While I know saving is valuable, I don't want to pass my own stinginess on to my kids. Instead, I'm teaching them to be generous with their money—with themselves and others. 
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An image of a mother and her daughter with money.
Credit: Getty Images.

As a child, my mom taught me about money by giving me three envelopes to put coins and dollars into. Each time I received my weekly allowance for completed chores or treat money for birthdays, I separated the sum into save, spend, and give envelopes. Although I was only young, I distinctly remember wanting my save envelope to be the fullest. 

Now an adult, I haven't changed my stingy ways. I am always hesitant to spend and reticent to give. While saving money for necessary emergencies is wise, storing up every cent at the expense of joy and generosity can be crippling. I've avoided turning on the heat in the freezing cold, searched for reasons not to give money to causes close to my heart, and talked myself out of any purchase that isn't absolutely necessary. 

Plus, my extreme-saving habits have started to encroach on my three children. Each week, they are given a small allowance. It goes into their money jars to do with as they please. Recently, they have loved buying magazines—they love the comic strip characters, the puzzles, and the coloring. As much as I know they enjoy them, though, I find myself trying to convince them not to make the purchase.

"Why don't you save that for something really special and expensive?" I ask. But really, all they want at five and seven years old is the magazine. 

While I know saving is valuable, I don't want to pass my own stinginess on to my kids. Instead, I'm teaching them to be generous with their money—with themselves and others. 

I'm conscious of how I speak about our financial state as a family.

To avoid buying things for my kids when they are begging for the newest video game or toy, it is easy to just tell them, "We don't have enough money for that." But, that gives them a scarcity mentality that they shouldn't have living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Although our house may not be the grandest, our car the newest, our clothes the trendiest, we don't struggle for necessities such as food, water, and housing. In that, we are rich. This is the kind of language I now use to describe our financial state, so that my kids never doubt how privileged they are to be living without concern of where their next meal will come from. 

I expose them to the realities of poverty and find ways to help.

Each month, a portion of our salaries go to charities who are working in poor communities around the world. One of the charities we donate to, for example, allows us to support a child in need; the org sends consistent updates on the child. When those arrive, I sit down with my kids and look at the updates together. We talk about why we support this child, where he lives, what he must be feeling, and how exciting it is that we get to be a part of supporting him with our money. These moments provide an opportunity to show my kids what poverty looks like—and encourages them to be part of the solution. 

They're free to spend on themselves.

Grocery store trips are a consistent reminder to my kids of all the new toys or tasty treats they could use their money to buy. Historically, I've just said, "no." But now, instead, I'll remind them to bring their allowance when we go to the store—and give them the freedom and responsibility to pay for what they delight in. Yet I do still discourage them from buying many new toys; I am painfully aware of how climate change is affecting our world, and buying new things that will end up in landfills later isn't saving our planet. As an alternative, I try to take my kids to thrift stores to use their money on preloved items. 

I support their choices to give money to friends and family.

My five-year-old often tells me he wants to give money away as a present—for birthdays, thank-yous, or "just because." My seven-year-old told recently told his nana that he would help pay for her flight to come visit us after such a long separation during COVID-19. Their selflessness and kindness are examples to me—and I want to be careful to commend, not correct, when I see such generous displays. 

We have discussions about how we can be more generous as a family.

We don't sit around the dinner table every night, but when we do, the subject of money often comes up—when the kids ask about wanting a new lunchbox, football, or Lego set. This is an ideal time to discuss how we can continue to be generous with our money. "What present could we buy for Nana's birthday? Is there someone or something we could help by giving money?" By opening these conversations up now, while my kids are young, I am hoping it will instill in them a narrative and pattern of generosity for years to come. 

I haven't totally worked through my own issues with money, but I am making a concerted effort not to pass my penny-pinching ways onto my children.