Teaching your kids about money can be fun — you can take a day-to-day activity and make it a learning moment, or turn a complex topic into a game. Your child has something to learn money-wise at every point in their life, from toddler to high schooler.
Here are some easy and fun ways to teach your kids about money.
1. Use a piggy bank
Start easy and traditional with a piggy bank. Plus, let’s admit it — breaking open the bank when it’s full to see how much you saved is the best part for any kid.
2. Use a clear jar
If piggy banks aren’t your thing, try a clear jar. It’s more visual — that way, your kids can see their money pile up.
3. Play money-themed board games
Classic games, like Monopoly or Life, teach your child more than just board game etiquette. They also teach youngsters important life skills, like purchasing real estate or saving up for retirement.
4. Play money games online
Online games are an easy way for kids to grasp basic money concepts. Check out Visa’s money games, which are catered to children of different age groups.
5. Watch money videos
There are a number of popular YouTube videos on teaching kids money — not only are they fun and interactive, many of them are less than 10 minutes. Put one on during a short car ride or at the doctor’s office to help them stay entertained while learning.
6. Play store
Purchasing a plastic toy cash register can be a useful tool in teaching young children the basics of adding up and managing prices.
7. Teach money using what your kids love
Talk about money in relation to things your child enjoys. If they read, explain the price of books. If they play sports, explain the cost of sports equipment. Show how those skills can be applied to your career or money-saving habits.
8. Host a saving contest
Nothing like friendly competition to get your child to practice saving — you can even save a little along the way.
9. Make a literal pie chart
Make a budget pie chart out of a real pie by cutting it up into pieces for each budget category. This yummy round dessert is also a perfect way to teach kids the art of budgeting.
10. Go to your local yard sale
Yard sales are a great way to snag a bargain and enjoy some family fun time. Show your child the fun (and fiscal responsibility) of purchasing items second-hand, and even have them bargain for a better price.
11. Read money books together
Just like you’re reading this to learn new money management methods, reading the basics with your child can be fun. Choose something small and easily digestible to read with your child and then talk about the money lesson with them afterwards. Not sure where to start? Policygenius has a free weekly newsletter where you get one easy money thing to do each week sent right to your inbox.
12. Show the value of time
Saving is an essential part of healthy finances but so is charitable giving. Help your child choose a charity they can give to or volunteer at that ties with something they care about, like a local animal shelter for kids who love pets.
13. Teach them how to give to those less fortunate
Finding time in your family’s busy schedule to volunteer can be a challenge, but you can still teach charitable giving by donating old toys and clothes. If possible, take them to give their donation in person instead of mailing it so they can feel the reward of giving back.
14. Play house
Look through online listings of homes and have your child pick out their favorite properties. Then use rough math to figure out how much money you’d have to pay each month to live there (Zillow and other real estate sites will do this automatically). If you have older kids, check out the real estate landscape where their college could be and compare prices.
15. Plan a vacation
Going on a family vacation? Get the kiddos involved in the planning process. Use Google Flights, Kayak or a similar search engine to explore the cost of airplane tickets from your city. Check out different times and days to show price comparison, and make sure they understand the added expenses of flying.
We've got a vacation budgeting spreadsheet to help you with teaching.
16. Use money apps
It used to be that a chore tracking sheet with star or smiley face stickers was enough, but everything's gone digital. If your child prefers seeing rewards on the iPad, consider a chore and allowance tracker like BusyKid. Not only does this app help you keep track of their chores, but you can use it to help them learn about basic money things, like earning, saving and even stocks.
17. Draft up a wish list
Instead of an annual letter to Santa, encourage your child to write down all the things they want, and then rank each item. Not only does this teach your kid how to prioritize purchases, it gets them budgeting ahead of time for items they want.
18. Draft a budget
This simple spreadsheet can get you — and your child — started.
19. Lead by example
When it comes to teaching your kids about money, set an example. Your child is likely to develop habits based on your behavior, so make sure you are practicing good money habits.
20. Show them fads aren't everything
Kids are constantly asking for the newest toy or brand of clothing and then move on to wanting something else a couple months later. Learn to tell your child ‘no’ when you think a purchase isn’t essential, saving you money and teaching them not to spend on whim.
21. Avoid impulse buys
Avoiding game-time purchases in front of your children teaches them financial planning and budgeting early on. Encourage your child to wait at least a day before buying something they “really want" and, if they decide it's something they really want or need, to figure out the most cost-effective time to get it. For example, there are stores with tax breaks during back-to-school season.
22. Choose generic over brand-name
When you go to the supermarket, you can show your child how much you save by purchasing generic instead of brand-name or stocking up on items that are for sale. Show them see there’s a way to shop smart.
23. Use cash ...
Young kids might not understand that you’re spending money when you swipe your card or use a cash-transfer app. When you’re with them, see if you can use cash so they can physically see how money is finite. You can teach them about credit later on.
24. ... & show them the envelope method
An easy way to save teach them budgeting using cash is the envelope system, where you set a limit for how much you’re going to spend on big budget categories, like dining, entertainment and groceries, each month. Once you set limits, put aside that amount of cash in an envelope for each category. Your child will see where the physical payments go each month.
25. Use commission, not allowances
Instead of giving your kid a set amount of money each week, offer up cash for tasks completed, such as setting the table or doing their laundry. This reinforces that money is earned, not given — and helps ensure your child’s bed gets made.
