When it comes to teaching kids the value of money and the importance of saving, studies find it’s better to start those conversations early. Kids as young as three can learn basic saving and spending habits, so take this time as an opportunity to build a smart financial foundation. While there are many ways to teach kids to spend smarter and save better, here are 4 ways to make it a little more fun:

Make Your Own “Spend, Save, Donate, and Invest” Jars.

These jars are a spin on the classic piggy bank, but they give kids more options for their money than just saving. Plus, using clear jars allows them to see their money increase over time. It’s easy – just get 4 mason jars, label each jar or let your child decorate it. You can use pictures to depict what each jar means, or do something fun with ribbon and glitter. Whatever you choose, take this time to explain what the money in each jar means and how it should be used.

For example:

Spend – use this money for small trips to the toy store or a special treat.

Save – use this money for more expensive items or to deposit in a savings account.

Donate – use this money for someone in need like a classmate, or for a cause important to the child such as helping animals.

Invest – use this to show how money can grow. For each dollar the child has invested at the end of each month, you can add an additional amount (i.e. a nickel or dime to represent interest growth).

Play Money Games.

Some of the most popular board games can also be a great tool to teach kids about money. Monopoly demonstrates that money needs to be saved for things you want or need (like landing on the dreaded Electric Company space). It also can show how an investment, although sometimes pricey upfront, can pay off in the future. Other fun games to try are Payday or The Game of LIFE, which give the experience of “real” money coming in and going out.

Use Real-Life Experiences. 

For kids to truly learn how to use money, they need one thing: MONEY! Whether they get paid for chores, receive an allowance, or have birthday money, let them make the decision on what to do with it. Try giving them a paycheck for their chores or allowance every two weeks, just a like a real payday. Then, take them to the bank to open an account and see the process of depositing or withdrawing funds. Let them pay for items at the store with their own money. Help them set a budget or learn to count their money. Use everyday tasks like grocery shopping to talk about saving with coupons, or paying bills to show how much utilities cost. Plus, it’s nice to have an envelope-licker and someone to put on the stamp.

Set a Family Savings Goal.

Does your child desperately want to go to Disney World? Maybe they want a trampoline or something else the whole family would love. Set a family savings goal. Allow everyone to contribute, even if it’s just loose change. Then use a fun, visual chart (like a thermometer or a man climbing up a mountain), allowing them to see the progress made by their contribution. Working as a team will help make saving fun, and reaching a goal is something that can be celebrated by the whole family. 

Whatever you choose to do to help your child learn about spending and saving, have fun with it! It’s about the money conversation as much as it is about the learning experience.

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