Kids accumulate money in many ways: as birthday gifts, allowances, chore money, and maybe even entrepreneurial projects of their own like lemonade stands - but they're not necessarily saving. Regardless of how they get it, setting aside a portion of that income is a great habit to practice. But the simple message of “you need to save your money” isn’t enough on its own. Goal setting is one of the most significant skills you can help them develop to save more and save smarter. Here’s how:
Saving motivation engine.
Ever find yourself working out or going for a run, and all you can think about is the pizza you want to dig into this weekend? Well, setting goals for kids to save towards is like that. A big part of saving is defining what “success” looks like for kids. In other words, what is the end goal? Does saving mean being able to buy those new Nike shoes? Or is it being able to participate in a school activity next year? Maybe it’s having spending money for the next family vacation.
As much as we may be tempted to just tell them to save “as much as possible,” it’s a recipe for failure. Without specific goals, they will lose interest and motivation to save anything at all. To get motivated, children need to look forward to something, and that’s where goals come in.
Put a price on it.
If your kids have a saving goal like a new toy or phone, help them look up what it costs. Though it may seem counterintuitive, choosing a maximum goal to reach is smart. Saving “enough money to pick something out at the toy store” is vague; saving AED 75 for that stuffed toy they saw in the display window of the toy store is achievable. Assigning a monetary amount to a goal makes it feel within reach. And don’t forget that sneaky VAT!
Break it down.
Saving goals of large amounts can feel like staring at a mountain that you have to climb – so help your child break it down into smaller steps. Saving for a PlayStation, the newest iPhone, or a trip with friends may mean constantly having to contribute money to those goals over many weeks or even months. Breaking down large goals into small ones can help children feel successful and more motivated. For example, dividing a big goal like a trip into specifics like airline tickets, hotel, food, and miscellaneous could be useful.
Dividing up a big “lump” of savings into goal-oriented categories may also make them aware of other savings categories they haven’t thought of. Did they consider the cost of sports gear when they’re saving for a school activity, or all the games they want to buy for the PlayStation they’re saving for? Help them think about all their potential savings goals and then prioritize.
Consider saving goals as trade-offs of spending.
We all get tempted to make impulsive buys when we’re walking around the mall or even the grocery store. Having a tangible goal in mind allows them to better weigh the trade-off of spending money in the short-term versus the goal they’re saving for. Think about it: If your child had the option of either saving AED 35 just for the sake of saving or buying candy, the candy would be the more vivid (and maybe obvious) choice. If they had a specific and motivating goal like the new Lego Star Wars video game, they would be less likely to buy something randomly.
The light at the end of the saving tunnel.
Saving can feel like staring at a clock waiting for class to end. In addition to having a target dollar amount and goal, kids can make a timeline for how long it will take to reach it. They’ll know how long they’ll have to make short-term spending sacrifices so they can put money aside for this goal. There’s a light at the end of the savings tunnel, and they’ll know when they’ll reach it.
It may be weeks or even months before they reach their target amount for savings, but if they use a digital family banking app, they can enter specific savings goals and keep track of their progress. As they receive their allowance and chores money digitally, they decide how much to of it to add to each goal. Seeing the amounts growing through the app is very exciting and motivational to children.
Though the waiting part of delayed gratification is important, celebrating their successes is important, too. If your kids reach a goal and save, celebrate it! That will help motivate them to set even more goals and develop the habits of planning, budgeting, and saving.
When you talk to kids about healthy savings habits, be sure to encourage them to set specific and achievable goals rather than just open-ended ones. For children who still need to learn to be patient and to see the bigger picture, setting goals for both the short and long term will provide the structure and discipline necessary to stack on track and grow into financially savvy adults.