When my grandsons lived nearby, I took them on several small trips during their summer vacation each year. As a teacher, I had time off too. We went to zoos, museums, whale watching, etc. To save money, the first stop we made on the first trip each summer was to a gift shop. There I let them buy any hat they wanted. I didn’t even look at the price.
This was their only souvenir for the entire summer. No matter how many places we went, I paid for gas, tickets and food. When they were older, and the trips became longer, I also paid the hotel bill. At mealtime I taught them about leaving tips, dining where there were discounts and the like. They learned how to stretch the budget so money was left over for more rides at the zoo and other attractions.
On a weeklong trip to San Diego, we hit all the famous sites. As always, the first stop was at a gift shop where each bought a commemorative hat. Two days later, while walking through the San Diego Zoo, my younger grandson learned about "opportunity cost". Something on a souvenir cart caught his eye. “Grandma, Can I have that?”
“Sure, Honey. But it costs about what lunch will tomorrow, so which do you want more?” His brother answered for him, “Forget about it. We’re having lunch!”
Using fun times to teach real world financial lessons is pretty simple. Just be straight with kids. Money is a finite resource. If you spend it in one place, you don’t have it to spend elsewhere. This works when planning for college too.
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