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5 Steps to Your Kids Becoming Financially Responsible on Vacation

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It’s the beginning of summer vacation and most families have already started planning their trips and excursions. Parents are looking forward to the opportunities they’ll share in new adventures with their kids while also hoping to sneak in a little quality relaxation. What could possibly disturb such a joyous time? The repeated barrage of questions from their children, “Can I have it?”, “Will you buy this for me?”, “Why won’t you buy that for me?” And as loving parents, most reason, “Hey, we’re on vacation, they can have what they want because it’s just for this week.” But what parents need to realize are two important things:

Mother & son saving money with a piggy bank.

1) Too much shopping (and a lenient attitude) can quickly put a damper on the ability to spend money on activities and excursions during the rest of your vacation.

2) Vacation is actually a great opportunity for some relatively painless lessons on managing money.

By taking advantage of the natural enthusiasm your kids already have for vacation and adventure, you can simultaneously teach them about planning, budgeting, and paying for a trip.

Here are 5 steps to your kids becoming financially responsible on vacation.

Include Them in the Planning

It’s ok for children to know the expenses involved in a vacation. According to their age and understanding of money, make it a fun activity by including them in planning a budget for the trip. They can help in deciding the money needed for travel, tickets, souvenirs, meals and entertainment. With the older kids, have them prioritize and allocate the money for each expenditure. Example: If they prefer to save time by flying to the destination, then it may be necessary to stay in less expensive lodging or at a relative’s home. If they want to do an expensive excursion one day, maybe buying food at a grocery store and enjoying a fun buffet dinner together that night where your family is staying is a better option than eating at a restaurant.

Let Them Research Using This Secret

Many cities and popular vacation destinations offer reduced-price or free activities and admissions for kids. Clue your kids in on this often overlooked Internet search: At the top of a Google search page click on the “More” button and pick “blogs.” Next, type in “family” or “moms” and then the name of the place you’d like to visit. Many cities have created boutique websites, or what are called “hyperlocal” sites that are dedicated entirely to what to do with kids in that town. For example, mommypoppins.com, covers activities for kids in New York City, Los Angeles, Connecticut, New Jersey, Long Island and Boston. And to find the restaurants offering Kids Eat Free specials, go to MyKidsEatFree.com, which serves thousands of restaurant locations.

Save the Old School Way

Yep, get out an envelope! Providing kids with a budget after they’ve chosen the vacation activities that will fit within that budget will help them understand the relative value of what different items cost. With envelope in hand have them put a set amount of cash in every week. If they’re receiving a weekly allowance, help them decide how much to pocket and how much will go into vacation savings. Remind them of how many weeks they have to save until your trip begins. This is an effective way to teach your children about percentages. If they’re having a difficult time deciding on how much to save, take them to an online store of where you’ll be visiting, such as Disney. This may help your kids develop an idea of how much souvenirs may cost thus helping them budge accordingly.

Go Plastic

For those who have tweens and teens, try out a prepaid credit card on your next vacation. Yes, we know, to kids a credit card can seem like an endless source of money. But you can actually make a vacation an opportunity to teach responsible credit card use which, in turn, can help them become more financially responsible as the age. Fact is, transactions have become increasingly digital. After putting a set amount of money on a card, lay down the rules: Once the money is gone, the card won’t be refilled. Overtime and with more use, kids will begin to realize that when they see the number on the screen go down, what they have left is real money. This is a good transition to banks. Kids can go online to track their spending and see when they need to exercise more restraint with their spending habits. So, even if actual banking remains a few years away, vacation affords time for kids to practice for it through the Bank of Mom and Dad.

Financial Safety Ground Rules

Discuss with your children the importance of financial safety. They should keep close watch of their backpacks and purses, not leave money in the hotel room unless it’s in the hotel safe and do not stash cash in easily accessible pockets. Also, speak with your children about the fact that if they’re careless and lose their cash, you won’t be replacing it. And, especially for the older kids, bailing them out if they run out of money before the end of the day, doesn’t teach them about the real world. Loss is part of the learning experience. Also, when making purchases, let the decisions be theirs. If they purchase a toy that falls apart in an hour, they will learn a valuable lesson. On the upside, you could set up a savings incentive plan: if they don’t blow the whole allowance, they will be rewarded with double of what’s left and put towards a savings account.

Vacation is meant to be full of good times and memory making. Helping your kids with the budget planning can turn out to be a fun learning experience for you and them. Giving you child some control over the wallet won’t only save you money, it will teach them a valuable lesson: money is not an infinite resource. Remember, teens technically have money already. They are getting cellphones and dealing with which plan costs what. They are very aware of their lifestyle. Younger ones are receiving and saving up an allowance every week. Kids are smart, they get it. With just a little preparation and education, you can save yourself a lot of cash this vacation … and a lot of headaches.

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