Good money habits take years to learn — bad money habits can lead to painful and costly problems. We have all made our share of errors!
Why not give your kids a head start? While you are keeping your family's financial house in order, be sure to inculcate your good habits into your children. Teaching your children godly principles is one of your main responsibilities as a parent (Deuteronomy 11:19).
A graphic lesson A friend of mine hit on a dramatic way to impress upon his children the value of money. His income was being sapped by high electricity bills because his children constantly left unneeded lights burning. His children were fairly young, but his simple method could be adapted for older children.
My friend gathered his children around the kitchen table one evening. On the table were numerous stacks of coins. Each stack was labeled to represent different expenses: tithes and offerings, the mortgage, food, electricity, clothing, entertainment.
He explained that the coins represented the money he brought home from his job and that the stacks showed where the money he made went each month.
"Now each of the bills we make has to be paid," he said. "And if one of the bills is larger than we expect, we have to take money from one of the other areas to help pay for it."
His children nodded, keeping their eyes on the coins.
"One of the things we like to do most is go out and have a good time, isn't it?" he asked.
"Yes," his small son answered. "We like to buy ice cream!"
"And we like to go to the movies," said his daughter.
"Right," my friend agreed. "But this month our electricity bill is bigger than we expected, because we leave lights on all over the house when we don't need them."
His children could see the inevitable coming.
"So you know what we have to do?" my friend continued. "We have to take money from somewhere else to pay the electricity bill. The only place where we have extra money is in our entertainment stack."
My friend moved coins, one at a time, from the entertainment stack to the electricity stack until there weren't any left in the entertainment stack. His children's eyes widened each time he moved another coin, the chagrin on their faces deepening.
"Now," my friend announced, "our budget for this month is balanced. Maybe next month we'll have enough money to go out and have fun." His kids could tell he was on their side and was just as sad as they were.
After the family meeting was over, his children immediately began running all through the house, shutting off lights. From then on, they made sure no money was wasted on unneeded electricity. My friend's electricity bill went down and his kids learned an important lesson.
Teach sound principles Children can learn many such lessons. On shopping trips, explain to them why you buy one product instead of another. Teach them the difference between necessity and luxury, quality and economy. Teenage children can be taught how to set up a budget, how to balance a checkbook and how to open a savings account. Show your children how to shop for a week's worth of groceries.
And don't forget to teach the importance of tithes and offerings. If they obey God's financial laws, your children will always have enough money for their needs.
Help your children develop the right attitude toward money while they are still young. Teach them sound principles. It will be one of the best investments you will ever make!