UT Extension Encourages Parents, Teachers and Others to Help Educate Youth

Picture of coins in a glass jar
Teaching children to save can set them up for incredible financial success the rest of their lives. Follow this guidance from UT Extension to get started. Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – April is National Financial Literacy Month, and part of financial literacy is learning the practice of saving money. University of Tennessee Extension specialist Marci Hethmon has advice for parents and educators to help teach children the practice of saving.

“Saving is an important lesson to learn, and the earlier this is instilled, the better,” says Hethmon. “Delayed gratification is going to be difficult for most children. Helping children become savers comes down to communicating it in three steps: choice, habit, and attitude.”

Hethmon gives the following advice for each of these steps.

Saving is a choice.
Children must choose to save money, rather than spend it. Making this choice might mean a child waits to purchase something they would like to have. If encouraged, a child may decide this item is unnecessary, or may choose to purchase an item that is more valuable if they continue to save.

Children learn many things from their parents, and saving can, and should, be one of them. If children watch their parents save, then they will see this modeled. Include children in age appropriate discussions about budgeting and goal setting for family finances. If saving goals are derailed, discuss that as well. No one is perfect, and setbacks happen. It’s important for children to learn this as well.

Another way that parents can help children save is by avoiding the temptation to provide everything for a child. Allow children to set goals for the items they want. Saving is much easier if the saver has a set goal in mind. Help children to set age-appropriate goals as well, with the size of goals increasing as children grow.

Saving is a habit.
Once a choice is made repeatedly, it becomes a habit. But habits take practice. Children need the opportunity to practice. When it comes to saving, children need to have their own money to practice making spending and saving decisions. The best way to go about this is for children to earn their own money by completing chores, creating something to sell, or possibly working for friends or relatives with small tasks. Even very young children need the opportunity to earn their own money, so that healthy financial habits can begin at an early age.

Allow children to practice earning, spending and saving while experiencing the benefits and consequences of each choice. Engage in thoughtful discussion about these benefits and consequences without making a choice for them.

Encourage children to save a portion of what they earn every single time they are paid. Separate piggy banks or money jars are a great way to do this, and serve as a visual reminder for children as well. Label the jars as spend, save and share to help kids understand and manage financial priorities. As the choice to save is made again and again, kids will quickly learn that saving allows for more flexibility in spending habits as well as more options when unexpected opportunities arise.

Saving is a mindset.
By becoming involved in setting family saving goals and practicing saving themselves, children will begin to understand that smart money management is possible and that money is a tool to achieve their goals. Children will learn that they can control what happens to their money and see the benefits of these choices.

Managing spending and choosing to save is important. By teaching children to save, we are preparing the next generation to be as financially healthy as possible and equipping them with a lifetime of skills to reach their own financial goals.

For additional ideas to promote financial education for youth in April and throughout the year, contact your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at fcs.tennessee.edu

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu​.



Marci Hethmon, specialist, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-8198,