Take Advantage of School Breaks to Talk Money With Your Kids

By Anne Landers, Vice President, Strategic Impact- Junior Achievement of Arizona

Whether it’s Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer, time off from school can bring loads of excitement for kids, and some additional anxiety among parents searching for ways to fill the time.

While rest, relaxation, and recovery are essential for families during this “downtime,” learning doesn’t have to come to a total halt. Something like financial literacy for example, or teaching kids about managing money, fosters essential life skills and provides a host of opportunities for kids to see real-world applications in action.

The need for financial literacy is in the data. A recent report from the New York Federal Reserve showed consumer debt across all categories hit a record at the end of 2022, totaling $16.9 trillion. That is up about $1.3 trillion from the year before. Research shows that learning about finances, budgeting, and entrepreneurship at an early age can make a huge difference in a child’s future success.

Nonprofit Junior Achievement of Arizona sees the transformation and long-term impact of financial literacy education firsthand as it prepares 110,000 Arizona students every year to succeed in work and life. More than 80,000 of those students are from primarily low-income or rural areas.

Here are a handful of easy ways you can engage in money talks with your kids:

Help them earn some income

Chores that are tied to earning money are a great way to not only help kids learn about managing their finances but also see their role in a family unit. It gives them a glimpse at what is required of community members in order for a community to run well. If your child is already doing chores around the house, maybe they can look outside the home for some additional money-making opportunities. Can they mow the neighbor’s lawn? Help with a home project? Or maybe take a more entrepreneurial approach and run a lemonade stand? With more time at home, kids have more options to help generate some income.

Track expenses

This one will vary depending on a child’s age, but even if your child doesn’t really have any expenses of their own just yet, bring them in on tracking the family’s daily expenses. Keep a notebook or writing pad with you throughout the day and write down your purchases. That morning Starbucks? Put it on the page. A quick trip to the grocery store or takeout? Write it down. Filling up the car with gas? Make a note. At the end of the day review your list together and talk about it. This is also a great way to discuss wants versus needs.

Build a balanced budget

Vacation planning is a great time to start teaching kids about budgeting, choices, etc. Where will you go? What will you do? What will you spend? First, set aside the funds for basic needs like a place to stay, food, gas, etc. Then, discuss where the extra funds may go, like fun activities or souvenirs. If you are staying put for the break, consider reviewing your household budget with your child, or helping them set up their own.

Make important buying decisions together

Just like building a balanced budget is key to developing good money management skills, seeing how you use that budget when making spending decisions takes that lesson to the next level. Are you considering a big purchase or saving for a vacation? Bring your child in on those conversations so they can better connect the dots.

Screen time with a purpose

It’s likely inevitable your child will spend at least some of their time off school near a screen. Put that device to work! Shows like Biz Kid$ on PBS, Shark Tank, or even home improvement shows can offer great family viewing opportunities, and a space to talk about entrepreneurship, budgeting, investing, and overall money management.

For more information about Junior Achievement, as well as free at-home resources, visit https://www.jaaz.org/.

About the Author:

As VP, Strategic Impact, Anne Landers is acutely focused on how students, educators, individuals, corporations and other entities experience and engage with JA. She has been part of the JA team for 7 years. Honored as a 40 Under 40 in 2018, Anne holds a degree in Journalism from ASU. She is also a proud alumna of Valley Leadership, Scottsdale Leadership, and the Allstate Executive Leadership program at Kellogg|Northerwestern.