Kids, It’s Not Really All About the Money

Our six-year-old, Little I, has become quite the budding entrepreneur with great ideas on how he can earn his own money. But lately, I see his motivation with earning money linked to a shiny new toy.

I earn money to buy toys… The more money I earn, the more toys I can buy!

Don’t get me wrong. Buying stuff is exciting. But isn’t it this exact mindset that gets so many of us into trouble with spending and debt?

I stumbled across a recent survey that found 40% of Americans earning $100,000-$149,000 a year say they have less than $1,000 in savings. And, 18% say they have nothing saved! But, I bet you they have a lot of “toys.”

It’s not just my six-year-old who has the “earn it to spend it” mindset. It’s the majority of America.

Which gets me thinking… Yes, it is important to teach kids about money but it is just as important (if not more important) to teach kids that life is not really all about the money.

So, what is it all about?

I would love for my kids to grow up knowing that money is an important tool.

Whether you like it or not, you do need money. You need to understand how to make money. You need to understand basic strategies to make smart decisions. You need to pay yourself first so you don’t have to work 50 (or even 20) years of your adult life.

After that, I would love for my kids to know that life is about the places we explore, the relationships we have, the memories we make.

It’s about learning, growing, creating, and giving.

It’s about being financially secure so you can do the things in life you are passionate about; whatever that may be.

How do you teach this?

We are still learning, but here are some ways we are teaching our kids that life is more about the memories we make than the stuff we buy.

Spend time outdoors. Rain or shine, we spend a lot of time outdoors. The outdoors are (mostly) free and exploring nature – whether at a park or a mountain – connects us and grounds us in amazing ways.

Avoid shopping for fun.  While there are valuable money lessons to grocery shopping with mom, we try not to make shopping the entertainment (ex: it’s a rainy day, let’s go to the mall!). We also try not to reward with things or dining out (this one is hard because they respond so well to a healthy bribe!).

Cancel cable. A few years ago we canceled cable to cut the cost, but now I realize another big bonus – our kids are not flooded by commercials.

Toss the catalogs and fliers. We were vacationing with my parents this summer when mom (very innocently) asked my six-year-old if he wanted to browse the Target flier with her. Twenty minutes later he had a list of ten items “he just needed!” #ThanksMom

Talk about commercials and ads. Even though we limit the commercials and ads at home, they are still everywhere you turn. To help our kids be savvy consumers, education is important. For example, we talk with our six-year-old about what the ad is trying to get us to do (ex: buy that car) or why the fancy brand costs more than the generic brand (because they pay for advertising).

Practice gratitude. Whether it is simply saying thanks each day or helping others, practicing gratitude is a fantastic way to be thankful for what we already have.

Invest in their passions. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are doing our best to allow our sons to explore their passions. Our older son is not crazy about team sports, but loves engineering, reading, science, solo sports, and business. Do we make him do soccer because we think it will be great for him? No. It’s up to him. If he is interested in something, we allow him to go in deep and support him. We hope we are allowing him a chance to find his passion.


Because we talk (and blog) so regularly about money, it’s easy to think that it’s all about the money. But one big lesson our family is learning is that life is so much more than the things we collect. Money is a tool to secure freedom for the memories we want to create. It’s a lesson I wish I would have learned sooner and a lesson I hope to pass along to our children while they are still young.

How are you teaching your kids about money and life? Leave a comment or questions below.

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6 thoughts on “Kids, It’s Not Really All About the Money

  1. Linda says:

    I think so much about instilling good values in my children when it comes to money, yet I still find myself having the urge to buy them things as rewards far too frequently. I have to fight against that all the time!


    • Christina (Mrs. Saver) says:

      Love the idea of a year of no! My oldest is a saver like his Dad. I’m definitely the (reformed) spender in the family. Curious to see how my youngest is as he gets older.


  2. Emily Jividen says:

    One thing we’ve done to help curb the short-term money wants is to talk about the long term money needs. Some of our daughter’s allowance goes to her savings account which is “to help pay for college.” (ok, we have a 529, but we want her investing in her future too and that helps explain why she can’t spend the money on toys.) Some goes to a “giveaway jar” and she gets to choose where to donate it. And, if she gets a bonus, she gets a little bit that she must choose to either save or give away in addition to the spending. So far, she picks charity every time because “I can help people’s hearts.” (She wants to give to the American Heart Association this year.)


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