When it comes to money, no parent decides they want their kids to grow up and be greedy penny-pinchers or uncontrollable debt-inducing consumers. Yet statistics will tell us that’s what happens.
According to Business Insider, Millennials hold an estimated $1.1 trillion of the total United States’ $3.6 trillion in consumer debt with more auto loans than mortgages.
As a parent, you have an opportunity to change the tide for your kid when you instill the value of good stewardship. We only have so much time and money. Teaching kids to become good stewards of both will help set them up for a better future, where they can be free from debt and worry.
As you help your kids begin to learn the importance of using resource wisely, here are a few ideas to make it easier.
It’s never too early to start helping your kids understand the idea of stewardship. This doesn’t mean you pull up your bank statements and start explaining the ins and outs of personal finances. Rather, you can help your kids by getting practical. Set up a system for the money they do receive where they give some, save some, and spend some. To help them be good stewards of their time, limit their “down time” on devices and give them ways to spend their time helping around the house, creating something new, or serving others.
As kids get older, talk with them about the cost of living. In our house, we tend to tell kids to turn off the lights, turn down the air conditioning, or not let the water run. We do this not because we want to make life miserable for our kids but because we want them to understand those things cost. Invite kids into conversations about what it takes to live in your home. This prepares your kids to have realistic expectations as they enter adulthood and need to pay for these things on their own. Talk about your own struggles with time management and talk about the strategies you put in place to guide how you spend your time and money.
Being generous as a family has been one of the most fun things we’ve done to teach our kids stewardship. Start the practice of giving a percentage of your monthly budget and know how much you will give. Talk to your kids about your plan and how you decide where to give it. When kids are younger, give them an amount of that money they can use to be generous. As they start earning their own, help them decide where they want to give a percentage. This not only helps kids begin to value the power of generosity but allows you to see where they feel led to give. Missions trips for their friends, child sponsorships from Compassion International, or buying food for local food pantries are great places to start giving.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to give, you can be generous with your time. Choose family service projects that get everyone involved like packing lunches for a homeless shelter or cleaning up litter at a local park.
Save Up for Wants.
As parents, we buy things our kids need: clothes, shoes, school supplies, sports equipment, costumes and dance shoes. (This list could go on forever.) Even these needs can turn into wants over time as kids desire certain brands. Sometimes kids don’t take care of what they have, and their things get ruined before they should. If that’s the case, consider giving your kids a chance to either save up for those wants or do jobs around the house to earn them. This can work with extra clothes or sneakers, upgraded cell phones, or the newest technology. Even if you can afford to get these for your kids, creating a plan for them to work for them creates a sense of value for what they have. This also helps them take ownership of what they have, which hopefully will help them take better care of them.
As you start conversations with your kids, be open to their questions. For many of them, they haven’t even thought of this idea of taking care of what they have because things are always provided for them. This will open a whole range of questions about money or how they spend their time.
And just like us, kids won’t always get it right. Remember that time and money management can be a learning process. Show them grace, and allow them space to make mistakes when they are young and the stakes aren’t so high. Together, you can work towards wise use of what God has given to you.