Top 12 mini-money lessons for kids

Parents, in general, seem to want their children to succeed in life and even do better and achieve more than perhaps they themselves have. One of the areas parents attempt to help their children is in managing their finances. However, they may also inadvertently pass along some not-so-positive attitudes about money such as: “Money is the root of all evil.” “There always seems to be more month left at the end of the money.” Or “Money talks to me; it usually is saying, ‘Goodbye.’”

In the publication, Money Sense for Your Children, written by Alice Mills Morrow, Extension Family Economics specialist at Oregon State University, many helpful suggestions, tips, and quizzes are available to parents wishing to teach practical money skills to their children. Following are 15 of the perhaps best tips written as mini-money lessons.

  1. Discuss with your children the difference between needs and wants. As basic as it sounds, many financial difficulties could be avoided if people understood that it is merely impossible to have everything you want, and that some things are more important than others.
  2. Help a child understand there is no such thing as a free lunch. If a child wants an item, help them earn and save money to purchase it without going into debt.
  3. Give all family members a personal allowance, whether tied to chores or not, to give everyone an opportunity to manage their own money, no matter how small. If your child wants to buy something not planned in the family budget, give the child the opportunity to buy it or save for it with an allowance. Remember to explain an item can be purchased with saved money, and that the money will not be available to buy anything else the child may want if the money is all spent.
  4. Be patient. It may take a while for children to understand that once the money is spent they cannot have anything else, but they will eventually learn—if you don’t give into cries for more money.
  5. Give your children advice but allow them to make their own decisions— good or bad. Children will learn the most from personal experience, perhaps especially mistakes.
  6. Be sure there is a goal to work toward, such as saving for a trip to Disneyland, a new bike, a college education or simply a new video game. Help the child estimate how much the goal costs, and decide how much to save each month in order to reach that goal. Most children find it difficult to save for some distant future goal such as graduate school.
  7. Consider having children contribute to an overall family goal. Also, consider matching savings funds as an incentive. Make the fund visible and fun.
  8. While grocery shopping, show your children how to comparison shop, pointing out ways to maximize your dollar, such as reading price labels for price per ounce, or using ads and coupons to plan your menu.
  9. Use play money while making a budget so children can visually see how much money goes to expenses.
  10. Give your children the opportunity to hand money to cashiers, bank tellers, parking attendants, etc.
  11. Remember that children at different ages conceptualize money matters differently. Gear money lessons around what is understood by the child, giving more responsibility to older children, but never underestimating younger children’s ability to observe your habits and attitudes toward money.
  12. Remember that one of the best ways to teach is by example—do your best to practice what you preach.

Melanie Jewkes, USU Extension Associate Professor has compiled a series of fact sheets related to children and money titled Teaching Children Money Management. If you would like to view more on this topic, visit:

Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to or call 435-586-8132.

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