• Learn to make trade-offs — your kids need to understand that money is a limited resource, no matter how wealthy your family might be. They can have some things, but not everything.
• Distinguish between wants and needs — it’s fine to want stuff. We all do. But it’s important to know what essentials we need to survive (our “needs”). Everything else is “gravy.” In fact, if you have small kids you can play the “meat and gravy” game — meat refers to needs and gravy refers to wants. We need meat (and other essentials such as basic clothes, a roof over our heads, etc.). EVERYTHING else is gravy. When you are shopping, challenge your kids to identify things on your shopping list or in your cart that are meat and what’s gravy. When you or your kids find yourself saying something like, “I need a new red blouse” or “I need a new computer game,” ask each other “Is that meat or gravy?”
• Tell themselves no — the more kids can decide that they can live without that brand or getting yet another toy, the less you will have to say “no.”
One way to motivate them is to give them a budget for a shopping trip, with a list of stuff you plan to buy and a reasonable price for each item. If they find a brand more expensive or something not even on the list, instead of saying “no,” you can offer to help them find other items on sale to make room in the budget for the extras. They will get plenty of practice this way making trade-offs AND telling themselves no, and you will become a coach instead of a meanie!
• Develop a healthy skepticism — kids are besieged with ads and come-ons almost every waking moment. They need to learn not to believe everything they see and hear. Sit with them during TV commercials and ask why the print is so small or the announcer is speaking so fast. Ask if products they’ve used are really as terrific as the commercials make them seem, and how they feel when they’ve bought something that didn’t measure up.
• Tolerate delayed gratification — we all need to develop this, if the current credit card debt in our country is any indication. Kids especially need to be able to leave a store without buying something, if only to check out prices at other stores.
Helping your kids learn these five financial values will get them on a cycle of success. Good luck!