Prepping Kids (Part 2 of 4)

Essential Money Skill #2: How to manage a bank account.
Every teenager should have an account with his or her own money, and know how to use an ATM, complete a debit card transaction, write a cheque, and reconcile a bank statement.  Hey, there are some ‘dults who can’t reconcile their bank statements. If you’re one of them, you should learn too.

If you think taking your ten-year-old to the bank and opening up a bank account means you’ve done the job, you’re very wrong. Have you shown Little Miss how the debts and credits work on her statement? How to transfer money between accounts? Have you explained how interest works and why it’s important that money work as hard as people do? Have you talked about the fees that are often charged, and how quickly they can add up? How about the magic of compounding return? The Rule of 72? Hey, you got some ‘splaining to do.


  • Sit down and explain how banking works to your young’un. It doesn’t matter what he thinks he knows, you still need to have this conversation. Use the Socratic Method so you don’t totally bore him to death. The Socratic Method? What the Dickens… In a nutshell, that’s when you ask questions and let your child provide answers, correcting any misinformation as you go. It beats the Pedantic Method – I talk, you listen – by a mile.
  • Savvy shoppers may already be hip to using a debit card. Are they also hip to all the ways people have of stealing their identity? See, you aren’t done yet.
  • Telephone banking and internet banking may be new to you if you’re an old dog, but they are a natch for your kids who live on their computers and cell phones. If you’re not already banking online, get your kids to show you how. There’s nothing like teaching a lesson to learn a lesson.
  • Have your child reconcile your bank statement a half-dozen times till he’s good at it. Can’t remember how? Look under “Resources” for How To Reconcile.

Essential Money Skill #3: How to comparison shop.
You might be very used to comparing the prices of similar items or brands, or comparing the prices at different stores to get the best value, but your kids probably aren’t. While a price comparison is a no-brainer, they may stumble when it comes to the comparison on quality, learning the hard way that “you get what you pay for.”

This is a lesson you demonstrate. You show your children by example that taking the time to look at the cost and quality of an item means you really care about where your hard-earned money is going. If environmental issues are important to you, this is a good place to address those issues too.
If you buy stuff, stick it in the cupboard with the price-tag still on and never use it, you’re sending a strong message to your children. If you take something that’s broken and fix it, carefully explaining not only the financial savings but the inherent positives of making do, you’re sending a strong message.

One of the best places to start your lessons on comparison-shopping is the supermarket. Once you’ve mastered the concept of unit prices at the grocery store, you can move on to The Gap versus Old Navy, and Future Shop versus Best Buy.


  • Take your child grocery shopping and explain unit prices.  Look at the packaging and talk about how deceptive it can be. Talk about name-brands versus store-brands. Do a “taste test” to see how much of a difference there really is and bring home the idea that a bigger price doesn’t always mean better value. But sometimes it does.
  • Talk about how you comparison shop using fliers, coupons, or whatever else you do to stretch the grocery money.
  • Talk about how to plan meals. Make her responsible for planning, shopping for, and prepping at least one meal a week.
  • Have him do the grocery shopping for the household for several consecutive weeks.
  • Have her comparison shop the next major purchase your family has to make, be it a new car, a vacation or a new bed. This is a good place to review quality versus price, and reinforce the importance of “warranties” and “service.”

So many of the lessons we have to teach our kids about money are wrapped up in the lessons we should be teaching them about life. For a long time we haven’t talked about money because it’s been a big no-no. But you see where THAT has got us. And some of us are so doggone determined to ensure our kids have a great life, that we’ve been protecting them from the very experiences they need to become fabulous in adulthood. Home is a place to experiment with new skills in safety. If they blow something, you have the luxury of being able to talk about what  to do differently next time. 

Leaving home is stressful enough as it is. Having the skills to cope with some of the life’s basic issues is one way to ease that stress.

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