You love your girl, so it’s only natural to want to fulfill her every desire and dream. In fact, like many parents, you probably sometimes wish you had even more to give her. All that said, there are times when the greatest gift you could give your girl is to not give her the things she wants, and instead to help her earn and save up for them herself. “That’s part of the gift of financial independence, one of the greatest gifts of all,” says Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist Andrea Bastiani-Archibald. “Learning how to budget money and spend it well at an early age can help her confidently make financial decisions for the rest of her life.”
And the truth is, this kind of real-life experience with money is something girls are hungry for. In a recent study conducted by Girl Scouts Research Institute, the top three financial literacy skills girls said they were hoping to learn were how to save money and plan for future goals in general, to make big purchases later in life—like a car or a home, and to pay for their education.
So how can you set her up to be a lifelong saver? Dr. Bastiani-Archibald says it’s simpler than you might think. “The next time your girl asks for something new—not an essential like socks or a backpack if hers has gotten worn out, but something that would be a treat, like a video game system or a new bike—explain the difference between wants and needs and tell her you’re excited to help her come up with a plan to save the money she’ll need to buy it herself.”
If she doesn’t already have a bank account, take her to the bank and help her set one up, then talk with her about how she will use the money she has and future money she may get through her allowance, small jobs she takes on, or holiday gifts. “Teaching kids the ‘spend, save, give’ model of money management can be really helpful,” says Dr. Bastiani-Archibald. “Together, you can decide what percentage of her money she should put toward her big purchase, how much she should set aside for other spending, and how much she’ll give to benefit her community.”
Depending on her age, you can make a chart to hang in her room to keep track of her saving progress, help her follow along with her passbook from the bank, or encourage her to set up her own mini spreadsheet to keep track of her finances.
Help her celebrate milestones in her savings (the half-way point is a big deal, and also a time when she may need some encouragement to keep going!) and tell her how proud you are of the smart money decisions she’s making. By the time she’s saved up enough to make her big purchase, she will have learned important financial literacy skills that will last a lifetime.