Among the many hurdles within the bounds of motherhood, there's this little annoying thing called money. If you have it, life's a hell of a lot easier to navigate — specifically as a parent — but if you don't, it's just plain hard. Thus, our generation is trying instill lessons we might've failed to learn (or were never taught) throughout our own childhoods. With all the ways millennial moms are raising their kids to be more financially aware, I can't help but wish these realizations were more prominent before I ventured out into the world on my own.
When I was younger, after my mom and dad divorced, I didn't know the ins and outs of what it took to take care of myself and my younger brother. My only basis for getting by was whether or not we ate well on any particular week. We never had many "things," and though my mom juggled a full-time job and motherhood, we still found ourselves in need of things like food stamps and free school lunches, or help from family when money was just a little too tight (impossibly tight for a family of three). Still, somehow, we always got by. I say "somehow" because, even still, I couldn't tell you how mom got everything paid. We just didn't talk about things like that.
The mystery of money and finances carried over through my adulthood as I left home for the first time. I didn't know how to balance a checkbook, what it meant to apply for credit, or how to budget or save. Obviously, the moment I was on my own, I tanked my credit score, wound up nearly homeless, and had less than $0 to my name. I made many money mistakes because I knew nothing about how to handle it.
Honestly, it's taken a long time and many years to begin to understand the impact it has on everything, and how important it is to teach my own children all I wasn't taught and long before they ever need to know any of it. With that, here are some of the ways us millennial moms are hoping to give our kids the tools they need to be more financially aware so our (read: my) mistakes aren't repeated.
We Talk About Money More Often
I don't sit my kids down with a Powerpoint presentation or anything, but I'm pretty open about our struggles when we have them and how best to dig our way out of them. I don't get into specifics, because my kids are still pretty young, but with general figures so they understand how far a dollar will stretch. I think millennial moms get that times have changed and in order to best prepare our kids to be financially free, we have to have these conversations frequently.
We Share Our Spending Experiences
Things like cutting coupons, scouring for the best deals, clearance shopping, and budgeting are common topics here. I don't want money to be the same mystery it was for me growing up so I try to use real world examples that apply to my kids. If my 5 year old wants a toy that costs $10, we talk about how long it will take him to save up that money (based on work per chore or hour), how we can reduce the price with coupons, and anything else that might apply so he physically sees it's so much more than using my plastic card to pay for it.
We Teach Saving Vs. Spending
I know how tempting it is to want to blow through an entire paycheck (been there) but, now that I have children and responsibilities, I know better. The thing is, my kids don't yet. The moment they have any cash, they want to buy whatever they can get their hands on because it's exciting. I'm trying to teach how to spend a little, but save as well, to my 10 year old daughter right now in particular, because she loves the thrill of buying and I fear she'll leave home only to make the same mistakes I did.
We try to enforce a rule where she's allowed to buy whatever she wants, as long as she's saved part of it. In the end, however, if she spends all her money and is left with nothing, that's a lesson in and of itself as well.
We Educate About Credit
I know a credit score is a foreign concept to children. Hell, it still can be to some adults. The risk factors and payment history is just too much. While I don't typically get so thorough, I do want my kids to know how to take care of their credit and how it will affect their lives if mishandled, using my past as an example. I talk to them about the differences between credit and debit, interest rates and how long it really takes to pay something off when charged, and how late payments can derail any on-time efforts. There's little we millennial moms sugarcoat when it comes to ensuring the best possible start for our children.
We Talk About Budgeting
I'm the first to admit, I'm not great at budgeting. I used to really try to be, but once we got our finances back on track I caved. I get things paid, on time, and we're saving for our future. However, our weakness has always been budgeting for groceries. No matter what tactic I've tried (meal planning, different services, using coupons, etc), it's not something I've got handled.
However, I also don't shy away from getting my kids in on it. They help me plan meals, tag along to the store, and see how much it takes to feed a family of four for a week.
We Prepare Them For Financial Emergencies
Because I'm still cleaning up past credit mistakes, we're also new to saving. It's always been difficult to save when my work had been mostly atypical (through freelance) and my husband's checks spread thin. Only recently have we started putting a little money away each paycheck to save for the time the car breaks down (this actually just happened) or an unexpected bill for something comes through.
We're trying to show our kids we're imperfect, but we're trying, and in order for them to avoid some of the same pitfalls they should start saving early on.
We Use Allowance As A Teaching Tool
Chores are an important part of living in our house, but my kids earn money when they do them. If they don't complete a task, no money. There have been many times when my daughter wanted payment for services not rendered (but she promised to do them after). Nope! Sorry but that's not how the real world works.
I don't, in any way, want my children to fear money the way I did. I want them to have a healthy relationship with it and how to cultivate it. Coming from the position I did, where money was so misunderstood, it's definitely not easy to show my kids how to utilize it. Still, if they leave home with these lessons ingrained so they can make smarter choices than I did, it'll all be worth it.