How to Teach Kids To Be Less Materialistic

Teach your kids how to value money—and find joy in the things money can't buy—with these expert tips.

Many of us probably heard the phrase "money doesn't grown on trees" growing up—but it's likely that it didn't stop us from asking for the things we wanted our parents to buy us.

As a kid (heck, even as an adult), there's generally pressure to have the newest, coolest item, and it can be hard for your child not to ask for these things—and sometimes ever harder as a parent to say no. If you find that your child is always asking what things cost, counting their coins, and asking you to buy them things all the time, don't worry—it's normal.

"It's natural for kids to want things, and as a father of six, I know from experience that 'wants' usually involve money," says Gregg Murset, certified financial planner and CEO of chores app BusyKid. "We were all the same as kids. I've learned the best way to handle this is to ask your kids, 'what have you done to earn it?'" says Murset.

Talking to your kids about money (and starting early) is the key to raising kids that are aware of where money comes from, and how to save and spend in a way that is mindful and not purely materialistic. Although talking to kids about money might have been considered taboo in the past, many parents today are engaging their kids in financial literacy and conversations about family finances. A recently released study by Chase that surveyed over 4,000 adults found that over 70% of parents in the U.S. are regularly talking about money with their kids, teaching them the basics like saving, investing, and using a bank.

Teaching your kids about money and involving them in the family finances when possible will help them move away from a materialistic approach to money into a more holistic one. Here are expert tips on how to teach your kids to be more mindful about money.

Make money a part of your child's routine.

Find ways to teach your kids about money in your everyday lives. "Parents should teach kids financial skills by focusing on the process (routine) of managing money, and not how much money you have or what can be bought," says Murset. He suggests giving your kids some chores and having them earn a small allowance to help them learn money management. "This is what I call 'the balanced financial approach'—and kids will learn this best by doing it, over and over and over," he adds.

Invite your kids to grocery shop with you and explain why you're buying certain items over others, or how to look for items on sale. "You might buy paper towels in bulk, because each roll is actually cheaper that way versus buying a package of two," Teresa Britton, owner of the website MomsWhoSave, tells Parents. "If they are old enough, they can look at prices and help you compare," she says.

Explain how you earn money and how it is spent.

Talk to your kids about what you do for work and how that money is spent (such as rent or mortgage, buying food, or paying for the car) to help teach them its value. "Let kids know that money is earned, and it's not unlimited," says Britton. "We need to make choices about where our money goes, and we need to pay for the most important, necessary things first," she explains.

Teach your kids to value money by having them work for it.

Speaking of working to earn money, have your kids do the same when possible. Assign chores and give your kids an allowance; that way, they can start practicing healthy money habits. Then, you can help them make decisions about the money they earn, instead of just letting them spend it on whatever they want.

"They will start to make the connection between work and money, as well as begin to value the money they've earned," says Murset. "Kids have no problems spending other people's money, but watch how hard they hold onto it when they've had to work for it," he adds.

"It's never too early to teach a child how to set and work toward specific financial goals," says Dorothy Rich, Ed.D., author and founder of the Home and School Institute in Washington, DC. "Your child will feel proud of a new toy if [they] worked to buy it.

How to Teach Kids to Be Less Materialistic

Set a good example for your kids.

Lead by example. After all, many of the bad money habits kids learn come from their parents. Having healthy conversations about money, and seeing you make mindful decisions with your dollars will go a long way in shaping your child's relationship with money. "If they see that you always buy the newest, biggest, most expensive everything, and that you judge others by what they own, the labels on their clothes, or the kind of car they drive, they are likely to follow in your footsteps," warns Britton.

Britton suggests talking to your children about what they're grateful for—simple things such as family, friends, pets, or school—to show them that there is more to life than material things they can buy.

Give gifts of experiences rather than things.

When it comes to gifts, show your kids how valuable experiences can be. Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving your child a new toy or gadget they want, but balancing that with activities and experiences can help them see beyond material objects.

"Help your kids to see that experiences and time spent with family are much more valuable than another toy or game," says Britton. It doesn't need to be an elaborate vacation either—Britton suggests activities like camping, staycations, ball games, trips to your local museum, or exploring a new part of your city. These can all be non-material experiences to share as a family.

Avoid using money or gifts as a reward for good behavior.

Try not to use money or gifts as a reward for good behavior all the time. "You don't want your child to believe that every small achievement, or just behaving appropriately, means they get some new material reward," says Britton. "Your encouragement, emotional support, and time spent together is what your child craves," she adds. Use affirming words and actions to show your kids that you love them and are proud of them—it can go a long way and help them value the important things in life that money can't buy.

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