As you start planning activities for your kids this summer, you might consider working in a few lessons about money management.
While summer breaks for kids should be mostly about fun and relaxation, you’ll be doing them a huge favor if you also introduce a few principles about the importance of saving and budgeting. CNBC recently pointed to statistics showing one in five children in the U.S. lack basic financial proficiency, and only 10 percent can analyze complex financial products and problems. But those who receive some financial training have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency rates as young adults.
“Teaching kids to strengthen their willpower and giving them age-appropriate independence when it comes to saving and spending will provide a foundation that allows them to grow into responsible, successful adults,” notes Sharon Epperson in the story.
One of the best ways to show them how to budget is to introduce them to the benefits of free attractions and events, discussing the money that can be saved by seeking fun that comes with low or no price tags. Some great examples in the Austin area:
- Dig for dinosaur bones at the Austin Nature and Science Center.
- View art for free at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum; the Hope Outdoor Gallery; the People’s Gallery at Austin City Hall and the Mexic-Arte Museum (free Sundays only) or Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria (free Tuesdays only).
- Swim! The Barton Springs Pool is free after 9 p.m., or you can cool off in Butler Park’s Liz Carpenter Fountain or at one of Austin’s 11 free splash pads for kids. Look here for local swimming opportunities in natural bodies of water.
- Jam to free summer concerts in Zilker Park.
- On kids-eat-free Tuesdays, dine at restaurant Central Market then play on the adjacent playground.
- Take a guided or self-guided tour of the Capitol building, visitors center, grounds and Trail of Trees.
- Enjoy story time at the enormous bookstore BookPeople.
- Participate in free-craft Wednesdays and Sundays at Whole Foods Market, then play on the store’s rooftop playground.
- Watch the colony of Mexican free-tailed bats near the Congress Avenue Bridge take their nightly suppertime excursion.
- The Austin Children’s Museum, which includes a fun indoor water exhibit, allows admission by donation Wednesday evenings; a playground is across the street.
- Tour the Governor’s Mansion for free Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings (reservations required).
- Arrange a family bike ride on the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail.
- Help children choose fresh produce at the farmers market at Republic Square Park. Later, they can prepare it and compile its cost per serving
- Soak up nature by walking the Barton Creek Greenbelt to Twin Falls.
- Check out the free museum on Fifth Street dedicated to author O. Henry.
- Watch the BMX riders on the trails and dirt mounds at Duncan Park, or participate if you have bikes.
- View exhibits such as the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas-Austin campus.
- View tanks, planes and a chunk of the Berlin Wall at the free Texas Military Forces Museum in Camp Mabry.
Other general ideas for summertime fun that could foster good financial habits in your child:
- Help him establish a weekly budget of his own based on his allowance, divided by fun money, savings and “giving back” funds. Take him shopping to spend his accumulated fun money, help him deposit his savings into an account and let him decide how and when to give back.
- At bedtime, lay with your child and read from an age-appropriate book about finances.
- Help your child set up a lemonade stand; he should pay for supplies but compile and keep profits.
- Set a budget for a small flower garden. Let her shop for plants and design the garden herself.
- Teach your child to sew, encouraging him to shop for the fabric and other components himself.
- Instead of buying expensive ice cream treats, show her how to make homemade ice cream, snow cones and/or popsicles.
- Play financial trivia using age-appropriate questions.
- Instead of buying an expensive kite, make and fly one yourself using materials you have around the house. Talk to your child about the money he can save through DIY methods.
The earlier you can start teaching your child how to effectively manage money, the sooner he can start a lifetime of what financial guru Dave Ramsey calls “financial peace.”