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Kids and money - activities and lessons for every age

Kids can start learning the concept of spending and saving from as little as 3 years old, and a study by the University of Cambridge shows money habits start to be formed by age 7. Money makes the world go around, but how much do our little ones know about the concept of money, and what are some fun ways to teach them that it doesn’t grow on trees?

3-5 years

Pretend to spend – set up a make-believe restaurant or store at home. Give them a set amount of pretend money and create scenarios, such as buy 5 items or 3 meals for less than $10. They will be practicing their counting and starting to realise that money is finite.

5-7 years

Saving game – Make saving a game, by challenging them to save a certain amount each fortnight or month. If they succeed, they win a bonus from you – which could be cash, or a trip to the movies, or their choice of takeaways on Friday night.

Money jars – set up labelled jars for each child labelled with ‘spending’ and ‘saving’ – spending jar can be for small items like stickers or lollies, and the saving jar can be for bigger items. It’s best to have a defined goal for spending, and for the item to be achievable within a few months to keep them interested.

7-10 years

Play monopoly – it can be a fun and effective way to introduce financial concepts, including that money is finite, and the rewards of saving and both rewards and risks of investing.

Let them make their own purchases – for example when on holiday, give them a budget and let them know they’ll be responsible for their own souvenirs. They’ll learn to make purchasing decisions carefully and most likely enjoy the responsibility. Bonus: they’ll be less likely to be nagging you for money!

Make them part of the purchasing decisions – When supermarket shopping, talk out loud about why you’re buying this item over another because it’s on special, or why you’re buying the cheaper brand of something because you think it tastes the same as the more expensive, or if you’ll pay more for an item because it has a higher quantity or quality.

10 years +

Encourage more long-term goals – you could incentivise savings for bigger purchases, perhaps by matching.

Set kids up with KiwiSaver – talk them through the scheme, involve them in choosing a fund, and put a small amount in to have them watch it grow. Rather than focusing on retirement, you might wish to focus on first home buying, compound interest, investment and saving for the future.

Talk about more complex money terms – talk with them about things like budgeting, interest rates and good vs bad debt. Include them in conversations about the family budget and mortgage repayments so they can apply the ideas to their own family situation.

Young adults 

We've put together a 'Smart Moves in your 20's' guide for all things KiwiSaver, first homes, basic budgeting and student loans (we promise it won't ruin the fun!) - and each download will go in the draw to win and a $200 Prezzy card! 

Download here