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Is Toddlerhood Too Early to Teach Money Lessons?

By Danielle |

Dollars and Cents!

It seems like most kids today don’t understand the value of a buck. I am sure it really isn’t their fault at all, but as I watch the trend I want to help combat it with my own children.

It started last week when my husband and I brought all the kids to the Walmart so we could get a handful of groceries and must have products to make it through the rest of the week.

Chaos ensued when my toddler and oldest son spotted the new movie Treasure Buddies on an end cap in the front of the store. They wanted it. And with my limited budget for the day an extra $19.97 wasn’t in the cards.

I started thinking that it may be a great opportunity to teach the value of money and patience as well. I quietly and quickly explained to them not today and told them we could get it next week once our bills were paid and it was in our budget.

I think we have all had these parenting moments right? I mean, I didn’t want to tell my kids — well guys its a movie or lunch for the week… you pick!

I explained the cost of the movie and how much money we would have left over after buying the groceries. They looked confused but I figured — I tried!

Yesterday we took the trip to get their movie. A week later and with a little bit more pocket change than I had that day. I think that spacing it out a whole 9 days and making them wait made them appreciate the movie more than they would had I just given in that day and got it for them.

They were truly thankful and to see a two year old say thank you with a big smile on his face… you could tell he meant it.

So my question to other parents is… do you think toddlerhood is too early to each money lessons?

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About Danielle



Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Is Toddlerhood Too Early to Teach Money Lessons?

  1. Jen says:

    They are too young to understand ” We can get it next week after the bills are paid and mommy has more money” They can’t grasp the concept of bills, grocery’s instead of a movie at this age. I’m sure he was happy he got the movie.

  2. zoesmumlizs says:

    i agree its hard for them to understand the concept of not having money one day but having it a few days later BUT i think they should learn to understand that they sometimes have to wait for things, so job well done:-) and they can learn the value of money e.g. that they get a dollar for a certain task and what they can buy with this dollar
    did you read this article?
    I was brought up in austria with the same values and the value of money falls in the same category, I started working for family and friends (babysitting jobs and such) when i was 12 to safe up money for my first apartment when i was 18, i knew exactly how hard it was so earn and safe up
    I am not sure why americans think they have to fulfill every wish their kids will ever have and not set any boundaries, i am still amazed when i see things like “my sweet 16″ on mtv where they get mercedes and co as a gift, seems very crazy to me
    so i think you can never start early enough! keep up the good work:-)

  3. Becka says:

    I think when things are important we start sending the message to our kids before they can understand. But then, over time, with repeptition, at some point they start to get it. Just because they might not understand doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever mention it right?

  4. Kym says:

    I don’t think it’s ever too early to start teaching kids about money. As Becka said, even if they don’t get it initially, they will eventually. My parents started teaching me by getting me a toy cash register when I was four or five. Every time I got money, I’d put it in the register, pull the handle, and watch the total go up, knowing that when it got to $10, it would open (but it wouldn’t open until then). From this simple toy bank I learned the fun of saving and working toward a goal, and it stayed with me. I saved up for my second bicycle when I was nine, and for a perm (ha–a perm!) when I was ten. When I was eight, I “babysat” my little brother and kept track of how much I earned on a calendar. Around that same time, my dad and I would stay up late playing the board game Payday, and he taught me about putting the monthly paycheck into savings and living off the interest. As an adult (and as a teen), I’ve always had a sizable savings account, which I use either for long-term financial goals or as an emergency fund–not for a “rainy day.” So even though my parents weren’t consciously teaching me about money, and they never explained budgets and such to me, these simple things helped me to build a bit of financial security and gave me the ability and desire to work toward goals that a lot of my peers don’t have.

  5. mbmom7 says:

    I agree with the comments above – it’s important to start early and often with good financial habits. The kids will eventually pick up that money just doesn’t happen – it’s earned and once it’s spent, it’s gone! I will tell my toddlers that something looks nice but we don’t have money for it today. I also let them spend their birthday money (once they are three or so) on a toy they pick out – if it costs less than what they received I show them how to compare prices, make decisions about how to spend the dough. After a few years, it’s starts to sink in. It was really cool when my one daughter (at 5) suddenly got it – instead of buying the first thing she saw, she comparison shopped for an hour at Target until she found something that would be fun for a long time.

    PS – Can you borrow movies from your library? Ours has a great inter-library loan system. I won’t buy another kid DVD again! My kids wanted “Treasure Buddies” too – I requested it through inter-library loan and had it within 10 days of its release. It’s more frugal than buying it – and my kids survived the short wait with a minimum of whining. (And it puts a time limit on how many days I get stuck watching those wretched puppies over and over again!)

  6. Dee Tutka says:

    Not only is ever too early…….(sorry Jen) age 2 and up is perfectly appropriate to start teaching the value of money.They understand the concept of buying..or to a young mind would be reffered to as a “trade”. But more importantly as Danielle stated there is more than one lesson learned here. One being the lesson simply stated that you cant have what yo want at that exact moment..I mean I know adults that need to learn this as well…and secondly the value of appreciation learned by waiting (or earning) Nice job Danielle. BTW I hate endcaps lol. I would rather annoy complete starngers with my kids whining because they cant get their way, than to gratify the moments want only for it to be under appreciated later. Raising kids is hard work and skin thickening. lol

  7. Janet says:

    There’s alot of info out there that says that kids brains are unable to process certain ideas at young ages. Their brains are not developed enough to be able to grasp the concept. I completely believe this to be true. However, I still talk to my daughter about money (3yo) even though I know she really doesn’t understand. (like telling her we have to pay for things at stores and we have to be careful with money – real coins and bills, not budget stuff). She will get it eventually and I’m not sure when, so I just keep talking to her about it.

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