Q: My daughter is always asking what things cost and counting her piggy bank money. How can I teach her to be less materialistic?
A: "Children today are constantly being bombarded from all directions by advertisements that tell them what clothes, toys, or games they 'must' have in order to be cool or popular or successful," says Dorothy Rich, Ed.D., president of the Home and School Institute in Washington, DC. "While you can't blame your child for wanting possessions, you can use her passion for spending money as a way to teach her an early lesson in how to manage finances effectively-a skill that doesn't come naturally to most children."
Rather than lecture your child on the many pitfalls of materialism, focus on helping her put the money she gets or earns to good use, says Dr. Rich. If she receives a weekly allowance from you or gets money for doing odd jobs, set up a savings account in her name at a bank, and talk with her about budgeting her money. Are there certain expenses, like school lunches, that she must pay for out of her allowance? Is there a special toy or item of clothing that she would like to save up for? "It's never too early to teach a child how to set and work toward specific financial goals," says Dr. Rich. Your child will feel proud of a new toy if she's worked to buy it.
Also, ask your daughter to help you figure out how much things cost and what you can buy with the money you have while you're shopping.
But try not to think of your child as greedy, says Dr. Rich, rather as eager to learn money management, which will help her for the rest of her life.