I’m always on the lookout for good ideas on teaching kids about money. One woman who has more than a few thoughts on the subject, since she’s got the cool-sounding job of “Mom Saver-in-Chief” for RedPlum, the big coupon company, is Lisa Reynolds.

Lisa, who lives with her husband and two young sons in Northville, Mich., is also host of the online show “Viva la Value” on Diva Toolbox Radio.

Lisa thinks of teaching kids to be good money stewards as coaching them on “financial fitness.” Here’s more from Lisa.

When you say it’s important to help our kids get “financially fit,” can you tell me what you mean?

 

Well, just as it is important to teach kids to be healthy and physically fit, we also need to begin teaching children how to be “financially fit” when they are young. The idea is to build savings habits in them now that will become permanent and come naturally to them as adults. Involving your children in some of your financial planning and spending efforts are some of the best ways to pass on important money lessons. It may not be immediately evident, but your children and teens are paying close attention and learning from your saving ways.

That moment when one of your kids asks if you have a coupon for something they want to buy, or when they decide to wait until something is on sale before making a purchase is the day you know you are teaching them a life lesson.

What are some easy ways for parents to teach financial fitness to kids? And how might you teach money-saving concepts differently to younger kids (5 and below), school-age kids and teens?

By being an example and choosing to live what I call the “value lifestyle”— looking for savings, clipping and clicking for coupons, comparing prices online, matching your store circular to your deals and asking for deals – you are teaching your children by doing.

In addition, I recommend teaching kids about “needs versus wants.” There are items that we need in order to live and then there are items that we would like to have but can live without. The line dividing what we need and what we want can easily become blurred for kids and teens. Your own examples can help them determine what they need and what they can give up.

Here are some of my other favorite tips that are very easy to incorporate into your daily lifestyle, based on the ages of your children:

Younger Kids

  • Use cash: Using cash to buy things—while your child is watching—not only demonstrates to your child financial responsibility, it also makes the purchase tangible to younger children. This is the most basic way to teach young children the value of money.

School-Age?Kids

  • Help them set savings goals: Encourage your children to work for an item that they really want, not just put it on their birthday or holiday gift list. Whether they earn their money by taking out the trash, walking the dog or watering plants for neighbors, these entry-level “jobs” will also be great learning experiences for your children.
  • Encourage your kids to have money “buckets:” Introduce to your children the “bucket” system, in which their money is allocated into three buckets – Saving, Spending, and Giving. This concept teaches them to organize their money for different purposes and introduces the idea of budgeting; provides opportunities for them to be decision-makers about their money; and creates a sense of giving back with their money. You can use a segmented piggybank for this (they have separate sections for different goals), 3 different jars, or whatever works for your family.

Teens

  • Encourage value hunting: Teens love to spend money, so it’s time to teach them to do it wisely. Teach them how to comparison shop online for items they want. Your teens are likely to be online a lot anyway, chatting or on Facebook! Teach your teens how to use comparison websites like PriceGrabber.com for larger purchases like a new laptop or sports equipment. Also teach your teens to check out product reviews and ratings for their products before they buy them. Show them that another way to score a good deal is to “Like” a brand’s page on Facebook. They can keep track of posted deals, or even text a company for special savings opportunities.
  • Guide them to choose wisely when following trends: Explain why spending $50 on a gone-next-month trend is not really very practical. An alternative is to seek out trends your teens think are cool by going through magazines together, then thinking creatively and figuring out how to get that trendy item (whether it’s a color, pattern or specific product) for under $20. In many cases, a few cute hair accessories or inexpensive jewelry for girls, socks and backpack patches for boys can be enough to make your child feel “hip.”

You’re obviously passionate about incorporating coupons into your family’s savings regimen, working for RedPlum and all. Do you suggest that families involve kids in their couponing efforts and if so, how?

I absolutely recommend involving your children in couponing efforts and making shopping a family experience. Depending on your children’s ages, have them clip coupons or search for deals online. Let them see you make a shopping list, which keeps you on task at the store. Have them help match items on your list with the coupons. It turns an everyday grocery trip into a lesson plan in a fun way. As a reward, consider letting them use the coupon savings to buy something for themselves or to add to their savings account.

Personally, my children sometimes get tired of my frugal ways.  They complain that it seems like we can only buy fun foods or go out to dinner if we have coupons!  I’m sure other parents have had the same experience. Do you think those comments are a sign that we’re too frugal and need to lighten up? Or are they a positive sign that our kids are learning about the value of saving money?

I think the most important thing is that you’re setting a good example for your children. Living the value lifestyle means that you are being a conscious spender and an active saver. Your kids may not fully understand or appreciate your efforts now, but when they are earning money and living on their own, believe me—they will remember the values you instilled and be grateful they learned how to live within their means!