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5 Money Skills Every Tween & Teen MUST Know

This post has been sponsored by Greenlight. All opinions are my own.

Money lessons that all kids & teens should know before they leave home!

Money skills are one of those responsibilities that fall to us parents as we raise kids. 

Sure, kids will learn how to identify different types of money and its face value in school — BUT when it comes to managing money, saving money and topics like investing — those are skills that are only learned at home.

So today, we’re diving into 5 KEY lessons that every tween and teen needs to learn in order to be financially responsible adults.



5 Important Money Lessons to Teach Kids & Teens

My first introduction to teaching kids about money came when my son was 9 years old and my daughter was around 3 years old. 

My son learned that little kids care more about the number of items they have than the worth of the items.  So, he approached his younger sister with 3 nickels one day and said —

“I’ll trade you these 3 pieces of money for your 1 piece of money” — my daughter had a quarter!

And, of course, my youngest said yes 🙂 because 3 has to be better than 1, right?!

So I sat them both down for a money discussion — no cheating your sister out of her life savings! And be sure to come and ask Mom or Dad before you ‘trade’ money with anyone.

We’ve had a lot of money discussions at our house — some have been very proactive (like how to save up for something you really want) and some have been reactive (for example, troubleshooting how to ask a friend to pay you back after you loaned him some money) but ALL have helped our kids to build the money skills they need!

Real life discussions & practice are the BEST way to help kids learn money lessons and skills.

Here are five great ways to kick-start the conversation with your tweens & teens this week:


1. Help Kids Learn the REAL Value of Money

This starts when they’re young — what’s a penny worth? A quarter?

And continues as they grow up — is that coffee at Starbucks really worth $5 of your after-school earnings? Equate that it probably takes an hour of work to earn enough for a cup of coffee (after the taxes come out).

Helping kids to understand that money not only has a specific monetary value but also a ‘quality of life’ value — what are you willing to give up if you buy this item? 

Or how much are you willing to work to earn the money needed.

This really pays off when they get older and are making big money decisions — like buying a car!   They’ll begin to ask themselves “Do I really want that truck that only gets 15 miles to the gallon — or should I buy a smaller car with some of the bells & whistles but a lower upkeep cost while I own it?”


2. Explain how to ‘Live Within Your Means’

This is a KEY lesson that many kids, teens and adults need to understand so start them young.

Teach your kids how to buy only what they can afford!

There’s an awesome *new* way to give your tween or teen some real-life practice when it comes to making purchases without overspending too –the Greenlight® card!

Greenlight® is a debit card for kids that parents manage from their phones, using some amazing and flexible parental controls!  You can choose the kinds of stores where your child can spend or let them spend anywhere.

You and your child receive real-time notifications telling you where and when your child spends and reporting lets you and your child review spending choices!  And it can be used internationally in over 120+ countries.

The Greenlight® card comes with your child’s name (along with a PIN) built in and it can be instantly shut off–from either your phone or your child’s–if it’s ever lost.

This is a great option to help tweens & teens get acclimated with using a debit card in a safe way, especially if they don’t have a checking account yet.

Our readers can try Greenlight free for 30 days and get a $20 bonus added to your account too!


3. Use a Money Idiom to Start a Conversation

I SO remember my grandparents sharing these with us all the time! 

Sayings like “a penny saved is a penny earned” or “money doesn’t grow on trees” were frequently brought up during a dinner conversation.

Another great idiom to share: Out of Sight, Out of Mind —

Help your kids to understand all of their spending money should be kept in one location.  Don’t put some in a wallet, some in your backpack and some on your nightstand. 

And whatever you do, don’t keep money in your back pocket (unless you want it to go through the wash 😉


4. Teach Your Child How to Buy Something

I know what you’re thinking — they grab the item off the shelf, take it to the front of the store and pay for it.

Not as easy as we think it is, really — kids need to understand that many of the purchases they make include sales tax in addition to the price of the item.

And if there’s a sale, they should understand how to calculate the percent off BEFORE they get to the register (those scanners have been wrong more than once in my lifetime 😉

Next question – will you pay cash or use your debit card? 

For kids who always seem to misplace cash, the Greenlight® debit card is a great option since it can be turned off if it’s lost.

What if the item rings up the wrong price?

I don’t know about you, but my kids would rather use the self check lane than talk to a person 🙂 but what if the item rings up the wrong price?  Tweens & teens need help troubleshooting what to do next or how to get a price correction if they paid the wrong amount.

And help your kids to understand they shouldn’t be looking at their phone during check-out or they may not notice that the item rang up at the wrong price.


5. Understand the Difference between Credit & Debit

This is a frequently overlooked discussion — teens go off to college, apply for a credit card and then start to use it, only to be surprised when there’s a monthly fee for a missed payment of interest added for an accumulating balance!

The first discussion should be “do you REALLY need a credit card?” or will a debit card meet your needs. 

For the majority of teens, having a debit card allows them to avoid the issue of borrowing money and become better at saving for purchases.

It’s also a great way to teach them how to budget, track their spending habits and categorize their purchases (for example, what % of their purchases are food vs. entertainment).


BONUS:  Make Saving Money a Habit

I always hope that kids learn how to save money while they are younger (before they turn 10 would be ideal!) but I know that life doesn’t always work out as we plan, right?

So if you haven’t had a discussion about the importance of saving money, quick!  Do it now!

My son really wanted a new gaming system when he was younger and he asked to borrow the money — we suggested that he save up first and look for the best deal.

After 9 months, he had saved what he needed and got an awesome price on a gaming system that he still uses after 7 years, so a great purchase for him.

First, by saving up for an item, kids give themselves time to be sure it’s something they really want to purchase (back to Lesson #1).

And second, saving for a big purchases helps kids to get in the habit of saving money (not just spending what they make). 

There are a lot of practical ways to start in this area — saving 10% of your income from a part-time job, saving up to buy gifts for family members and contributing to college accounts are some ways to help tweens & teens to gain some practice with this skill.


More Life Skill Activities:

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