Fun Money Lessons over Summer Vacation

Contributed by: Robert Ingram Robert Ingram


Now that summer is officially here and the kids are out of school, a lot of our attention may be on cookouts, camping, days at the beach, or fun on the water.  Yet, summer vacation can also provide great opportunities for teaching children and grandchildren lessons about money and good financial habits that can grow with them.  

Here are some ideas to get the kids learning about money while enjoying the summer fun:

Make It a Game

Playing games is certainly a fun way for kids (and many adults) to entertain themselves during the summer months. It can also help develop counting and math skills and introduces many money management concepts around earning, spending and saving.  There are so many kinds of games in all different formats.

  • Technology is a big part of our daily lives. Children are growing up immersed in the world of smartphones, tablets and computers.  The good news is that kids allotted time on those can be spent doing online games focused on building money skills.  For example, the website offers games for different age groups:
    • Peter Pig’s Money Counter for younger elementary school children
    • Sports-themed Financial Football and Financial Soccer for ages 11 and above
  • In the wide universe of smartphone apps, there are thousands of games available.  By searching your app store under educational categories, financial, or money games, you can find some hidden gems.  A couple of examples recognized by Parents Choice Awards and financial literacy organizations include:
    • Marble Math and Savings Spree for elementary school age children
    • Farm Blitz for pre-teens to young adults
  • Although these might seem “low tech,” you can’t forget about the old-fashioned family board games.  These include classics like Monopoly, Monopoly Jr, Pay Day, and the Game of Life, or other unique games like Allowance or Acquire. Board games introduce kids of all ages to different financial choices from managing income and spending to making investment decisions.  And who doesn’t love a good family game night once in a while?!

Getting the Kids Involved in Decision-Making

  • The piggy bank has always been a great way to introduce younger children to the lesson of saving and seeing how small regular contributions can really add up.   Finding one that lets kids see what’s inside, helps them understand their progress along the way and keeps them interested.  To delve even further, some piggy banks have different slots where kids are able to save their pennies for different purposes.  The Money Savvy Pig, for example, has four sections that allow kids to set aside amounts for saving, spending, donating, and investing.
  • Family vacation or outings this summer?  Get the kids involved in the planning.  What activities might you do? What treats or souvenirs could they want?  Set some budget guidelines for these categories and have them help you prioritize and decide how you’ll spend the money.  Do the kids want to expand the budget?  This can be an opportunity for them to set goals of saving some of their allowance, summer job income, or even spare change to use toward those extra budget items.
  • Back-to-school shopping can be another great learning opportunity, especially for pre-teens and the teenagers.  Rather than scrambling in late August only to see the stack of credit card bills in September, help the kids put together a shopping plan they can own.  Work with them on setting up a reasonable budget and making their lists.  They can start prioritizing their “needs” vs. “wants” and then figuring out how they can best use their budget.  This also gives kids the chance to learn to compare brands, research the best deals, and even find special discounts.

Ideas for the Summer Reading List

For kids that plan to spend some time on their summer break kicking back with a good book, they can add a few titles to their reading list.  There are a ton of great books out there on the subject of money and personal finance. 

A few come to mind that are relatively easy reads and have valuable insights for students and adults alike: 

  • “Learn to Earn” by famed mutual fund manager Peter Lynch is aimed particularly at young adults, providing concepts in the basics of investing, the stock market, and business in general.  One of Peter Lynch’s investing principles over the years has been “buy what you know,” meaning that many investment ideas can begin with products, services, and brands you know and use.  Kids may be able to apply this to things in their own everyday life today such as:
    • What is the latest game they enjoy or what app are they and all of their friends using?
    •  They can begin to learn about the companies behind them.
  • Two other titles, “The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton and “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko, have also been around for over 20 years now and are still just as relevant today.  Both of these books have several lessons about developing simple habits in spending, saving, managing debt and investing.  Common themes in each book are:
    • Achieving financial confidence and independence is a process done over time.
    • The concept of wealthy may not fit the image we often have in our head.

Robert Ingram is a Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

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