This is a post from Jeff Bogle, one of our first contributing blogger here at StopBuyingCrap. Back in 2008, Jeff left his steady corporate job at Vanguard to be a stay-at-home dad. Jeff writes regularly at Out With The Kids, a daddy blog, and you may also find his work on iVillage, Time Out New York Kids, and Curious Parents Magazine.

Surprise! Learning is Easier When You’re Having Fun

Many of the best lessons in life are learned as a child, while having fun. It’s why we could always memorize lyrics to our favorite songs with ease but struggled mightily with the periodic table in science class.

Do you want to teach your young kids about budgeting and making sound fiscal decisions? Minimize the spreadsheets and play shopkeeper.

It’s important to teach kids about the value of money, not just what you can do with it, but that you must also make choices about how to wisely use what you’ve got. When I play store with my daughters, I see that it helps them prioritize and begin thinking about the consequences of foolish spending. That’s right — I dish out my best financial decision-making assignments surrounded by picture books, fancy shoes, clothes, and feather boas.

Despite the volume of stuff in their toy chest, I strive to instill in my 6-year old and her nearly-3-year old sister an understanding that you cannot have it all. There is, after all, a finite amount of money most of us have at any given moment (no, Capital One, that was not an invitation to begin soliciting my children about the joys of revolving debt; credit cards and borrowing discussions are intentionally being saved for when they’re a tad older — thank you very much).

So, I set up an elaborate pretend toy store — books, necklaces, tutus, plush snuggle friends, I sell it all! Then, I give my daughters some cash and role-play through different situations. During one trip through my toy Mecca, they need to buy birthday gifts for family members. Another visit is spent shopping for something fun for themselves. Either way, they have to ask how much each item costs and decide if they have enough or if they have to come back after saving up a little longer. Sometimes, instead of yet another stuffed animal, they’ll opt to hold onto some of their dollars to use at Dad’s fictional ice-cream shop – because that’s important too, from time to time!

Real Impact From Fun Lessons

These lessons have yielded interesting real-life results. When my oldest gal needed a pillow and blanket for school, she had a choice to make. The first pillow she picked, she adored. It cost $16. There was another, just-as-cool pillow on sale for $8. She had a firm $15-$20 budget, which she knew going into the store. If she selected the cheaper pillow, there was a very comfy matching blanket she could afford, also on sale for $8. If she went with the pricier one, her old blanket would be accompanying her to school. The choice was hers, and hers alone. She ended up walking into her 1st day of kindergarten with a crisp new pillow and blanket set.

Playing store is one of my girls’ all-time favorite games. I truly believe it’s one of the reasons they rarely ever whine for things when we shop together. After all, they know what it’s like to be short some coin, thanks to shopping in our own living room.

Do you have your own tips and activities you engage with your children to teach them about money management? Feel free to share.

photo credit: tudy

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