Today’s youth seem ill-prepared for the financial road ahead. Most see credit cards as free money, overlook due dates on cellphone bills, and ask for the most expensive shoes in the store. With the economy struggling and each American shouldering more than a $30,000 of the nation’s debt, it is imperative that we teach financial responsibility to our kids.
Although some of us need our own credit counselors, we can still prevent our children from living paycheck to paycheck in the future. Read the time-tested financial rules below:
Get a second job you love
Teach your child to capitalize on one of his or her special talents. Does your child have a way with animals? He can dog-sit for friends or neighbors traveling overnight. Is your child into drawing? She can design posters for family and friends. Is your child good at styling hair? She can earn money by styling her neighbors’ hair. A cousin of mine loved mixing music as a teenager. Now at 40, he supplements his income by working as a wedding DJ. Expose your child to others who freelance their skills. They’ll realize making extra money can be fun. Then when they become adults, it won’t be so hard for them to consider a second job to increase their income.
Reduce utility bills
Show your child that by using utilities wisely they can reduce their bills. For example, have your children study last month’s light and gas bills. Then have them make conscious efforts to cut back on electricity usage. They can open the curtains in the morning, using sunlight to dress or eat breakfast by. At night, have them use only one appliance at a time. To reduce the gas bill, brainstorm ways your family can cut back on heat. Wearing layers of clothing inside the house, using cold water for the laundry, and taking shorter showers are just a few ways to decrease gas usage. When next month’s bills shows up, have your children compare it with the ones from the previous month. Discuss which activities contributed the most to reducing each bill. This will allow them to see the fruits of their labor and encourage them to carry out these tasks for life.
A family budget
Teach your children how to maintain a household budget by showing them your check stub(s) for the month. Also show them your bills-mortgage, car, and child care expenses. Let your child see how your paycheck is divided among these expenses. Have them calculate the amount of cash left after bills have been paid. Explain to your child about miscellaneous expenses, such as eating McDonald’s every Friday or paying for school field trips. Brainstorm ways you can reduce miscellaneous spending. By showing your child how to manage a family budget, they’ll be able to tackle one when they get their own family.
Have fun without going broke
The movies and the mall both can be expensive. A theater ticket, popcorn, and drink can cost up to $15, and the designer jeans that beckon your children from store windows can run as high as $100 a pair. Show your children other ways to hang out without spending so much money. Have them check out free screenings at the DuSable Museum or the Chicago Park District. Do they love to talk about what they read? Sign them up for a book club at the Chicago Public Library. If they like to travel, purchase a CTA Fun Pass for $5 that allows one to ride buses and trains free all day. You and your children can explore neighborhoods all around the city, learning about different cultures and seeing new sights. Doing these low or no-cost activities will teach your children that fun can be free-something important to understand when trying to maintain a budget.
Help your child learn to be financially responsible before they learn it the hard way. Raise a money-wise child so instead of you caring for them later in life, they will be able to care for you.