I have already heard it… “Mom, dad, what are we doing for March Break?" It’s almost like there's an expectation or it's our job to entertain our children during March Break. While it might be a great time to get away from the winter weather and go to a nice beach in the Caribbean, many of us simply can't. Should we feel guilty as parents if we don’t plan for something or we don’t go away? Absolutely not! In fact, March Break can be a great opportunity to teach our kids a thing or two about money and managing a budget.
How to make it a budget-friendly March Break
There are a number of alternatives to expensive March Break outings, like a staycation and doing fun activities at home. And there are always activities in and around the city you can participate in that could be less damaging to your family's budget. But if you're already starting to feel the pressure of giving your kids an amazing March Break while finances are tight, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.
Are you relying on credit cards during this time? Do you want to enjoy everything now and pay for it later? Whatever you do, keep in mind that spending what you don’t have might not be the best idea, especially if you are already struggling with your finances.
So how do we resolve this pressure and expectation? Well, I think we have to have a very strong conviction and foundation in regards to money. As parents, it's our job to teach and guide our children. Now might be a great opportunity to teach your kids how to create a budget and the value of money.
Teaching kids about money
Credit Canada’s Financial Coaching series suggests there are ten basic steps to teaching children how to be responsible with money:
- Examine your own attitudes about money and set a good example.
- Give your kids an allowance and let them be in charge of spending it.
- Expect your children to contribute to family chores.
- Provide extra income opportunities.
- Teach your kids to save regularly (you can use a piggy bank).
- Help your children discover the satisfaction of sharing and how they can help others.
- Show your child how to be a wise consumer before they buy something.
- Help your child develop a healthy attitude towards money by letting them borrow small amounts of money from you with the expectation of them paying you back.
- Teach your child the value of wise investments while playing games.
- Involve your child in your family's financial planning by teaching them about budgeting. Show them how you budget for groceries, vacations, your cellphone, etc.
Talking about money with your kids
When you are talking to your kids about money and maintaining a budget, it's important to let them know what they can and cannot afford, and what things they can do without. This might involve teaching them the difference between needs versus wants. You might think your children aren't listening, but I can tell you they are – I did!
My father was an accountant and growing up I experienced how he was always looking after the family budget and paying bills. He taught us how to respect money and to consider what our family needed to buy first before any kind of purchases were made. Thanks to all their hard work and focus on maintaining a budget, I never heard my parents complain about money because they knew how to manage their financial life!
Helping your kids develop a healthy relationship with money and finances
Money is such an important part of life. The more you can develop a healthy relationship with it, the better your family will feel. Your children will thank you later on in life if you can teach them now how to respect and handle their money wisely. And if you ever need some extra advice or you're struggling with debt, we're always happy to help. Just give us a call at 1.800.267.2272. All of our counselling is 100% free and confidential.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.