Kelley Weil has fond memories of trips to the grocery store with her then-5-year-old daughter pushing a small shopping cart next to her own.
“I told her that driving her cart meant she had to contribute to the shopping exercise. We made it a fun game,” she recalled. “I would say, ‘We need to buy apples—so, tell me which kind of apple is the better deal? If you can only spend $8 on apples, how many can you get? Of what kind?’
“It was sort of Price is Right meets Supermarket Sweep,” said Weil, who leads BOK Financial’s® consumer banking division. “It gave her an understanding of the relative value of a dollar, it gave her a ‘job’ on our errand, and it gave her independence in making a decision.”
Like Weil, many parents are turning to everyday activities (rather than pen-and-paper lessons) to teach their kids about money—an approach that experts say helps make financial know-how more approachable.
Roughly 85% of parents believe their children should “know the value of a dollar” and how to manage it, while nearly 64% have put their beliefs to action and taught their kids financial lessons. That’s according to a 2023 survey conducted by OnePoll for BOK Financial.
For most, these lessons aren’t just coming from a financial literacy workbook or a classroom. Instead, around 57% of respondents use shopping and comparing prices to teach their kids, while 56% said they use allowances and budgets for money lessons. Meanwhile, 62% said they encourage their kids to have a savings jar or a piggy bank, and nearly 56% said they teach the difference between needs and wants.
Make financial lessons low stress and fun
These action-oriented, relatable methods tend to be better ways to teach young children, tweens and teens about money than less tangible lectures, experts suggest.
“I believe the lessons you teach your kids around money, especially at an early age, are beneficial when they are stress-free and fun—and, I think the exercise resonates when there is a purpose.”- Kelley Weil, consumer banking executive
“Making kids think and giving them a ‘job’ reinforces the notion of ‘family’ and provides an understanding of money management without fear. As time passes, the importance of money and choices around finite resources should, and will, naturally have more gravity,” Weil explained.
Older kids learn the value of work and budgeting
Brian Connor, BOK Financial commercial banking market team leader, wants his two teens to understand the relationship between working, money and budgeting. “I think providing teens with allowances for no work is an issue, and I also think providing money for work but not teaching good budgeting principles is problematic,” he said.
To teach these lessons, everyone in the household—including Connor and his wife—has to choose two chores a week from a list of eight or nine. The list includes tasks like loading the dishwasher, the teens cleaning their rooms, cleaning the bathrooms and so on. If the teens do the chores, they receive allowances on the 15th and 30th of each month. Connor explained that if the chores aren’t done, they discuss why they’re not and when they will get done.
Connor and his wife only started this chore-based system of allowance when their kids were teenagers. However, earlier, they started teaching about needs versus wants when they were tweens, a distinction they still reinforce today.
“Their needs are still being handled by us,” he noted. “Their allowance more goes to their wants—whether it be earrings or going out for burgers.”
Although Connor and his wife are teaching financial lessons, they’re careful not to make money the center of their teens’ universe or to use it punitively for non-chore-related matters like grades because he’s heard the potential pitfalls of doing so firsthand.
“With everything that could come between you and your kids, I don’t want money to come between us now,” Connor said. “At the same time, I don’t want to lessen the value of it, and I want them to understand that you have to work for that money.”