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9 Smart financial habits that are also effective parenting hacks

FAMILY
Solomiya Malovana - Shutterstock
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Here's how to help children become good stewards of their money and possessions.

Ideally, parents are responsible for passing good financial habits on to their children. But it can be easy to neglect that particular area of parenting for two reasons. First, if money stresses us out, we are likely to avoid the topic. Second, kids naturally want things, and we get tired of explaining why the answer is no, especially if the child isn’t satisfied by the answer. Even when financial stress is at a minimum, I think many parents mentally check the “financial preparation” box by contributing to a college fund rather than modeling daily habits. 

Here are 9 ways to help your children—and yourself—to grow as Christ-centered stewards of your wealth and possessions: 

Try these 3 ways of making spending manual …

Keep a pre-shopping list. The first time you or someone in your family mentions needing a new item, write it on the list. Make a tally mark whenever the need for it is apparent. Once there are five (or ten) tallies, you can move it to the real shopping list. 

Use a visual graph to track your saving toward a goal. Even before your kids are old enough for their own incentive charts, they can observe you keeping track of your savings for additional and one-time-only expenses. Pick a specific goal (e.g., $75 for a wedding gift), and write it at the top of a whiteboard that you keep somewhere visible in your home. When you or your spouse set aside money for that goal, fill in your progress, and make a clear note of how that money was made. Perhaps it was by abstaining from a weekly iced coffee, or picking up a few extra hours at work. When the goal is met, celebrate as a family (without spending extra money—more on that in a future piece!). This practice can help you be more selective about taking on new expenses, and it teaches kids that persistence pays off. 

Don’t store card information online, especially on websites where you shop most often. Entering the information manually, like using cash at brick and mortar stores, gives you a moment to pause and consider whether you really need to make that purchase at that time. If your kids always see you swiping cards and using Amazon’s one-click feature, they’re more likely to internalize the idea that spending money is no big deal. 

Try these 3 ways to pop your bubble …

One of the blessings wealth can provide is insulation—from the elements, from market forces, even from rush hour traffic or the wilted produce at the grocery store. The more you own, the more you can control and customize your daily life. Intentionally popping your family’s bubble can help your kids develop a grounded perspective and remember the poor on a daily basis.

Shrink your temperature buffer zone. If you have air conditioning, try setting it only 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the outdoor temperature. Not only does this save money, but it reminds you what a blessing it is to be able to control the environment for our own comfort. It also helps you appreciate truly beautiful weather. 

Roll your window down for panhandlers. For several reasons it may be unwise to give cash to people begging on street corners. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can always give them a bottle of water or Gatorade. I used to keep granola bars in my car, but sometimes the people needing help didn’t have the dental health to deal with chewy bars. Drinks or $5 transportation gift cards are always a good idea. 

Designate a charity for all your change. You likely have a stash of spare change at home and/or in your car. Make it a habit to collect that change and, every year or so, wrap it up and make a cash donation to a local charity. Don’t use cash that often? You could teach your kids—and train yourself—to use GoodSearch (powered by Yahoo) or Amazon Smile when shopping online. These are ways to send a few cents to a charity of your choice each time you are buying (or even researching) something for yourself.

Finally, try these 3 ways to heed Jesus’ warning to “be as shrewd as snakes” …

Christ’s words to the apostles can help you teach your children to be aware of ways in which they might be taken advantage of financially. 

Utilize your full insurance coverage. Sometimes, very important information (like the fact that pediatric dentistry or eye exams are reimbursable up to 100%, or that your credit card benefits include automatic rental car insurance) is tucked away on page 27 of the online manual.

Pick your rewards wisely. Many banks offer cash-back rewards or other incentives for using their services. If you rarely travel, it’s worth checking to make sure that you aren’t earning travel points instead of restaurant or fuel rewards. 

Don’t give up if you’re put on hold. Like the persistent widow in Christ’s parable, be prepared to advocate for yourself and your family. 

One of the greatest blessings parents can give their children is a healthy attitude toward money. In addition to helping them avoid their own financially related stressors and sins down the road, wise financial practices—made visible—can improve the quality of marital and family relationships now. 

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