Remember the days of grocery shopping with cash, and how mom would occasionally hold back an item to make sure she had enough to cover it? She was inadvertently teaching you responsible spending, delayed gratification and respect for money as a finite family resource.

In today’s credit-card culture, kids are increasingly disconnected from money.  Many of the tangible, visible cues have vanished, so you can’t fault your grandkids for not understanding the source or value of an actual dollar.  But you can certainly help teach them in these simple ways.


  • When I was a kid…

Their childhoods bear little resemblance to yours, so they may get a real kick out of your stories. Sharing what you did to earn and save at their age will help them connect work to reward, while teaching valuable lessons about choice and consequence. Don’t skim over your mistakes either:  Sometimes they’re the best teachers.


  • Pay with cash.

Whenever possible, pay for outings in cash.  Let the kids help you count it out, hand it over and collect the change.  It will reinforce their math skills and show that when the money is gone, it’s actually gone.


  • Spend. Save. Give.

Consider helping your grandchild make a three-compartment shoe box or other container to serve as a piggy bank.  Teach them to divide their earnings into money they can spend immediately for a small purchase of their choosing, save for a larger purchase, and give charitably.


  • Make it fun.

There are books, board games and online resources to encourage learning about money, including Money Smart from the FDIC which offers several free video lessons for older kids as well as a downloadable activity book and teaching guide for the younger ones.


Remember, your grandkids love you most for the time you spend with them, not the $20 you slip them.  But if you can use some of that time and generosity to teach them fiscal responsibility, it’ll be a lesson that pays dividends for the rest of their lives.