It’s almost Memorial Day, and a lot of kids – including mine – can’t wait for summer vacation. The time away from home – be it on Lake Geneva or Ross Lake – can be a great time for school kids to get comfortable with budgeting outside their usual surroundings. We tried this last summer with our kids (8 and 10 years old), and it worked really well.
First, we told the kids we had a family budget for the vacation, and they each had their own personal budget inside of that. Because we planned an old-fashioned road trip to Wyoming (The Grand Tetons), our budget was relatively small. And so we told the kids they would each have $100 to spend on whatever they wanted. Their money came from their own savings accounts, into which they’ve been putting half their gift money from special occasions.
In the past, sticking to a vacation budget had been a pain. No matter where we ended up, it seemed the kids would ask for a must-have souvenir, or a drink, or a snack or all of the above. We were finding ourselves saying no to them at every turn, and this was extinguishing the carefree feeling of being on vacation – for them and for us.
So, when we headed out to the Tetons last summer, the kids each received $100 in spending money and that was that. The rules were simple – no asking us!
It was great to see how much the kids enjoyed being in charge of their own money. It forced them to think ahead and ask things like: “If I buy this, how much will I have left?” We even got the one-upmanship question from my daughter: “If I buy this, will I have more money left than my brother”? Most everything they bought they considered carefully. By the time we got back home, the kids had sensible but fun souvenirs, and they both had money left over, money that went right back into their savings accounts.
This summer, we’re doing the same thing. But we’re thinking of giving the kids a small notebook to keep track of their spending, sort of like the old savings booklets we had when we were kids.