Pick Your Money Battles Wisely

Main Message

Instead of nagging about the little stuff, focus money saving efforts where the big money is and engage your children in finding solutions.

My parents constantly harped, “Turn off the lights!” I assumed the savings were meaningful which is why I nagged my kids when they left on lights, televisions, and ceiling fans.

Then I came across an energy study that showed the actual cost of leaving on a light is only 20 cents/day. That’s a day, not an hour.

While small change adds up, I wondered whether all my nagging was really worth the resulting angst. Perhaps there were places to save more money and teach children good habits.

For example, consider the cost of texting plans for cell phones. The average cell phone bill is now $71/month (one phone) according to J.D. Power & Associates. Some plans with unlimited data are far higher. One friend of mine shared his daughter burned through the family’s cellular data limits instead of connecting through the family’s wifi because she didn’t know how. Another friend saved some dollars switching to a family cell phone plan with unlimited long distance. Could your family save some bucks here?

Another savings rich target is wasted food. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says Americans waste about 20 pounds of food per person each month, amounting to $1,350 to $2,275 annually for a family of four. What about assigning a child the role of reducing food waste and putting the money into the family vacation fund?

Even bigger savings can be captured in other places. For example, discuss with your college students  the expense of dropping a class (or two), going an extra semester, or taking the study abroad class instead of a summer job. Thousands of dollars might be saved with better planning.

Parents might want to save quarters nagging about lights and long showers but maybe we would be better off picking money battles that have the bigger impact.

Money Moment

Why not assign children responsibility for various money-saving roles. Perhaps make one responsible for saving electricity and heat bills. Start by showing them your utility bills. Put another in charge of reducing food waste. Put an older child in charge of managing the families cell phone usage. Set family goals and hold people accountable.


About Chuck

Chuck is a publisher of financial education materials, an entrepreneur, and journalist.
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