Are we there yet?
Teaching kids about money by going on vacation.
August 27, 2018 6 min read
Vacations are a wonderful way to make memories with your family, but they can also be a great way to make a lasting impression on your kids when it comes to money. According to a recent survey, young adults who learned about money from their parents are more likely to save money, have a budget and maintain emergency and retirement accounts.1
Teaching your kids about money through travel can be a great example to help your kids understand that financial planning, budgets and saving money are all tools to help you do fun things in life—like going to Disneyland.
When thinking about your upcoming vacation, consider how to involve your children in the discussions about how to pay for travel. Having open conversations with and in front of your kids about money can greatly influence your child’s understanding about what it means to save.
Talking about money around your kids will also help normalize the topic and shape how they view it in the future. If it feels normal and comfortable to talk about money, then planning their own budget as an adult will hopefully feel less daunting and scary someday.
Kids may not understand everything you’re talking about, but that’s okay. Starting the conversation at a younger age can make things easier as they grow and need to make bigger decisions about money. Most kids are ready to talk about money in about the second or third grade. Based on general math skills, this is the age when kids are able to understand the numbers and the general financial principles.2
Make it a family game night
It can also help to let your kids practice with fake money. Pull out your game of Monopoly and hand out the cash. Then give them vacation scenarios so they can practice how much certain vacation experiences cost. It can be a great way to see how easy it is to spend all your money when you’re not being careful.3 If your kids want to stay at a hotel with a pool, count out how much money it will cost and how much, if any, will be left over for souvenirs or special treats like ice cream. These real-world scenarios may help them see that money is a finite resource.
Participate in planning
But don’t let budget talks bore your little ones. Let them take part in the fun conversations too. Where should we go? What should we do and see? Including them in the whole conversation will help them learn to listen to other opinions, speak up for what they want, learn how to save money on travel and see the importance of working together.
Offer choices of destinations and activities. Then explain the cost of each option and how those prices can change the number of activities you’ll be able to afford. This will help them communicate what they want to do and understand how that relates back to the budget.
If your children are set on something specific, let them speak up for that choice. If they’re dreaming of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, have them explain why it would be a great trip and talk to them about how much it will cost. It’s a good way for them to learn about negotiation and how you plan to save money on travel. And, hey, they may change your mind by showing a different point of view.
Work hard to play hard
Giving your children special vacation allowances enables them to set aside money to pay for the things they want to do or buy while away. It also teaches them about planning, saving and waiting to buy what they really want. Help them come up with chores to do around the house or even in the neighborhood to earn extra money to spend on vacation:
- Feeding pets
- Starting a neighborhood dog-walking business
- Watering plants during the summer
- Folding laundry and putting it away
- Washing the car
- Save up birthday or holiday money
Once their money starts to add up, have them deposit it into their very own savings account. Imagine how rewarding it will feel for them to have their own spending money on a vacation they helped plan.
Celebrate the effort
Learning how to save money for something big like a vacation can be daunting as an adult. Now think about it from a kid’s point of view.
In order to help them not feel overwhelmed, stay positive and cheer on all the financial activities they participate in. You could celebrate when they join in the vacation conversation and make it a big deal every time your child puts money in their savings account or piggy bank. And every once in a while, tell them that you’ll match their vacation cash. Let’s say your 7-year-old saves up $10. Surprise them by adding an extra $10. Additionally, if you add a little extra money every month, this could be a great way to teach them how interest works.
Giving your kids choices and teaching them how you save money on travel in an interactive way will stay with them long after the vacation’s over. As they get older, they'll remember riding the rollercoaster and swimming in the ocean, but they'll also benefit from the lessons learned along the way.