The Saving Squirrel and Other Ways of Teaching Young Children to Save Money

Dollar the Squirrel Mascot of Chemical Bank - Teaching Young Children to Save Money

Dollar the Squirrel, Mascot of Chemical Bank

How do you teach kids the value of money and encourage them to save?

This noble task is something many parents struggle with. Maybe you do too?

Typically, our kids are not learning more than how to identify and count coins and dollar bills in elementary school.

So it is up to us as parents to step in to teach them how to save.

The Secret to Your Success…Make Savings Fun Again!

Talking with a child about saving money for something special (even a week or a month down the road) can be challenging. We have to make savings fun again.

I grew up depositing money in our local community bank that had a mascot, a squirrel. He was at all kinds of events. From the field day at our elementary school to the local fair.

To this day, I remember the squirrel giving me a high five when I opened my first savings passbook account.

Mascots are cool. Children love them. My two little boys love the GEICO pig, Maxwell, and his commercials, for example.

These characters are aimed at selling to us and our children. These little guys resonate with children and remain in their collective memory.

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Other Ways of Teaching Young Children to Save Money

Here are a few other great ways to help get young children (age 4-10) excited about saving money. That is, of course, if your bank doesn’t have a squirrel mascot.

Matching Contributions – One fun way to entice your children to save money for a specific goal is to match their contributions much like many employers match their employees 401k retirement plan contributions.

For example, if your child wants a new toy, tell them you will match them dollar for dollar or 50 cents on the dollar to boost their total. This could really spur them into action.

Making a Savings Chart – Most of us are visual learners and our children are no different. Having a chart listing your savings goals (and how much you have saved towards that goal) hanging in a prominent place in your home is an excellent motivator and discussion piece.

Use Multiple Coin Jars – Set up three coin jars to separate children’s savings into the categories of saving, investing, and giving. There are even piggybanks like the Money Savvy Pig who have separate compartments to help visualize the separation.

Kids Need Cool Piggybanks - Let’s face it. Traditional piggybanks are boring. What is your child passionate about? Does he or she love soccer? Then consider a piggybank shaped like a soccer ball. There are even talking ATM-style banks. Find a cool bank that your children would get a kick out of using instead of the traditional pig.

Setting the Right Example – How our children grow up thinking about money has a lot to do with how we interact with money in our own lives. Parents know and understand their children are always watching their every move and eavesdropping on their conversations. The first time my son said a swear word brought that realization quickly to my consciousness.

How do you interact with money? Do you dread going to the mailbox, answering the phone, or paying bills each month? Do you talk disparagingly about money around your children? Your children hear and see that interaction and feed off it. They sense your money struggles. Setting the right example can help set the stage for their future money success.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance editor, Janet Bondar, recommends:

This is great advice to help parents nurture the savings bug in their kids.

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It is our responsibility as parents and, to a certain degree, the banking industry’s responsibility to help teach savings to our children. We need to instill in them not a love of money, but a love of taking control of their financial security at an early age.

Whether it is saving for candy at the end of the week, a new toy at the end of the month, or helping older kids invest for larger purchases down the road, making savings fun and interesting is the path to success. More banks need a squirrel mascot.

Did your bank growing up have a mascot? Is that simply a dumb publicity ploy or potentially a valuable tool to get your children interested in savings? How are you teaching your kids to save?

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Last Edited: June 20, 2013 @ 2:27 pm
About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is a fan of everything personal finance. He's the creator of the popular site Money Q&A, as well as other financial sites. Hank is currently studying to become a CFP. His freelance writing work can be seen across a variety of top-notch publications in finance and investing.

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