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Give the Gift of Educating Your Children About Money This Holiday Season

Sara Gelsheimer  |  December 7, 2021

Think outside the box this holiday season by giving your children the long-lasting gift of financial education.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time generally characterized by uncertainty, loss, and hardship, it has also been a time of reflection, growth, and opportunity. It has offered many of us the chance to consider what’s really important in our lives. And for most, material possessions have moved from near the top of the list to the bottom. That’s especially true during the holidays.

If your house has children and is anything like mine (read: bursting at the seams with toys that get played with once in a blue moon and then forgotten), then you’re probably ready to think beyond traditional gifts this year. Instead, you might want to offer your kids a gift that reflects some of the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic, and one that leaves a lasting impression — something other than the usual toys and clothes.

If you’re wanting to think outside the box, educating your children about money is a good place to start. Building good money habits in your kids is one of the best gifts you can give them. Although it might not sound as exciting to them as getting the newest gadget, its value will long outlast that of a toy.

That’s because our money scripts — the ideas we have about money that have been ingrained in us from a young age — can negatively or positively impact our relationship with finances as adults. The healthier financial habits and ideas we can instill in our children, the better they’ll be able to handle their own money one day, and the more comfortable they’ll be talking to their children about it. It’s really a gift that keeps on giving.

Financial Gift Ideas You Can Give Your Kids

You don’t have to wait until your kids are in their teens to begin talking to them about good money habits or giving them financial gifts. When my son was three, we would play “store owner” with his kitchen set and some play money I’d given him. One of us was the store owner and the other one was the shopper. The shopper would collect the food they wanted to buy, bring it to the store owner, and exchange the money for food. If the shopper didn’t have enough money to cover all the food, they would either put it back or do a chore (such as vacuum the store) to earn more money for their items. Playing games like this one is a great way to talk to children about spending money.

You can also build good money habits when your child receives a gift card as a present. One of my son’s favorite things to do is go “Targeting.” So after he received a $30 Target gift card last Christmas, we walked around the store talking about what he could do with that money and compared the cost of smaller toys to larger ones. We also encouraged him to spend a little on a donation to the local homeless shelter. Initially, he wasn’t thrilled about sharing his money, but once he had a better understanding of how donations worked, he loved being able to give to others in need.

Gifts such as these are more experiential in nature, which aside from educating your children about money, will spark greater happiness and satisfaction than material-only purchases. Consider these other financial gift ideas for the kiddos in your life to help them build good money habits:

  • Games about finances: Monopoly is a fun game everyone in the family can enjoy that teaches children about spending and counting money. It also introduces more abstract economic concepts such as purchasing property and paying taxes. The Money Bags game is another option for teaching the basics of counting bills and coins and distinguishing between the different kinds of money.
  • Books about money: “The Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense” has always been a fan favorite. My children also love the “Junior’s Adventures” series, which teaches young kids about giving, spending, and saving in engaging ways.
  • Shares of a company’s stock: Buying some stock in one of your children’s favorite companies, like Lego, Nike, or Scholastic, can be a good way to introduce the basics of investing. (Although I don’t tend to encourage adults to invest solely in individual stocks, this financial gift idea lets kids safely dip their toes in the stock market.)
  • Donations in their name: Get an idea of what your kids would be excited about, like the zoo or the aquarium, or make a list of potential charities together. Then, make a donation to these charities in their own name. This gift idea doubles as an experiential one, too; you can take them to visit the place you donated to so they can better understand where their money went.
  • 529 plan contributions: Putting money toward an investment account to pay for elementary, middle, high school, and college won’t garner a huge amount of excitement from your kids, but their future selves will definitely be thanking you — especially if they’ll be on the hook for any higher education costs.
  • Roth IRA contributions: If your kid is already working an after-school or weekend job, then you can encourage them to contribute to a retirement account for their future by matching their funds (in addition to the funds you might contribute as a gift).

It’s never too early to start educating your children about money and creating positive money scripts. Giving financial gifts is just one way to make conversations about money the norm and help your kids feel more confident and comfortable discussing money as they grow up. This gift-giving season, give your kids something outside the box that won’t be collecting dust a few weeks down the road. Instead, give them experiences and tools that last a lifetime.


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