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Spending vs. Saving and Investing

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To help children decide how much should go into spending vs. saving, you can help them figure out how much they’ll need for regular weekly expenses, such as lunch money or whatever else you agree on. You might suggest keeping careful track of a week’s worth of spending and use that amount as a starting point. Part of the conversation should focus on the fact that budgeting always involves making adjustments. The goal isn’t to get it right the first time, but to come up with a workable allocation of money.

Next, talk about money for short-term savings goals. Children’s goals vary substantially, based on their age and concept of time, but might include toys, sports equipment, electronic devices, special clothes, or other big-ticket items. You may want to suggest saving for one item at a time and help them figure out how much they’ll need to save each week to reach their goal in a realistic amount of time. But you’ll probably want to let them discover for themselves that not all goals are worth the time and effort it takes to reach them.

Finally, be sure to encourage them to set aside a regular percentage for a long-term goal, however vaguely defined. For some children, saving for college means a lot. For others, the goal may be more tangible, like a car. Here, too, 10% of the total might be a reasonable percentage to save. As an incentive to put money into long-term savings, you might consider making a matching contribution by adding 50 cents or a dollar for every dollar your child puts in.