Making Cents: Teaching the little ones the value of money

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With First Communion season in full swing, the money experts at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) believe parents should use this opportunity to start educating their children about money and how to handle it.

While parents, priests and teachers emphasise the spiritual importance of the day, there is no point ignoring the fact that the children are likely to accumulate money on the day too.

For most of them, it will be the largest sum they have had in their lives so far. It is exciting for them but also a chance to learn and they are not too young to start absorbing financial information.

A study conducted at Cambridge University found that by the age of seven most children have grasped how to recognise the value of money and to count it out.

Seven-year-olds understand that money can be exchanged for goods, and know what it means to earn and what income is.

The CCPC suggest starting with three jars to teach the basics of budgeting. Parents should label the jars Spending, Saving and Future and explain the difference in how to use the funds in each.

Spending is for buying something straight away, while money in Savings is for a set goal, for instance if they want to buy a toy, book or sports jersey.

“Explain to your child why it is important to save and show them how they can do this by agreeing on a savings goal together,” the CCPC suggest.

Get them to work out what the cost of the item they are saving for is and how long it would take to save for it, based on how much pocket money or gifts they get.

Explain that what is in the Future jar is put away and can’t be touched until an agreed time in the future, such as their summer holidays.

“Teaching your child the importance of putting a little away for a special event or a rainy day is a good way for them to be prepared for what might happen in the future,” the CCPC said.

“Every time your child receives money, whether it be pocket money, communion money or birthday money, they can decide how much they would like to put into each jar. “Over time your child will begin to understand how to manage money.”

If your child doesn’t already have an account, now is the ideal time to open one. Their Future funds can be lodged and they can learn how to keep track of what is in their account. Most banks, credit unions and post offices have some treat or incentive to encourage children to open an account. Encourage them to add to their account when they can and praise them for saving to try and encourage it as a regular habit.

Teaching children how to manage money on a day-to-day basis is essential.

Children learn more from their parents than any other source and this extends to financial lessons. Small things like encouraging children to check prices when they are grocery shopping with you will make them more aware of money and how it can be both spent and saved.

You can also teach children about opportunity cost, that money can only be spent once. If you have a certain amount to treat them, offer them options - “Ok, we have €20 to spend today so we can go pick out a toy OR go to the cinema OR go to McDonald’s”.

Let them make the decision. They will start to learn to think about how they spend money and to make sure it is spent on what it important to them.

Discourage impulse buying if possible. If your child sees something they really want, and you can afford it, come to an agreement that they ‘earn’ it in some way. It could be extra age-appropriate jobs around the house, a homework commitment or agreeing to help out in the community in some way, like litter picking.

You don’t want to stress a child out, or make them anxious about money, but it is to their benefit that they learn about finances and are comfortable having open conversations about money. Small lessons learnt at a young age will stand to them long into the future.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

This week’s deal actually hit the shelves yesterday so I advise moving fast if you are interested.

The kids might only be back to school a week after the Easter holidays but the summer break is rapidly approaching. With long days at home in mind, this week Lidl have brought out a range of outdoor accessories. Two items in particular stand out, both €29.99.

The kid's picnic table comes with sturdy, permanently attached benches and cushioned seat pads. Ideal for outdoor meals and fun.

Also likely to help keep kids outdoors is the 2-in-1 portable pop-up goal. Lidl say the goal is quick and easy to set up and take down , and includes ground stakes. The 2-in-1 element means it can also be converted to a rebound net in a few steps, allowing for hours of football practice. The range, in stores now, also includes a paddling pool and several types of swing.

Summer is coming, now is the time to prepare.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie

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