26. Show the value of cooking over eating out
As convenient as eating out can be, it adds up. Teach your child cooking can be cost-effective but just as delicious by purchasing cookbooks with some of their favorite recipes, and going with you to the grocery store to stock your kitchen. Take the time to practice cooking together — family bonding time and financial lesson in one.
27. Cook meals at home
Next, plan out a week’s worth of brown bag lunches and figure out the cost per day, then compare it to buying lunch every day at school. It doesn’t have to be a chore — choose fun, delicious recipes that your kids (and your wallet) will love.
28. Set up a three-jar system
Remember that clear jar we mentioned earlier? Go ahead and grab three of them. Label them "spend," "save" and "donate,” then when you child receives money, let them decide where it goes.
29. Chat with financial experts
Your financial adviser is an important resource — to you and your children. Bringing your kids along for the ride next time you pay a visit to a financial adviser allows them to ask questions and even prepare for their own financial future, once they move out from under your roof.
30. Don't fall into the ad trap
Ads are everywhere — and it’s easy for us to be influenced by them. Teach your child just because something is advertised, doesn’t mean you should get it.
31. Talk about salary ...
Because money doesn’t grow on trees — and studies show talking to your kids about money can pay off (literally) for them down the line.
32. ... & credit scores
A lot of young people are unfamiliar with credit, and that can get them in financial trouble, thanks to things like interest charges and late fees. By teaching them how to monitor their credit, you’ll put your kids on the right track for the future. Show them what your score is and explain what you’re doing to improve or maintain it. You can even make it a fun event (pizza night, perhaps?).
33. Help them set near-future money goals ...
What is something they really want in the near future? Whether it’s saving up for a new toy or having money for a souvenir on your next family vacation, help your child set up a plan for what they need to do to get the money (and how to save it). Here are 25 ways they can start saving right now.
34. ... & far-future money goals
College or homeownership may seem like lifetimes away to children still in elementary school, but we all know how fast that time goes. Help them choose a portion of their money that will go toward their future needs, whatever that may be.
35. Clip coupons
Get your kids involved in this money-saving habit! Have your kids hunt through coupon books for the right ones and then bring them to the store with you to show them how they work.
36. Open a savings account
Encourage your kid to make regular deposits and, as the balance grows, teach them about the power of compound interest. This will help your kid become a lifelong saver.
37. Take them with you to the bank
Taking your kid to the bank and showing them how to make a deposit, withdraw money, or open their own savings account are great ways to show them how banking and money works.
38. Teach the concept of interest with pennies
Another way to teach basic compounding interest can be done in another way by giving your child a penny, then giving them each day giving them interest equalling the amount they already have: day two, they get one penny, day three, they get two, and so on.
39. Get them investing early
Buy them a share or two in a familiar company and let them see firsthand the risks and rewards of investing. If you don’t want to put real money down, you can play a stock market game online with imaginary money.
40. Compare the cost of colleges
If you have teens, set expectations early about how much you can contribute to their college education, if anything. Make sure cost is part of the discussion during every college visit and have them research financial aid, loans and other money factors. Don’t let them fall in love with a school they can’t actually afford.
41. Look into scholarships
If your child is near the end of their high school career, they can apply for a scholarship. Helping your child find and apply to a scholarship will teach them how to make and reach financial goals, and take a little pressure off their college savings fund. If you aren’t sure where to start — Policygenius offers a scholarship to a college student. Find more about how to apply here.
42. Build a treehouse
Policygenius’ inaugural scholarship winner in 2017, Marissa Heffernan, got a crash course in money management when her grandfather tasked her with keeping the financial books on the project. Learn how her family set up the project.
43. Pitch a lemonade stand
There are plenty of ways for kids to earn money: Babysitting, mowing lawns or opening the traditional lemonade stand. Get them to develop their hustle as soon as they’re able.
44. Get your kid’s school on board
Some schools offer the Junior Achievement program, a volunteer organization that teaches kids about entrepreneurship and financial literacy by immersing them in real-life money situations. You kid’s school doesn’t offer a program? Lead the way in starting a program.
45. Have them calculate the tip
Good tipping is courtesy when dining out, so get your kids ready to be good restaurant patrons by teaching them the easiest way to calculate a 20% tip (move the decimal over one numeral and multiply by two).
46. Use gift cards
Instead of buying your child a toy, give them a gift card to their favorite store. This allows them to go and weigh costs before purchase.
47. Read the business section
A great way for your child to learn about finances is to stay up-to-date on business news. Check out the business section of your local (or online) newspaper to educate them on what’s going on in the money world.
48. Chat about that cell phone bill
Sooner or later, your kid is going to be booted off your family plan once and for all and they’ll have to pay for their own phone and cellular coverage. Give them a head start and show them what they should expect to see on their monthly cell phone bill, or if they should consider cell phone insurance down the road.
49. Teach them good money manners
Having good money etiquette is always a good look. It’s never polite to ask someone how much money they have or tell them how much money you have, and your kid should know that.
50. Teach them that money isn’t everything
Though money is important when it comes to buying groceries or paying your mortgage, it isn’t everything. But, it can be used to protect the ones you care about the most with life insurance coverage. Use our calculator to figure out how much coverage you need.