amount of time to accumulate cash. I subsequently waitressed and also worked on the line at Ford Motor Company, two jobs that made me far more money than the library although neither was as much fun.
Learning basic math was the first step to help our kids develop a sense of money. Giving each of them wallets to keep their money was a second step. Helping them understand the monetary gifts they receive and the money they earn from garage sales came next and gave them some responsibility and independence around money. Permitting them to spend their money on items they want is also valuable as it helps them associate the cost versus the benefit of purchases.
I also find that the more involved the children are in the families’ financial decisions the more quickly they become able to analyze the choices that are being made. My children play hockey and it costs a lot of money. Their cousins travel to Aruba, Las Vegas and New York and get to do fun things in the sun during the winter that our family cannot afford. Our children would love to do both but they were an integral part of the decision to allocate the money to their hockey instead of travel. Hence they are content with that choice and don’t complain (much) about what they cannot do.
It is enjoyable to watch our children become good at understanding and managing money. Hopefully that knowledge will help them make intelligent financial choices as they grow older. In my view, financial prudence is similar to maintaining a healthy weight. It is both a daily struggle and a lifelong journey.