Summertime – let the education begin!

Chances are that when many parents were counting the omer to Shavuot, the kids were counting down towards a different holiday too!  That endless summer vacation representing freedom, fun and independence, a welcome break from school and structure.

That all sounds fine in theory.  In practice however, the summer vacation can turn into an endless challenge for parents who are faced with children (and/or possibly grandchildren) who will happily while away the weeks and your finances in an attempt to fill their time with that long awaited freedom and fun.

If you haven’t already done so, you can turn this summer into a real lesson of independence for your children, and simultaneously give them a crash course in financial education.

The following is just one attainable strategy. (Go online and you might find more ideas that work better for you and your kids.) It might need to be adjusted based on your kids’ ages and stages in life, but the basic premise is the same.   As parents we know that for freedom to be effective it requires boundaries.  The following are suggested guidelines for helping your children to establish healthy financial habits.

Invite your kids to a meeting with you to plan their summer.  Make it official, not just comments thrown out while cooking, driving or doing a bunch of other things at the same time. Let them see that you are taking this seriously and need their input for the plan to work. It’s not a case of you dictating how you want them to spend their time and your money. Hear their ideas for summer, and how they plan to fill their time.  Listen to the various entertainment options they would like to do, and work out approximately how much that will cost.  And if their most constructive input is that highly communicative teenage grunt and mumbled ‘dunno’ – throw out options based on what they have done in the past.  Try to prevent them from being passive participants.  Make sure you go into that meeting with a clear idea of the financial values and skills you want to impart to your children.

Then, depending on their ages, work out where the funding will come from.

Do your children usually get an allowance – in which case should it automatically be increased for the summer?

Should your children be earning money – whether it is for household chores, babysitting, or if they are over fourteen working (or even ‘volunteering’ for some limited pay) for an organization or company?

What exactly should they be paying for, and what are you prepared to fund?

When you have discussed the various options available to them ie their potential income and their proposed expenses, it’s time to work out the budget together.  Their summer budget will be a scaled down or limited version of the financial budget that hopefully guides your monthly expenses.

And the same way that your budget has to be something positive, that you can live with and keep to – their budget has to give them room to enjoy themselves.  Because their independence comes when they are no longer dependent on your wallet for whatever they want to do each day.

If this will be their first exposure to financial planning and budgeting, obviously they will need guidance and possibly more leeway.

During the summer you will need to have follow-up meetings with your kids to find out how the budget is going.  And as with all budgets it will have to be tweaked and adjusted.

Living on a budget is a learning curve.  Less important is how successfully your kids manage financially over the summer.  Much more important are the lessons for life that you are giving them, that will help them become financially responsible adults.  Although a fun and entertaining summer for all will be a very welcome bonus!