A Learning Vacation

LSS Center for Financial Resources
Breck Miller, Community Relations Coordinator

Family vacations.  They can be a ton of fun and make memories that last a lifetime.  I can still get sentimental about my own childhood vacations and those were a while ago (a long, long, long time ago if you ask my kids).

Sometimes, though, those memories can also come with a cost.  It just costs money to do most things.  It doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, but probably something.  We have dealt with this in our own home.  Because it can directly affect them, vacations can also be a great opportunity to teach our kids about money.

So, without further ado, here’s the story of when my son taught ME about money.

Several years ago, we decided we were going to do an overnight trip to Omaha.  We would drive down on Friday after work, swim at the hotel that evening, and then go to the zoo the following day before driving home.

We were doing ok, but things were certainly tighter financially than they are now.  The week of the trip we were driving around town and planning for the upcoming trip.  The big debate was whether we would eat at home before leaving Friday or eat on the road.  Eating at home would save us the cost of eating out.  But that would mean arriving in Omaha later in the evening, thereby reducing our swimming time.

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We went back and forth on the issue and, to be honest, kind of forgot the kids were even in the van.  We finally settled on just eating out and spending the extra money so that we could get down there and swim.  It was our one real trip that year, so it would be ok.

We no more than decided when, from the back seat, my 5-year old son spoke up and said, “NOOOOO, we are going to make sandwiches at home and eat them on the road so that we can get there to swim and save our money for at the zoo.”

Me, the credit counselor, getting schooled on saving money by a 5-year old.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking about the zoo gift shop, but that’s for another day.

My point in this is that your kids can learn about money at an early age, even by the age of 5.  Take the opportunity.  After all, if you don’t teach them how to manage their money, what will someone else be teaching them?

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Make no mistake, my son certainly wasn’t and still isn’tperfect in managing his money.  One year later we were in the Black Hills at a typical gift shop.  They had those balls that are made out of a series of levers and get very big or small, depending on how you push or pull.  He knew he wanted one and they were only $5.

We gave him some things to think about, but he was going to get that toy.  It was his own money, after all.  30 minutes later and the thing was already beginning to break.  He was heartbroken.  But after the comforting, we also got to talk about the value of quality.

Whether on vacation or at home, there are a few things to focus on when teaching your kids about money.

  1. Learning by doing can be an incredibly successful way of learning.  Walk with them, but let them be in charge.
  2. Let it hurt. No, we don’t want to see our kids get hurt.  The reality, however, is that messing up with a $5 toy is going to hurt MUCH less than first feeling the hurt with an $800 rent check.  Let them learn now.
  3. Talk with them rather than lecturing at them. Rather than just saying “Don’t do that”, help them go through the thought process.  Ask questions.  Let them answer.
  4. Your kids are watching you. You may not be intentionally teaching them at the moment, but they are learning from what you are showing them.  Is that what you want for them?

If you want to get things in good shape towards modeling good financial wellness for your children, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help.  Whether it is just putting a budget together or dealing with large amounts of debt, we can help you identify your goals, your current situation, and then come up with a plan to get where you want to be.

You can schedule a confidential appointment with a counselor either on our website or by calling us at 605-330-2700.

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