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How to Talk to Your Kids about Money

How to Talk to your Kids about Money 

by Jason Dobrzynski, CFP®, RLP®, CMFC®

Although we want our children to be financially aware, it’s not always easy know how much we should involve them in our day to day finances. Knowing how soon to begin talking to our kids about money and what aspects about saving and spending to discuss can be tricky. However, giving your child the responsibility to handle money can empower them to problem solve and look at situations critically.

Thankfully, we’ve found some great resources and activities that will help make your talks about saving and spending fun, and give your children confidence and independence to manage their money as they grow. We also have a great list of books that can increase financial awareness for you and your child!

Games and Activities to Raise Financial Awareness

Coupon Champion (Age 2+)

Bringing your child to the store is a great way to start discussing money, and a there’s plenty for them to do to help you between choosing items and keeping track of your list. Consider printing out a shopping list consisting of pictures or frequently needed items (cheese, apples, bread) and laminate it so that their toddler can X out the items with a dry erase marker. Or give your child a small clipboard to hold a list and coupons for items to check off. Letting your children help you shop is an empowering activity that will keep them engaged and start realizing the value and cost of frequently used items.

Lemonade Stands and More! (Ages 3+)

Playing store, lemonade stand or any other games where your child is interacting with buying or selling can be a fun way to introduce money concepts at a young age. This is a great preface to money discussions, and it can be carried out throughout childhood and tailored to any age. Discussing the prospect of selling something for a fee and choosing to save or spend shows real life consequences that adults face daily. Hosting lemonade stands and looking for age-appropriate jobs (caring for the neighbor’s dog, reselling toys that are no longer used) gives children appropriate responsibility that is critical to developing confident and money decision-making skills.

Want Vs. Need (ages 4+)

Think of or find 4 items or experiences and write them down (or draw a picture). Under each item, describe its worth, benefits and discuss whether it’s a want or a need, as seen below:

Our House: Keeps us warm, dry and safe: this is a need. This is a good opportunity to discuss that although a home is a need, some homes are smaller or larger than your own. The need factor stems from being safe, dry and warm.

Food: gives us energy, makes us healthy and strong. This is a need.

Family pet: provides comfort and love: this is a want. Although we love our pet, we can survive without him/her. What costs can the pet incur? Do you budget your pet and their needs in your monthly plans?

Vacations: spending time with family, learning and exploring other parts of our country and world: this is a want. What special memories does your child have of past trips? What value and benefits do they see?

Weekend Planner (Age 5+)

Do your kids complain about the activities (or lack thereof) during the weekend? Here’s an activity that gives the kids more control and understanding of what things cost. Our team member, Liz, tried this activity with her 3 sons that are aged seven, nine and thirteen.

At the beginning of a low- scheduled weekend, let your child know that he/she will be in charge of your activities and budgeting money for the weekend. Give them a predetermined amount of cash in an envelope that they will control (to be overseen by the parents). You may want to prepare a few suggested activities and their costs to give your child an idea of what things they can do and their cost upfront: i.e. Movies- cost for admittance and snacks; a few favorite restaurants and what the bill and tip might amount to; and nature walks or picnics for low or no-cost ideas. Liz and her husband also stocked a few items from the store (picnic fare, items for making pizza at home, snacks to take to the movie theater) in preparation for the weekend to assist in showing the kids other ways to conserve money.

When Liz’s 3 boys had control of the weekend, they ran out of money very early in the weekend, which turned out to be a great problem for them to tackle. They then came together and brainstormed solutions of other fun low or no cost activities to finish out their weekend. After the weekend was over, discussing how they spent “their money” and planning ahead turned into a discussion about budgeting.

After the first weekend, Liz’s kids looked forward to their next turn and had ideas for their weekends planned and ready to go!

If you have questions about a financial plan for your family or how to raise financially aware kids, please check out our website at or contact us at


Jason Dobrzynski and Maralynn Kearney are Financial Advisors offering securities and investment products and services through Waddell & Reed, Inc. (WRI), member FINRA/SIPC. Corsalus Group is a separate entity from WRI.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only.  Waddell & Reed is not affiliated with Kidlist. (07/19)