Tips for teaching kids about money

Teaching kids about money can start at home at any age, says Coupons.com consumer writer and parent Jeanette Pavini. Here are some of her tips:

PRESCHOOL:

-- Let them buy special toys or treats using their own money. "It's OK, in this economy, to not give your kids an allowance. But if you are able to, even a small amount, it can establish good habits for the kids," Pavini said.

-- Kids should not be paid for everything they do. Some chores, like setting the table or making their bed, are just part of being a family. But extra tasks, like washing the family car or raking leaves, can earn extra dollars.

-- If an allowance isn't doable, let them help you save. If they pick less-pricey breakfast cereals, for instance, try giving them a small percentage of the grocery bill savings.

K-8:

-- Teach them about a savings account. "Make it fun: 'When you save this much, I'll match it 25 or 50 cents on the dollar.' It's like a pretend 401(k) match," Pavini said.

-- With older kids, some families use the savings to buy a few shares of stock in companies their kids like, such as Nintendo or Coca-Cola.

-- Enlist their help in saving strategies: less costly brands, coupon deals, etc. Let them take clothes or toys to a kids consignment shop, where they can get a credit to purchase something "new."

-- "Teach them they can give themselves a raise by cutting back," Pavini said. Look at grocery store receipts together to see how much you saved each shopping trip, for instance. Every time, put that amount into a savings account, which can be used to help fund a family event or vacation.

HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE:

-- Introduce credit cards and the perils of overspending. Show them your credit card statement: what's on it, how much interest you're paying. If teens want your help buying a laptop or car, charge them interest, so they understand the concept of paying by credit.

After college, Pavini said, her father loaned her $2,000 to buy a car and charged interest. "It ended up being around $300, which was a lot, but it taught me the value of a dollar."

-- With her son, a 21-year-old college student, Pavini is putting a set amount into his bank account monthly so he can adjust his spending to last the month.

She hopes it'll increase his "awareness of money." Pavini said her son already uses "Grocery IQ" to find grocery shopping deals, Mint.com to track his spending, and sites like Restaurant.com to find online deals for dinner dates with his girlfriend.

-- "Find the things that are flexible -- groceries, personal care, gas, entertainment -- and figure out a way to pay the least," Pavini said. "Those are the places where you can really make a difference in your budget."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

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