Teach Your Kids These 3 Money Principles While Planning a Summer Vacation

Is your family in need of a break? With summer upon us, it’s the perfect time to plan a getaway. And while most families may view a vacation as just something fun to do, it’s also an excellent opportunity to teach your kids valuable money habits. Below are three financial principles you can instill in your children while planning a summer vacation.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

1. Money doesn’t grow (or regrow) on trees. 

When it comes to planning a trip with children, saving money is no easy task. However, with a bit of strategic planning, it’s possible to take a family trip without breaking the bank. It’s important that your children understand this truth, as well. To teach them about saving they must first understand the value of money. Does your child know where money comes from? This may sound silly, but it’s not uncommon for children to lack an understanding of how wealth is earned. You can help them to see that the money you have, comes from your hard work. One way to teach them this is by assigning them chores. Create a visual chart featuring a variety of chores and what each one of those responsibilities is worth. This will help your children to clearly see the value associated with each task. 

As your kids begin to grasp an understanding of how money is earned, they’ll also need to learn how to save it. Planning a vacation is the perfect time to teach them. Likely your children will have activities that they want to engage in or special items they want to buy on vacation. Explain to them that in order to do and buy what they want, they need to save in advance.

Consider teaching your kids how to save with the three money jar strategy:

  • One jar for saving money (trips/college/first car).
  • A second jar for spending money (shopping/toys/leisure).
  • The third jar for money to share (gifts/giving).

Each time they get paid, have them separate their funds into each jar. By doing so, you can instill in them not only the value of money, but also how to conserve it for different purposes. 

2. You can ball on a budget.

In addition to teaching the value of money and saving it, your kids should also learn the importance of budgeting. When you are planning a vacation, using a detailed budget is crucial to determine what kind of trip you can afford. How can you include your children in this process? If your kids are old enough to understand and do simple math, like adding and subtraction, use a white board to subtract each of your monthly expenses from your monthly income to illustrate how much money is leftover and can be contributed towards a trip. You can write your family’s monthly income in green and then have each child take a turn subtracting different amounts using a red marker. These subtractions may include required expenses, like a mortgage, groceries, and utilities, plus savings and other costs. 

Once you’ve subtracted down to the monthly balance, ask your children to think of some things the family could temporarily forego in order to save more money for the trip. Depending on their ages, their ideas might seem wacky, but it’s a perfect time to talk through how to budget while still being able to enjoy life to the fullest. If you have older kids, give them a rough idea of how much the trip will cost and have them divide the leftover money by the cost of the vacation to determine how long it will take to save enough money to afford the trip. With a goal of going on a fun getaway in mind, the entire family can aim to be more money conscientious. 

It’s important to factor in ALL costs for the vacation including food, special treats to eat, activities, and entertainment. Here are a few things we like to splurge on during vacation….

Pronto Pup in Grand Haven, Michigan
Canoeing on White River, Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery
Root Beer Barrel, Saugatuck, Michigan
Rent paddle boards….Just Add Water, Saugatuck, Michigan

3. If you don’t take good care of your credit, your credit won’t take good care of you.

Many of us can probably agree that the importance of a good credit score is something that we wish we had learned sooner. This is an area of money that most people don’t learn about until their mid to late teens. However, the earlier your children understand this aspect of personal finance, the better. You can make this lesson very simple by teaching them that a credit score is a grade that each person is given based on how well they do with paying their bills. Explain to them that a high credit score will allow them to acquire things like a car or a house using a loan, or borrowed money.

So how does this relate to summer vacation? Well, sometimes families use some sort of personal loan or credit card to pay for a trip in advance. If you and your spouse choose to use a personal loan to finance your family’s vacation, include your children in some of the process. Show them a loan application and explain it in layman’s terms. Then let them put their math skills to use by helping you calculate the monthly repayment amount. This will also provide the opportunity to teach about the wonders of interest.

Instead of a loan, you might use a travel credit card for your family trip. This financing option offers customers incentives to make using a credit card worth it. It’s likely that applying for and using a credit card is the first financial milestone your child will reach to help them build credit. One way you can introduce them to responsible credit card usage is by discussing your family’s choice to use a travel credit card and how it works.

As a parent, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all there is to instill in your children. However, by thinking outside of the box, you can find unique opportunities to prepare them for life. Planning a summer vacation and teaching good money habits is just one way to do so. Enjoy this summer and be sure to make the most of it by coupling fun with important life lessons!

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