15 Fun Ways to Teach Kids about Money This Summer
Summer is expensive for parents, which is why it is the perfect time to teach kids about money.
With kids out of school, parents have to either spend money on childcare, camps, or entertainment.
It adds up. Fast.
Pre-pandemic, families were already spending quite a bit during the summer months. A 2019 Pearachute survey found, “The average family expects to spend $10,759 this  summer.”¹
This estimate was based on the following traditional summer family expenses:
- Childcare: $3,488
- Summer camp: $2,344
- Vacation: $2,232
- Entertainment: $2,695
Now, consider the fact that these expenses have risen significantly since 2019.
According to the American Camp Association, “The average cost of a day camp has more than doubled from $76 last year to $178 this year. And sleep-away-camp has tripled up to $449 a day.”²
Vacation costs in 2023 are around 10% higher than in 2019.³
Theme park ticket prices have increased, as well as museums and other attractions.
In short, raising kids is now more expensive.
Instead of stressing about overspending this summer, use this time off school as a teaching opportunity.
Here are 15 tips to teach kids about money and get everyone on the same page money-wise this summer.
1. Set a Summer Savings Goal
Kids typically have big plans for the summer involving what they want to do. These things cost money.
Be upfront with kids and explain you cannot (and will not) just pay for them to do whatever they want.
Instead, encourage them to set a summer savings goal, such as saving enough money to go to the waterpark.
2. Push Them to Earn Their Own Money
Summer jobs are a fantastic way to teach kids about money.
In addition to finding actual summer jobs at local restaurants or retail stores, kids can earn money in many other ways. For example, encourage your child to offer dog walking, pet sitting, or poop scooping services.
Once they earn money, teach them the importance of saving and not spending more than they earn.
3. Play Financial Board Games as a Family
Playing games like Monopoly and Life is a great way to make kids more financially aware.
Plus, if your kids just can’t get off their devices this summer, download some apps that teach financial literacy, such as Practical Money Skill’s Cash Puzzler and Peter Pig’s Money Counter.
4. Teach Them How to Tip
This is an important life skill, but many kids enter the adult world not knowing how to properly tip.
Let your kids see you tip those who provide services on vacation. Show them your restaurant bill and explain how to calculate a tip. And explain why you do so.
5. Create a Summer Budget as a Family
Many parents avoid talking to their children about money, but this often backfires.
Kids need to have some idea of what things cost and how to budget.
If you don’t feel comfortable telling kids all the ins and outs of your financial history, start by involving them when creating your summer budget.
For example, tell the kids how much money you have budgeted for summer camps, and then allow them to choose the camps they’d like to attend with this budget in mind.
6. Explain Cash Flow Using Snacks
My kids run through snacks very quickly. I never cease to be amazed at how soon they disappear after I’ve purchased them.
But snacks add up – especially when kids are given free rein in the pantry during summer.
Hence the reason to use snacks as a learning opportunity.
At the beginning of the summer, go on a grocery shopping trip with your kids to buy summer snacks (i.e., snacks to last for x number of weeks).
The snacks represent money moving in and money moving out (aka cash flow).
Kids will have to manage their snack consumption in order for the snacks to last, like money management.
7. Give Them a Family Fun Day Budget-Planning Challenge
During the summer, give kids the opportunity to plan their own family fun day using a set budget.
For example, you set the budget at $150.
Your child will then choose where to go, what to eat, and what to do.
They will need to research options and calculate costs to ensure they stay on budget.
This gives them the freedom to do what they want while also helping them see how quickly things add up.
8. Point Out Common Markups
During the summer, we tend to take our kids to places we don’t normally go and buy things we don’t normally buy.
For example, we may go to a minor league baseball game in our town. This provides a chance to point out markups of common items.
A hot dog at the ball game is marked up in cost. Point out how much it likely costs to buy the hot dog versus how much they sell it for.
Similarly, if your kids go crazy for the ice cream truck, point out how much the ice cream is marked up compared to buying your own and storing it in your freezer.
9. Allow Them to Make Purchases
Far too often, parents make purchases for their children when their children are with them.
Whenever possible, if it is a purchase for your child (especially if your child is purchasing it with his or her own money), allow your child to go through the basic steps of paying for the item.
A great way to teach financial literacy is to get a child-friendly debit card, such as Greenlight, for these types of purchases. Or use cash.
10. Watch Movies with Valuable Money Lessons
Have a summer movie night that incorporates valuable money lessons.
Here are some examples:
- Aladdin teaches the importance of not using money to impress others.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone teaches the importance of only using what you need instead of blowing all the money you’ve got stored in the Gringotts Bank.
- Confessions of a Shopaholic teaches the dangers of compulsive shopping and credit card debt.
11. Make Them Earn for Expensive Summer Entertainment
If your kids have pricey summer to-do lists, make them earn the money for their personal entertainment.
For example, if they want to go to the movies with their friends, give them tasks or ways to earn money for their movie tickets.
If they want to buy new pool toys, don’t just buy them. Make them earn money for the toys.
12. Complete a Money-Matching Challenge
Here is a great suggestion from Quicken:
“For one month, task your kids with contributing any money they earn from doing chores, mowing the lawn, delivering papers, or any other odd job to a jar. On the last day of the month, have them count up the total amount and then match it. Boom, your kids just doubled their earnings! (and learned the basic concept of investing.)”
13. Give Them Financial Choices
Money management involves making wise choices.
If I buy X, I won’t have enough money for Y, so I’ll need to save money and wait.
Many adults struggle with these types of financial choices because they were never given the opportunity to make financial choices in a safe environment (at home with their parents).
Make it normal to give your children choices about how to spend money.
“You have $5 for snacks at the movies. Choose what you like, but that’s all you get.”
“We can either spend $20 to have a dinner and movie night at home tonight, or we can save up a few weeks to go to the movie theater.”
14. Send Them on a Grocery-Shopping Challenge
Put kids in charge of grocery shopping for a week this summer.
Give them a certain amount of money and tell them they can keep whatever they don’t spend.
Make them put together a meal plan and a shopping list. Allow them to use price comparison apps and coupons.
But be sure to set some parameters, like “It can’t be all sweets and snacks” and “We need at least three different family meals.” This will prevent you from eating cereal and peanut butter and jelly every meal.
15. Show Them Fun Doesn’t Have to Cost Anything
Summer is also the perfect time to teach kids about money because you can show them that fun doesn’t have to cost a thing.
If kids know the summer budget and there isn’t any money left, they will find ways to have fun without spending a penny.
They’ll discover they have just as much fun hiking with friends for free as they do spending money meeting at Starbucks.
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