Tip for Teaching Spending Limits

By: Chuck Kuster

Main Message

Parents can create opportunities to set spending limits. This clever mother provides children opportunities to make spending choices.

I noticed an interesting exchange between a mom and her daughter at a fast-food restaurant. The mother gave the girl a simple option: she could have fries or a soda, not both.soda-or-fries

The youngster was about 7 years old and opted for the fries without argument. In fact, she seemed pleased that she got to choose.

It struck me that the clever mom was communicating a couple money principles in just a few minutes.

  1. She demonstrated there were limits in what she was willing to spend for lunch – she had a budget.
  2. She created an opportunity for the child to choose which item she wanted the most.

When you think about it, many similar scenarios exist for parents to teach children how to make choices when there are limits, such as:

  • Buying a present for someone
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Choosing school supplies
  • Looking for souvenirs on a vacation

Money MomentThe next time you and a child are standing at a fast food counter, consider setting a spending limit but then allow the child to make his/her selection. It’s a great Money Moment.

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Find a Penny, Pick it Up?

By: Chuck Kuster

Main Message All money – even pennies – is valuable and should be saved. Use picking up lost coins yourself as a way to discuss the merits of saving.

Call me cheap. Call me frugal. But I’m one of those people who will pick up a penny in a parking lot. And, I think all parents ought to encourage their children to do the same. It’s the principle. And  it can lead to some good discussions.

You can make the coin pickup into a game. It provides cash to stuff into piggy banks and opportunities for money mentors to provide accolades.

Picking up a penny

A child who considers a found penny a treasure has a good money attitude.

Where are some best places to find coins?

  • Under couch cushions
  • Around and under vending machines
  • Look down when at checkout lines
  • Near parking meters
  • At the car wash

It can be tougher to convince teens to take time to pick up a penny. “It’s not worth it. What can a penny buy?” Incidentally, experiments in shopping malls reveal that few teens and adults will stoop to pick up dimes, nickels or quarters.

For those who don’t think it’s worth the effort, try the logical approach. Ask your child how long it takes to pick up a penny. If they say two seconds, do the following math:

At two seconds per penny, they could harvest 30 pennies in a minute. The hourly rate would be 30 pennies x 60 = 1,800 pennies or $18 per hour. Not too bad!

The hourly equivalent to pick up a nickel is 5x that or whopping $90/hour.

It is quite common for committed change pickers to gather $100 – $200 annually.

Expect some justifiable pushback on this time-value argument. But the dialog is what is important. After all, if you place value on a lowly penny, saving a dollar is really important.   And that’s a hundred times better. You can even talk about how to use the saved money. Perhaps you want to contribute found coins to charity, which can evolve into additional Money Moments.


Money MomentA child ignoring a coin on the sidewalk creates an opportunity to discuss the value of money. Pick it up yourself and talk about why saving even a penny is important.



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Fun With Pocket Change

Main Message:

Children need to learn that all coins are valuable and should be saved. Emphasize their value by saving, counting and taking them to the bank. Make saving feel like an accomplishment.

Most young kids like coins. So instead of tossing spare change into a jar and forgetting them, consider turning those coins into a Money Moment™.

That can or jar of coins can become a Money Moment.

That can or jar of coins can become a Money Moment.

Some activities include:

  • Counting the coins
  • Wrapping coins with paper sleeves that banks can provide
  • Keeping a running total on the change
  • For younger kids, use heavy aluminum foil and a popsicle stick to do coin rubbings
  • For older kids, practice making change
  • And don’t forget collecting state quarters or other coins can be fun too
  • Draw their own coins – after discussing the elements of coins

What you’re teaching is coins – even pennies – have value and should be saved.

Money Moment

Turn that jar of pocket change into a learning opportunity and fun activity. Pennies saved soon become quarters and quarters become dollars.

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Parents – You Can Do This

By: Chuck Kuster

Main Message:
Financial education is more about parenting than it is about high finance.

At the Money Smart Investor Conference in Des Moines, I sat down next to a woman in her early 30’s. About 160 people show up annually for the free event sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

This woman stood out because she was among a smattering of younger people in the crowd. Since sunny Saturday mornings find young moms busy with kids’ activities, I was curious about her motivation to come to an investor conference.

“My daughter came home from school and asked what stocks we own.” Her daughter’s class was studying the stock market, she explained.

The mom admitted she owned no stocks. “I realized we needed to get up to speed on investing fast. I’m hoping to pick up some ideas here.” She added that her parents never spoke of money or investing at all.

“That’s why I’m here. I don’t want my daughter to be left out,” she said.

I suspect many young parents share this mother’s predicament. Their intuition tells them they should be teaching their kids money skills and values but don’t feel equipped to do so. Many lack the knowledge and confidence.

Hats off to this mother for taking the first step.

Financial Education Is More about Parenting Than High Finance

Parents, you can do this. Any parent who manages a household has the ability to teach a child about saving, spending and sharing. You can learn along with the kids. Your role is more about parenting than it is teaching high finance.

Start with real-world lessons that are age-appropriate. For example, a trip to the grocery store offers great learning opportunities for kids in elementary school. Get older kids in comparison shopping. For teens, sharing your monthly household budget is often an eye-opener. Continually challenge kids whether something is a “want or a need and why .

The point is you can have an impact by simply talking about money. That alone demonstrates that money requires management. It’s something we need to work at.

Over time, you will be amazed what information you kids can absorb. It will likely impact their attitude toward spending, saving, sharing and investing, too.

You can do this.

money momentsMany schools are implementing financial education into their curriculums. Ask what your child is learning on the topic and seek opportunities to apply that education at home.

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Welcome to the Save Yourself Bog

This blog is for parents trying to equip their children with the knowledge, skills and behaviors to succeed financially when they become adults.

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