We’ve all got some bad habits that we just can’t shake – whether it’s a tendency to shop when you’re stressed, sometimes forgetting to pay off your credit card or even spending $10 a pop on lunches at work.
For the most part, these habits aren’t going to break your budget, as long as you’re aware of them and keep them under control. But they may have a big impact on something else: your kids’ attitude to money.
Studies have shown that kids form financial habits by the time they’re 7 years old, and those habits can stick with them throughout the rest of their lives. And where do kids learn these habits? That’s right – from you.
So we’ve asked Rebeccah Elley, lifestyle and money editor at Mozo.com.au to share the 5 bad financial habits you may be unknowingly passing onto your kids, and her tips on breaking them for good.
Bad habit #1: Giving in to instant gratification.
How are your kids picking it up? Every mom has probably experienced that moment standing at the checkout after a long day, with your child pleading for that candy bar. It’s pretty easy to give in rather than deal with an impending tantrum, right? But cave in too often and your kids might become impulse shoppers and won’t ever learn the value of finally getting their hands on something they really want after saving up for it.
How to break it: It’s a skill all moms need to master at some point – staying strong and saying “no” in the face of pleading and tears at the shops. To distract your kids from silly impulse buys, help them set bigger goals, like a new video game, a book or even a laptop computer and put in place a savings plan to reach it. Make sure you keep up the encouragement and show them how their savings are getting closer and closer to their goal to keep little savers motivated!
Bad habit #2: Relying on credit to make purchases you want but don’t need.
How are your kids picking it up? For you, it’s flashing your plastic at the checkout, but for kids, picking up this attitude can be as simple as you buying them whatever they want, even if their allowance is already spent. Of course you want them to have everything their little hearts desire, but this instills the idea that it doesn’t matter how much money you spend – there’s always more where that came from.
How to break it: Two ways: first, head to the ATM and explain to your children that when you use a credit card, you’re spending real money, and that this money doesn’t just come from a hole in the wall, it comes from your hard work. Then, make sure you give your kids an allowance and before you hit the shops together you agree on a spending limit that they won’t be able to go over.
Bad habit #3: Wanting money without putting in the work for it.
How are your kids picking it up? Sure, we all complain about work, and we’d all love to win the lottery someday. But negative attitudes towards working for your money can rub off on children, and it’s important that your kids grow up understanding the link between having money to spend on fun things, and putting in the hours of work to get it.
How to break it: Give out pocket money – but make them work for it! Strike an agreement with your children that they’ll earn a certain amount of pocket money each week, but in return, they need to complete a list of chores like making their bed, taking out the trash or helping cook dinner.
Bad habit #4: Staying quiet about money matters (until it’s too late).
How are your kids picking it up? This time it’s not about something you’re doing, it’s what you’re not doing. If you never talk to your kids about your finances, they’ll get the idea that money is something that should be kept secret. And that could be bad news if it means they avoid getting financial help in the future if they need it.
How to break it: Start talking! It may seem uncomfortable to talk to your kids about money, but start with things that are relevant to them. If you say no to buying a new toy or gadget, take the time to explain why it’s not in the budget this month, and that instead, you’re buying their school supplies, groceries or saving up for a family holiday.
Bad habit #5: Ignoring (or not having) a budget.
How are your kids picking it up? Monkey see, monkey do: you take your kids shopping, give in to the temptation of an unexpected sale and blow your budget out of the water. When they see you spending without seeing the decision making process behind those purchases, it’s easy for kids to think budgeting and being conscious of your money just isn’t that important.
How to break it: First things first, you’ll need to set yourself a budget. Then, it’s your job to not only stick to it, but also explain to your kids how your budget is set out, what your plan is to stay within the limits you’ve set, and what happens if you don’t. You can even help them design a budget to make the most of their pocket money!
Rebeccah Elley is the lifestyle and money editor at financial comparison site Mozo, which helps everyday consumers get a better deal on everything from their travel money to savings accounts. Whether it’s an in-depth guide or quick blog, Rebeccah loves nothing more than passing on her money saving tips to everyday Aussies.