Six ways to use summer vacation to teach kids about money

May 14, 2019

Summer vacation is right around the corner for thousands of Oklahoma kids. However, just because school is out doesn’t mean learning stops. The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants recommends using the time off to teach valuable life lessons in personal finance—in addition to having fun, of course. According to a T. Rowe Price survey, positive money management habits among kids positively correlated with parents’ good money habits and allowing their kids to decide how to save and spend money. However, the opposite is also true: When parents displayed poor financial decisions, their kids more frequently showed poor money management, too.

The Simple Dollar suggests teaching the following topics during specific ages:

  • Ages 3-5: Introduce money (earning, spending, saving and giving);
  • Ages 6-10: How to spend money (needs versus wants and short- versus long-term goals);
  • Ages 11-13: Consequences (credit, debt, interest and budgeting);
  • Ages 13-15: Building wealth (working, banking and investing); and
  • Ages 15-18: Real world (good debt versus bad debt, credit scores and taxes).

CPAs suggest using technology and teachable moments to show kids good money habits. Some popular ways among parents were:

  1. There’s an app for that. Of course there are apps to help kids learn about money through games. S. News & World Report ranked seven apps for kids. One of the favorites included PiggyBot, which allows kids to save money digitally, keep track of their allowance, set savings goals and more. Similarly, FamZoo allows the family to keep track of allowances, chores and money-related activities. Everyone in the family is connected, making it simple to transfer money to each other.
  2. Teach them money is a finite resource. If kids learn early money is something you need to work for, they will learn to value money more than if they constantly see their parents handing over cash or cards every time they ask for something. Even small children can earn allowances. Experts say it’s best to teach kids they need to do certain chores (like make their beds or put dirty dishes in the sink) as productive members of the household. However, giving them opportunities to earn extra money will allow them to have a say in whether they will have any extra money to do fun things, like go to a water park with friends.
  3. Discuss vacation plans. Families generally look forward to a planned trip together, but they may not all agree on where the family goes. Bring the kids in on the decision and talk about how the vacation fund is built and how it will be spent. For example, if you line out a plan to take a trip to a theme park that’s across the country, you’ll want to include travel costs, lodging, ticket prices, meals and incidentals, like souvenirs. By allowing kids to see how quickly things add up, you can also give them the option to vote for a few family trips to closer locations allowing the family more fun times together. Additionally, if the family has discussed a large purchase, like a swimming pool, you can explain how a staycation will allow the family to put more money into the dream of having your own pool.
  4. Take them grocery shopping. Few activities teach kids more about money than taking them to the grocery store. For starters, they learn there’s a budget, so there are parameters. Second, they learn planning is key. Involving them in meal planning not only allows them to make healthy choices about what they eat, but it also shows them how to get the most value for the dollar because of the budget that’s already been set. This may include involving them in clipping coupons to help stay within the budget. Third, it teaches kids to compare prices. They may want name-brand cereal but seeing how much more they’ll have by purchasing generic—and maybe being able to afford a little treat later—could encourage them to try other brands that cost less. Finally, it teaches avoiding impulse buys because those usually are budget-busters.
  5. Discuss the back-to-school budget. If you have teens or tweens who are swooning over designer clothes that won’t fit in your planned spending for back-to-school, then give them the option to work to earn extra money to buy the items they want. Meanwhile, visit thrift and consignment stores to show them other options. It may also be a good idea to tell them in advance what your set budget will be and let them make their clothing purchasing decisions. This could be a fast lesson in needs versus wants.
  6. Go over your teen’s first paycheck. Lots of teens get summer jobs and are shocked when they receive their first paycheck to learn Uncle Sam gets a piece of it, too. Discuss the differences between gross pay and net pay and explain the W-4 form filled out when starting a job determines the amount of taxes that will be taken out of the paycheck. You should also explain what taxes pay for, like roads, libraries and schools. If you need help explaining taxes to your teen, turn to your CPA. He or she can offer expert guidance that will help address all your financial questions. If you don’t have a CPA, you can get a free referral and free 30-minute consultation at

Get additional money tips from the free 2019 Financial Fitness Kit at a public library near you or online at You can also follow KnowWhatCounts on Twitter or like Know What Counts on Facebook.