As our kids begin their second consecutive pandemic-impacted school year, the Delta Variant is threatening the chances of a “normal” school experience, parenting can feel more stressful than ever. 

With all this uncertainty, it’s important that we continue to foster meaningful conversations with our kids to help them feel secure, grounded and connected, despite feelings of fear, anxiety and confusion. One topic families may be reluctant to discuss? Money. According to a recent survey by T. Rowe Price, 69% of parents are reluctant to talk with their kids about money, and only 23% of kids reported talking with their parents about money on a regular basis. It may seem like a strange time to talk about money with everything happening in the world, but this conversation can be an important part of daily interactions with your child to help build a strong foundation during times of uncertainty. 

Demystifying money, by making it a regular topic of discussion, is crucial to helping your kids develop smart money habits later in life. And its not just talking about money, but giving kids exposure to money decisions: what to buy, what not to buy and how to make those tradeoffs is an important muscle for them to start flexing while still at home. Without a solid financial foundation, based on conversations and experience, kids will be unprepared to function as successful economic actors when they leave the nest. 

The first step for empowering kids to be smarter spenders is collaboration. Encourage your kids to ask questions by including them in spending decisions. Shopping, whether for back to school supplies or for a hobby, is a great opportunity to give your kids a budget and allow them to buy items that will directly impact their daily experience. 

The next step: Make a plan around spending. Sit down with your kids and break down their expenses into different buckets: wants vs. needs, fixed vs. variable expenses. This is a great way to help kids visualize money and gain a firmer understanding of their financial situations. After making a plan, the final steps are to set goals and prioritize. Ask your kids what short and long term purchases they want to make and use the plan from earlier to evaluate how close they are to achieving their spending and saving goals. For example, do your kids want to save up for a new gaming console? If so, they might want to take fewer trips to the ice cream shop. 

While these steps are a great way to get kids thinking about smart money habits, tools like Till give kids hands-on spending experience by putting the power in their hands. Till is an app and debit card combo designed to encourage collaboration between parents and kids. Unlike other apps that focus on saving or investing, Till’s #1 priority is teaching kids to be smarter spenders. The reality is that we are living in a spending economy, and without developing the ability to spend effectively, kids will have a very difficult transition once they leave the nest. 

On average, each kid in the US influences family purchases of $6,000 a year. That equates to a lot of opportunities to teach them about how to spend wisely. Imagine if instead of putting some of those expenses on a credit card auto-pay, you use the opportunity to talk with your kid on a monthly basis about if it’s a worthwhile expense, and better yet, give them the exposure and the opportunity to pay the bill themselves (even if you subsidize it). Paying bills is a very real part of life that kids should have exposure to before they’re out on their own and potentially caught off guard. 

We all want our kids to grow up to be strong, educated financial actors. Taking the time to teach your kids smart money habits will benefit them for the rest of their lives. No one knows what this next year will bring, but one thing you can control is planting the seeds for your kids’ long-term financial success.