By Maureen Breeze
Over the years, my mother has traveled to every continent on the globe. At home, she doesn’t eat in fancy restaurants, never shops as a means of entertainment, and rarely spends money frivolously. Instead, she carefully puts part of her paycheck each month into a special savings account for her annual excursion to some far-reaching, exotic destination.
I often talk to my children about her saving and spending habits, pointing out how their grandma is a world class traveler who worked most her life at a very modest government job. I explain that despite her never having collected a large salary, she’s been able to achieve her dream to travel the world.
My goal: my children learn the power of choice.
As parents, we often talk to our children about our decisions to spend money, yet sometimes we fail to point out when we choose not to spend. Perhaps you drive an older car that is bought and paid for, instead of leasing a new vehicle every three years. Or maybe you take your lunch to work each day rather than spending $10 every afternoon at the deli on a sandwich and chips. Discussing why you choose not to spend and how it fits in with your overall goals can help your children develop the skills to make smart financial choices in their lives. These skills might someday help them to be in control of their finances, instead of being controlled by them.
As your children grow and become more aware of the world around them, take time to share your family stories. Sometimes the habits (both good and bad) of grandparents, aunts, and uncles can be better teaching tools than your own experiences. Point out the choices made in each scenario, and then discuss how the choices moved the person closer or away from where he or she wanted to be.
And finally, take time to set up a family financial goal—anything from a day at the local amusement park, to a family vacation—and in the months ahead, discuss when you choose not to spend so that the family goal can become a reality.
Maureen Breeze is a parent, academic coach, writer, and teacher. She is also the co-author of LifeBound’s Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers and Leadership for Teenagers. She currently works for LifeBound and is finishing her first novel.