Prepping Kids to Leave the Nest - Part 1 of 4

When our kids are getting ready to leave home, we want to do whatever we can to help smooth the way. But sometimes “smoothing” is taken to the extreme and our kids leave home without the good sense God gave a goose!

Prepping for a life on their own starts early, much earlier than most parents think. Whether it is learning how to cook – making KD in the microwave doesn’t count – to learning how often to change their sheets, clean the toilet, or sew on a button, having never been told what to do, or how to do stuff, kids are at a loss. Like the kid who puts tinfoil in the microwave and then claims “but I didn’t know,” your child could be ignorant of some of the things you take for granted, including how to handle her money.

When kids are small, we have no problem redirecting their behaviour, giving them step-by-step instructions for how to do a new task, or patiently watching as they master a new skill. As they get older and start pushing back, we are scared about doing anything that will alienate them. There already seems to be more distance than we want.

Sure, there are the parents who regularly make their kids clean the house from stem to gudgeon. But I’ve been with those kids as they talk about “escaping” home and never coming back once they break free of their parents’ control. One girl I know whose mom refused to allow her to come to a mixed sleep-over party the weekend before she left for university probably doesn’t know that her daughter refers to her as “The Nazi”. Ouch!

So we walk a fine line between helping our kids acquire the basic skills they’ll need to go out on their own and letting them have the space they need to make – and learn from – their own mistakes.

At the very least, our kids should have some sense of what it takes to keep body and soul together: how to clean up after themselves, how to buy and prepare some basic meals, and what to do in the event of certain types of emergencies. That’s not to say that once they leave home you’re cutting the apron strings completely. But it does help for them to know a little somthin’ somethin’ about dealing with the life they’re about to have.
And through all the life lessons there are money lessons you need to be weaving. How to grocery shop on a budget; how to prepare meals that go a long way; how important it is to have a stash of cash just in case the caca hits the fan.

There are the seven essential money skills I think every kid should have before he breaks out on his own. You won’t be surprised at any of these. Not really. So this is your opportunity to take a good look at your kid to see how good a job you’ve done thus far teaching the important money lessons. I’ll cover the first essential money skill in today’s blog, and the rest over the next few days.

Essential Money Skill #1: How to live on a budget.
The thing about a budget is that it not only shows you where you’re planning to spend your money, it asks you to make choices every time you get the urge to spend. Want to go to a movie? If you don’t have any more money left in your entertainment budget, will you use your food budget or your transportation budget to see the flick? It isn’t about NOT seeing the movie. It’s about what else you’re willing to give up to see the movie.
The idea of living on a budget also gets kids used to the difference between their “needs” and their “wants”. They can spend more or less in a particular category of their budget, but they cannot spend more money than they have, so it’s important to understand what their Essential Expenses are: that’s the money they’ll need to spend to keep body and soul together.


  • Sit down with your child and talk about your own budget, how it works, why you use it, and what it helps you achieve. Never mind the whole “privacy” crap. This is your kid, and if you can’t use your own budget to teach him a thing or two, you’re missing the mark completely as a parent!
  • For several months before she leaves home, have her work on your budget with you.
  • Have him make a budget for moving out on his own. Whether he’s leaving home to work or to go to school, if he goes with a plan in hand, he’ll be that much more likely to succeed. 
  • Keep your hand out of your pocket. If you keep bailing Bunny out of the hole every time she digs one, she’ll never feel the pain and she’ll never learn. Once you’ve established the parameters for how you will help, stick to it. If you’re offering to pay $50 on the cell phone, don’t cover the $100 bill. Pay your $50 and watch the service get cut off! It’s hard, I know. But you know what? It’s way easier to do it now than when she’s got two kids in tow.

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