Times are tough and cost saving has become essential, even in households that are financially comfortable. At the same time, many parents  shudder at the idea of denying their children life’s pleasures and comforts, and try to avoid making them anxious about money. But spending less is everybody’s business, so we’ve provided some helpful tips to help you to get your little ones on board:

Accept that there’s no shame in cutting costs

If you are reluctant to let your children know that money is tight, get over it. No person – no matter how rich or poor – should spend money wastefully. The skills you teach your children by sharing your budgets and plans with them will help them to understand and be careful with spending money – which is one of the most valuable lessons they will learn in their lives.

Take a constructive approach – don’t frighten them

It’s very easy to try to illustrate how much things cost by saying, “If we spend too much on treats, we won’t have enough money to eat,” but this can be frightening for a small child. Remember that children take things very literally, and concepts like running out of food can be terrifying. Rather introduce them to budgets simply by explaining that there is a finite amount of money every month and that it is allocated to certain needs and wants. Make a list of these to illustrate which things are priorities and to show them that by cutting costs, more money will be made available for fun and treats.

Empower them with cost-saving activities

Don’t fill your child’s world with “don’ts” but rather encourage them to save money by showing them things that they can do. Let them choose the lunchbox items they would like based on a weekly financial limit. Ask them for help turning off taps and switching off lights. Let them choose between a small treat now and a bigger reward later by putting the money in a savings jar. Explain to them that taking care of their clothes and looking after their toys helps them to last longer. Make older kids responsible for their own cell phone airtime and data budgets. Ask them to help come up with ideas for using up leftovers in the fridge. If they are old enough, get them to search online for affordable outings that they’d like to go on.

Use online resources to educate them

Sometimes, children drown out the sounds of their parents endlessly nagging them about things. Fortunately, you can give your voice a break by using online tools to share the same messages with them. Eskom has a number of tools targeted at educating children of different ages about power consumption, and the Wasting Water is Weird YouTube series is a great resource for showing older kids how to avoid water wastage. These also help them to understand that cost isn’t the only reason to be conscientious about consumption of resources.

You can search on YouTube for just about any concept you want to illustrate (budgeting for kids, saving for kids) and find videos that you think get the right message across.

Show as well as tell

If you are trying to educate your kids to spend less, it’s important to lead by example. Be conscious about all the little things that you do every day that convey a saving or spending attitude. Remember that you are their primary role model, and don’t undermine what you’ve been telling them by doing the exact opposite yourself.

The bottom line

Children have just as big a role to play in controlling household costs as their parents do. While it is admirable to skimp so your children can enjoy more comforts or luxuries, you’re teaching them a far more valuable lesson by making saving their responsibility too. Remember that the lesson that holds the greatest value is not giving them everything that they want, but rather preparing them for the real world. And don’t forget that there are many ways that you can show them how much you love them that cost them nothing.