3 steps to teaching kids financial responsibility. These are practical and can start today!

Welcome to Mom Motivation Mondays where weekly contributing writers share their motherhood experiences to encourage you to find the joy in being a mom.

{This week: Post by Heather}

I remember feeling proud I wasn’t the mother who bought her kids something every time we went to the store. (Insert eye roll here.) Imagine my surprise, after a couple of years, when my children would ask and ask and ask for anything and everything in the store. They were those kids.

Yes, part of that is them just being kids. Another part is based on their previous experiences of asking and getting.

I took a long, hard look at what was taking place when I went to the store and was shocked. I always seemed to buy them something! It might be something small, really small. A pencil or a notebook for 50 cents. They also always got some sort of small treat to eat or drink while we were shopping. It was no wonder they asked for everything. They always got something!

My girls asked because the expectation had been set by me that they were going to get something. Even though a pencil or a notebook wasn’t breaking the bank for me, my children learned that they got something EVERY single time. I didn’t realize how those little purchases added up in their small eyes. They didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to get something every time. I set the bar and now they were simply meeting it with the gusto of any little kid.

Teaching kids financial responsibility begins with us. As a mom, I think teaching kids financial responsibility is crucial.

Over the years I’ve made some mistakes and tried different tactics, but I’ve found a few things out along the way that will help you teach financial responsibility to your children.

3 Steps to Teaching Kids Financial Responsibility

Set Expectations for the Kids

After I realized part of the problem was largely due to my behavior I immediately set to work creating realistic expectations for my girls. I outlined that from now they wouldn’t be getting something from the store every time we went.

My oldest one is quick and asked why I get to go shopping and get new things all the time. I explained that my shopping for things like groceries, their clothes and school supplies are my chores. I then asked her when she last saw me purchase something specifically for myself, not for her or her sister or my husband or the house. I was given a blank stare as my answer.

My children see me choosing new items when we go shopping and think everything in the cart is for me when in fact it’s not. They have to learn that shopping for the family is different than shopping for myself, and both require financial responsibility.

I set three clear expectations for them:

  1. I expect they will not ask for things during our shopping trip.
  2. I expect if they want to purchase something they bring their allowance.
  3. I expect they save their money if they would like a higher price item.

I explained my expectations to them before we went on our next trip to the store.

Clearly, these things aren’t happening over night, but the asking has lessened and they do bring their allowance when they want to make a purchase. It will take baby steps to get there, but we have started to teach them financial responsibility with our expectations.

Make the Kids Pay

After one exceptional trip to Target that had me putting my soon-to-be purchases back on the shelf and ushering my daughters towards the doors while simultaneously yelling and sighing (loudly I might add), I decided my will was going to break soon if something wasn’t done. I couldn’t understand why they continually asked for more and more even though I had explained the concept of money to them.

My aha moment? I explained the concept but it was still only a concept. Children need to experience financial responsibility in action to really learn it. Teaching kids financial responsibility (at an appropriate age) has to be a hands-on activity.

I decided to let them take their allowance they earn for doing their chores to the store the next time we went. They each had $10 to spend. My girls picked up toy after toy after toy asking if they could afford it. I would tell them the price of each item they picked up and then tell them yes or no. After we did this for a while my oldest looked at me and said, “Things cost a lot of money.”


Children don’t understand the concept of value, but if you show children the actual cost of something they hold in their hands compared to the amount of money they have to spend, they can better understand it.

Teaching kids financial responsibility is simpler than we think.

When I took two toys out of the clearance bin and said they could get both for $10 or they could have one toy that was full price they started to understand how different things cost different prices. They started to understand that if they wanted a toy that was more expensive they weren’t going to be able to purchase it with their $10. They would have to save up for it.

Stop buying them everything they want

Letting our children know they can’t get everything they want is important. I had to start saying no A LOT. It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. It’s never easy to do the hard things as parents.

I’ve learned from being a parent, doing the hard things is a way of life.

As parents, we want to give our children the world, but we also have to remember our job. One job is to teach them they can’t get everything they want. Even if that “something” is a gumball for a quarter. The reality is that we are a society of “wants” and often, even after we get something we want, we simply turn around and want more. I speak from experience on this.

I used to want a lot of things. I also used to get frustrated because saving and continually wanting are at very different ends of the spectrum.

Over the last few years, I have started to let go of “wanting” so much in life. I started to recognize how acquiring more and more things made me feel anxious. I realized I was clearing out things and donating them, just to turn around and buy new things.

What’s the point?

I will always “want” things. How can you look at Pinterest and not want all the pretty things? I just know that they aren’t going to make me happy. I’m teaching my girls this now.

My children still ask for things, even the small things, but they won’t remember the toys I didn’t buy them or telling them no more times than I care to count.

I hope they remember I taught them to be personally and financially responsible. Teaching kids financial responsibility is a major life lesson that they need to learn to be successful adults!

I hope they remember life is not about accumulating things, but instead caring about those they love.


How are you teaching your child to be financially responsible?

3 steps to teaching kids financial responsibility. These are practical and can start today!

Heather of Just Becoming Me contributor to Mom Motivation Mondays series at The Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Guide

Heather lives in Florida with her husband, two girls and two pups. She is a lover of most things in life, too many to name here without scaring you, but a few include working out, learning new recipes, Pinterest, organizing (yes, it’s true!), home decor and learning to lead a more minimal and purposeful life.

At the end of 2014, she was feeling unhappy, burnt out and discouraged but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was making her feel that way. She started Just Becoming Me as a venture to better understand herself and what will lead her towards a more fulfilling life. Her motto is: “We only have one life, and I want to learn to live mine in a way that gets me excited to jump out of bed.”

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This post is linked up at Motivation Monday.