Recession talk is everywhere, even on Mother's Day. At work, at home, at the supermarket, at the library, at soccer games, and on play dates. Everyone hates this recession, and most everyone is being affected by it. Especially mothers. Why? Because we are on the front line of the budget wars.
Let's face it, as far as we have come in our efforts to shore up equality among the genders, moms are still largely in charge of household budgets for food, clothes, birthday presents, discretionary items, track-team uniforms, new tennis rackets, and so on. So when the economy heads south and prices go north, it's mom who usually decides what the family can do without.
But instead of being the financial heavy on this day of all days, look for the silver lining: An opportunity to teach our children about financial responsibility. Maybe you've had to tighten your monthly budget or take a less expensive vacation, stay in and cook rather than eat out, forego new additions to your summer wardrobe or your house. Instead of just saying “no” without explanation or example, use the recession as an educational tool.
Here are some practical things you can do with your children from ages 4 to 18 to teach them about the value of money.
Age 4: Dollars and Sense
Most four-year-olds can count, recognize letters and numbers; some have even started to read. What better time to introduce the concepts of an allowance, spending and saving? A couple of books, The Berenstain Bears Dollars and Sense and Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, illustrate just how quickly that weekly payout can burn a hole in your pocket if you're not careful.
Age 7: Amortize Your Cherries
The next time you're in the supermarket with your kids during cherry season, buy a pound without choking on the price. That's what Fran of Dallas, TX used to do. Then, when her hungry offspring started scarfing down the cherries, she would point out that they could either eat them all at once and have no more for a long while (with a gentle reminder of the price), or they could eat just a few cherries at a time and enjoy them for several days.
You can also ask your children to help pay for those things they really want out of their allowance. They seem to have a better understanding of the value of money when they're spending their own.
Age 12: Future Entrepreneur
Encourage your child to start her own business. What better way to understand the ins and outs of cash flow? Some jobs for a 12-year-old include dog-walking, plant & animal care, mother's helper, gardening and more. You'll find that kids get more excited about earning money — and saving it for something special — when the enterprise and the earning power is theirs alone.
Age 15: Checks and Balances
Take your son or daughter to the bank and have them open their very first checking and savings accounts. Remind them to bring cash or a birthday check to deposit — half in savings and half in checking. And then remind them that when the checking account runs dry, they'll probably be paying a monthly maintenance fee until they put more money into the account. Just a little incentive to spend more thoughtfully.
Age 18: You Can Never Go Home Again…
At 18, let your kids know that after college, they're not allowed to move back in. Shelly of Philadelphia, PA told her daughters that when they graduated from college, there would be no moving back in with mom. Once they were done with school, they were on their own, because she respected their ability to find their own way.
“I told them that my love was deep and constant, but that nudging them out of the nest to deal with life on their own would prepare them for anything that came along,” Shelly says. “Roots and wings are the most precious gift a parent can give.” Maybe you can't go home again, but you can always stop by, have dinner and do your laundry.
Be an Example
Kids can learn the value of money at pretty much any age. It just takes some thought, a little effort and plenty of credibility. That means we, as mothers, need to practice what we teach. If we expect our children to tread the path of good money sense and fiscal responsibility, then we have to set the example. Starting today, the day when we all celebrate our mothers and what they have done for us. How hard can it be?
Okay, it may be hard. But the payoff will be a whole generation of kids who know how and when to save and spend — thanks to Mom.