I think one of the biggest gifts my parents gave me growing up was to have a secure and realistic understanding of money. I never wanted for anything – we had decent clothes, nice food and went on lovely camping holidays every year – but we were certainly far from spoilt. Many of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousins or family friends. My mum (a talented seamstress – so talented, that she made my wedding dress) also made many of our clothes. We recycled things and my parents were into upcycling furniture long before the Annie Sloan trend started.
For much of my childhood our family car was a Volvo Estate that my dad had bought second hand from a car dealership. He looked after it, getting it serviced and regularly cleaning it, and it lasted us a long time. It was a great example in looking after your things and avoiding a “throw away” culture where we just buy, buy, buy needlessly.
My parents are now retired and moved from the city (Bristol) to Devon a few years ago. They’ve created a beautiful home, with lots of land where they grow much of their own food. They’re still fans of camping and they still have a sensible attitude to money – an attitude I continue to learn from.
TSB recently asked me to share some lessons I learned from my parents about money – lessons I’d pass onto my own kids. I can clearly remember going to the bank as a kid with my mum to open my first current account. We always had to earn our pocket money (or “allowance” as we got older) by doing various chores. I took on extra cleaning jobs in holidays to boost my account balance – I can still smell the wax polish I had to use as I waxed our old Welsh Dresser in return for a tenner to put in my account.
The subject of money is often an emotive one, so it’s interesting to hear how other parents start introducing money lessons with their kids. I spoke to four other bloggers about the subject and here’s what they had to say…
1. Help your children learn that work = money
When I say “money doesn’t grow on trees” to my older daughter I am fully aware that I sound like my own grandma. It’s an oldie, but a goodie though.
Jo at Slummy Single Mummy agrees. “I’ve always tried to teach my kids to understand where money comes from, and that I’ve worked hard for it. My daughter is 19 now and in her second year at university. I give her a little bit of money every month, but she is adamant that she earns it, so she does little bits of work for me in return. I think it’s really important that young people learn how to earn their own money.”
2. Lead by example
It’s all very well telling your kids to save their pocket money, but if they see you go and blow your entire earnings on ten pairs of shoes then you might need to rethink your strategy. In my case, I often point out things I’d love to buy when I’m out with Frog, but explain that I need to save up for them first. That way, she can see that anything I buy I’ve had to earn the cash for first.
Laura at Cardboard Cities learned a similar lesson from her own dad. “I never had any direct words of advice from my parents but I learned through observation,” explains Laura. “My dad was always careful with money and paid all that needed to be paid. He didn’t waste it on frivolous things, so I learned that if I wanted financial stability I should be like him.”
3. Invest in Premium Bonds
We’ve never done Premium Bonds for our girls before, but they do both have savings accounts. We pay a little money into their savings accounts each month and, hopefully, one day there’ll be enough in there for them to use it towards university, or a first car, or something like that when they’re grown.
Eleanor at The Bristol Parent says Premium Bonds have proved a solid basis for starting to teach her kids about money. “We have a very traditional belief in Premium Bonds in our family. It’s a traditional purchase by my older relatives for us kids, and for our own kids too. It feels kind of special, untouchable and safe.”
4. Explain the difference between spending, saving and sharing
This is something I really need to work on. Frog is naturally very generous with her money (“It’s OK Mum, you can spend my pocket money!” she said to me the other day, when I lusted over a pair of shoes). But I don’t think she’s quite grasped the concept that once her money is gone, it’s gone. At the moment, it’s easy for her to share it because she believes there’s a never-ending supply there. The idea of banking and cash machines is too much for her to handle at the moment, if we can’t afford something she just says “buy it online!” because she doesn’t understand that money has to change hands on the internet, too.
Adele at Circus Queen is getting around this obstacle with a brilliant “three jars” concept. “We’re doing three jars with Talitha (age 4): spend, save, share. At the moment it’s just the small change she finds but soon we’ll be giving her an allowance to go and divide up. I don’t think she really understands it yet but it’s hopefully going to do good starting early.”
How about you? How do you teach your kids about money? At what age do you think you should start talking about money with children?
Thanks to TSB for working with me on this post. For more information about how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.