Personal Finance

Need a little “fun money”? Save, sacrifice and scrape together

My son Jack is only three but he already knows how to persistently ask for things he wants. Some might even call it begging. Today it’s Toy Story characters. Tomorrow it will probably be Legos, then video games. What do your kids ask and ask and ask for?

Whether it’s the latest Xbox game (

), a trip to Worlds of Fun (, or anything extra they or the family want in the realm of entertainment, this is a great opportunity to instill and/or reinforce the value of saving, sacrificing and scraping together the funds to make it happen.

If it’s an individual want, I’d help your child plan and figure out how to get it. If it’s a family thing, the whole family should team up and pitch in together.

Everything starts with a plan. If the goal is a day at Oceans of Fun or Schlitterbahn (, then plan on $150 or so for a family of four (not counting food and beverages). How long will it take to save that much, and what can each family member – including the kids – contribute toward the goal?

You may be surprised at what they come up with! Maybe it’s saving several weeks’ worth of allowance, or buying summer clothes at a second-hand store instead of brand-new. As a family, you could limit dining out for a month, drink water at the restaurant instead of expensive beverages, perhaps something as simple as cheaper shampoo and conditioner. These little things add up!

And that’s the point. A little here, a little there is often all it takes. So what if saving alone won’t get you or them to the goal? Then it’s time to ask what can be done to earn a little extra.

We have neighbor kids who have made close to $50 on lemonade/cookie stands on a busy corner in our subdivision. I get fliers in my mailbox from kids offering to care for pets and plants while neighbors are on vacation. And, of course, there is always the garage sale option, which can always deliver more money than you had yesterday.

It’s hard to ask a toddler what he or she can do to save or make a few extra dollars. But you should do so anyway, to help them understand that the things they’re begging for cost money, and you’re not their personal ATM. This concept can be difficult even for teenagers to understand, especially if they haven’t heard it from you until this point.

It’s never too early or too late to start. Teaching them how to accomplish a financial goal, however large or small, individually or as a family, has rewards that will last long after they outgrow that toy or day at the amusement park.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click