My nine year old son has always loved numbers and he’s always been interested in money. Ever since he began to understand the concept of dollars and cents, he wanted to know how much various things cost.
On our last trip to Disney World, for example, he wanted to know what we had spent on those tickets (he was shocked when he heard the answer). And when we go shopping together, he often asks to see the receipt from the supermarket to get a breakdown of our groceries.
It is this very curiosity that recently prompted me to buckle up my son on our household budget. And he’s learning valuable lessons.
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Passing on financial skills at a young age
My husband and I have been giving our son an allowance for some time and we have already taught him a lot about how to manage it. In fact, my son takes pride in regularly adding money to his savings account and understands the concept of earning interest on his balance.
Sharing our family budget has taught her a few key things. First, my son now has a better understanding of the value of a dollar. He recognizes how much money it takes to keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table and pay for a vehicle. And he also knows (roughly) how much money my husband and I make, and how many hours we have to work each week to cover these different bills.
Second, my son learned why it is important to budget in the first place. Looking at our expense categories, he noticed an item for travel. I explained that by mapping our spending and setting priorities, we are able to control our spending in some areas in order to have more flexibility in others. That Disney trip we took a few years ago? I showed my son how we could save for a follow-up trip by making smart spending choices. And he totally understood it.
Back to disney
One expense category that I really wanted to review with my son was food. I showed him how much we normally spend on groceries versus restaurant meals. We took a look at what those numbers would look like if we had to dine out or order more frequently. In fact, I showed him how changing that particular habit could impact another big category of spending – our travel bucket, aka his repeated trip to Disney. And he immediately responded with something like, “I’ll help you cook if that means going back to Magic Kingdom.”
Now a lot of people I know not share household finances with a nine year old, but I feel different. I think my son is old enough to know what his dad and I earn, what our bills look like and what we do to manage our money. And I think it’s important that he understands the logic behind our decision making – why we spend what we do in different categories.
Of course, one thing I had to stress from the start is that the information we share with him should not be repeated. Not to his friends, his teachers or even his sisters, who are too young to really understand what numbers mean anyway. But overall I think it was smart to split our budget, and I will continue to do so as long as my son remains interested.