Mike Jones grew up following the lead of his parents when it came to his money. Now he’s trying to foster healthy saving habits for his own kids.
I am not very good with money. Until I started working for a company that specialises in savings, I didn’t know what the base rate was, why banks changed their interest rates so much or why either of those things mattered (if, indeed, they do to most people).
I had my first savings account at the Halifax because my mum set it up for me, in our town centre, where my parents also had accounts.
I had my first current account two doors down from Halifax at Lloyds because my parents both banked at the branch in our town, and I got my student account there too.
Whenever my parents tried to engage me on anything to do with money when I was young, I didn’t listen. It was only through their diligence on my behalf – as in, they did it all for me – that I had anything when I formally ‘took ownership’ of my personal finances.
But now I’m a grown-up, I have to take a bit more responsibility for myself and my own young family.
In my effort to inspire my two boys, aged four and five, to be more money-savvy, I’m starting them off this year with the 1p challenge. This is where you save 1p on the first day, two on the second, three on the third, until on the last day of the year you’re saving £3.65. If you stick to it, you’ll have accrued £667.95 by the end of the year.
In my mind, it serves three purposes:
1. They at least know what coins look like (this is probably more useful for a history lesson when they’re older than when they go to spend any money).
2. We get to do some practical maths.
3. It’s a good way to spend a few minutes every weekend doing some proper engaged parenting, better than video games and impromptu kung-fu contests in the front room while I sort out my fantasy football team.
After a couple of months of this, we’ve so far managed to get about a quarter of the way up a repurposed two-litre plastic bottle, and they are both struggling to lift it. The total saved is currently less than £70, but it will ramp up significantly over the coming weeks.
This means I’ll need to be making more cash purchases myself, to get the change to sustain their insatiable habit for saving. Or, in reality, their enjoyment from pushing coins into the crudely designed moneybox.
It has been an excellent chance for me to talk about money with them, and also a good way to get into a regular saving mindset when discussing wider household finances with my wife too.
We don’t tend to make big purchases, and whatever we buy that isn’t consumable – and anyone with kids will attest to how many consumables you need to purchase – always gets more than one use.
“Reduce, reuse, repair and recycle” is a maxim that has stuck with me and has been impressed on my kids, too.
It does come through already when I have those chats with my boys. When they ask for something, they are pretty rational about accepting that they won’t always get it, and that they may not even get something that replaces it.
They also don’t actively ask for much, probably because of how seldom we have – so far – given in to their nagging requests.
While they probably don’t yet grasp the concept of money, I think they already have some idea of ‘value’. And because of that, they appreciate the walks in the woods, the trips to the seaside and playing football in the park as much as when we take them to the cinema or excursions to more expensive tourist attractions.
As spending is not a big part of our lives, at least in the sense of big-ticket items, I hope that the boys will also be more considerate about whether they actually need something, and how much they’re willing to pay for it.
Personal resources are more than just money, and at this age it’s clear that they already recognise that some things are not in their interests in terms of time spent for outcome gained.
They may never be rich in finances, but provided they’re comfortable enough and happy within their means, that’s all that matters.
By teaching them about physical and conceptual ideas of money at a young age, we can have proper discussions when they get older. And in doing so, it forces me to be keep on top of our finances too, which is no bad thing.
Do you have a lesson you’ve learnt about money you’d like to share? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Jones is a communications officer at NS&I with a passion for the environment. Follow his efforts to save trees, wildlife and money on Twitter: @DazzMcGuinness