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The Money Messenger -- Money Basics for Everyone
April 03, 2009


Welcome to Issue #15 of The Money Messenger!

The Money Messenger brings you the latest on your kids and money.

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The Money Messenger

In This Issue

Money Basics for Everyone This month's articles focus on different aspects for money basics: for kids, for teens and for families

A reader's question on the best way to start tracking expenses

What's new and what's next?

Note from Jennifer

In the last issue, I thought that spring was here. I was wrong. It snowed about 4 inches here last weekend - after it got done sleeting for several hours. Thankfully, it was gone as quickly as it came. But the spring weather roller coaster continues here in the Midwest, so I'll definitely be ready for some stable warm weather. I hope a warm spring is on its way to you too!

It's the same thing with any financial plans or budgeting. We're usually ready for them to be stable and easy to manage (like real spring weather). But getting there isn't always easy or enjoyable. This month's articles focus on the keys for everyone to get their money basics education started (or continued).

I still need YOUR help with is to get your stories. Everyone wants to hear more from each other! Personally, reader stories are my favorite part of any newsletter or magazine so I can't wait to make this addition. But I need your help! Please drop me a note at to tell me your story (and you can remain anonymous if you like).


Feature Article
Money Basics for Kids

There are so many things that kids can learn about money. The key is to have those lessons be as positive as possible. Many adults have negative feelings when they think of money. Many others have positive feelings. But what kids need to understand is that money is not good or just is.

What is the best way to teach kids about money? Start with the basics and build from there.

First, though, you need to figure out where you and your kids are in your money education process. If the kids are young and just starting to understand that money can buy things, then what they need to learn about is different than an 8 year old that is receiving an allowance.

Second, just get started. There is no perfect way to teach kids about money. There are also so many things that you can teach (and learn) at the same time that jumping right in will work just fine. Plus, it will help you figure out of there are other things that you need to learn more about and determine what your next step will be.

Kids naturally have money tendencies that are going to help show the path that their money education needs to take as well. For example, I don't need to spend much time talking to my daughter about saving money because she likes to save. But, I can't get her to spend money on anything (or hardly anything), so I am working with her on learning that there are times when you need to spend money. My son, on the other hand, is anxious to spend about any money that he gets.

To get started, go to the newly added Kid Money Basics section of the site. Take a cruise around let me know if there are things you want to see added here that will help with your kids.

Feature Article
Money Basics for Teens

Just as you get through the kid years, the teen years come rolling along. And, as with most things for teenagers, money becomes a more complex issue than it has been in the past. It's just a natural progression of their overall independence. The key with teens and money is to know that these teen money skills are ones that they must learn to be successful in their adult money skills.

What are the big differences between kid and teen money basics?

The first big difference is the level of independence and freedom that teens should have with their money. Even if you are starting with a teen who has not really had any money responsibilities in the past, they should move into having more responsibility quickly. Of course, they shouldn't be turned completely loose unless they have proven that they can act responsibly but they should be able to understand the consequences of spending too much money at the beginning of the week.

The second difference is that teens have stronger opinions about nearly everything than kids do. I am sure that this doesn't come as a big surprise to anyone, but it's important that we recognize that this has a strong impact on their money habits. When you combine that with how much they are influenced by their peers and the opportunities they have to make money decisions, there can be a real challenge.

How do you take these differences and turn them into opportunities?

Focus on teaching skills around the teen money skills that are needed most often. If the challenge is not spending all of their money by Wednesday (and they need to make it to Saturday), start by working on a teen budget. If your teen is ready to have a clothing allowance, work with them on smart shopping tips so that they can get the most for their money. These money habits are then focused on what they need to know right now but that still have long-lasting benefits. This approach help keep the focus off of "teaching" and on "helping."

To see even more information on teen money management, go to the newly added Teen Money Basics area.

Feature Article
Money Basics for the Family

Family money management is a key to being able to teach kids and teens about money. They learn so much - about everything - from just watching and observing parents and other adults. That makes having a good home money environment an important part of their overall money education.

What are some of the crucial pieces of family money management?

Everyone in the house needs to understand that money is a just a tool. Making it work for you is the trick. Here are some ways to get started.

  • Create a family budget. Make it a team effort, involving the kids at the appropriate level based on their ages and money knowledge.
  • Make a family spending plan. This sounds alot like a budget - and they can be the same thing. But you could also have a family spending plan that just focuses on the non-recurring expenses so that kids realize that this is where the everyday decisions on moeny get made.
  • Set family saving goals. This could be for your next family vacation or just a day at the local amusement park. Starting with a fun goal can be motivating for everyone.

Check out more ideas on family money management at the newly added Family Money Basics section.

Ask the Editor!

Here's where I answer your questions. Tom writes that he and his family are really trying to get a handle on their expenses and just don't know where to start. Here's the advice:

Tracking expenses or spending can seem overwhelming when you think about all the different things that you pay for during the month - or even just a normal day! The key to getting a handle on where your money is going is to take it one step at a time. Follow these steps to get a solid foundation for tracking - and cutting - expenses.

  • Write all of your spending down for one month. And I mean everything - the house payment, the gas in the car, the candy bar at the convenience store, the weekly groceries and the pop from the vending machine. Don't worry about putting things into categories yet.
  • Review the list of your month's spending and decide how you want to categorize your expenses. There is no one right way to do this. It needs to be meaningful for you and your family. Do make sure that you add enough spending categories that you can make sense out of it. For example, having a "house" category may be too broad if you put every expense that is remotely related to the house there - you could dump utilities, groceries and entertainment into this one category. It is much harder to figure out what is happening if you have big buckets.
  • Note which items can't be changed. Typically, there are fixed expenses such as the house mortgage and car payments that are the same every month and don't go away. Regardless of what category these are in, put a star or some other note by them so you know that you don't really need to focus on these first.
  • Look at your variable expenses and challenge yourself on whether this stuff you needed or just wanted. Some categories can be a mix. Groceries are a great example of this. You need food. But do you need the name brand food? Or are you buying lots of convenience foods when you could be buying things that require a little more prep (like buying Uncrustable premade PB&J sandwiches vs. making your own)?
  • Take all of this information and set a family spending goal. That might be setting afirm limit on your grocery bill or cutting your overall spending by $100 each month. Start small so you can recognize some success and getting past the learning curve of these new habits. Then you can go onto new goals and new levels of success!

Are there tricks or tips that you have for tracking expenses or figuring out where your money goes each month? Share them with me (and everyone else) by sending them to

And for more information on family money management, click here. Or to get your question considered (about family money management, expense tracking or any other topics), contact me here.

What's New?

Over the past couple of months several new articles and pages have been added on all kinds of topics. These range from kid and teen entrepreneur resources to family budgeting to kid shopping tips. Be sure to check out the site and see what's new!

Coming soon...the next issue of The Money Messenger

May's issue will focus on summer jobs for kids and teens. If you have questions you'd like to see addressed for that issue, just use the Contact Form or email me at Be sure that your name will be kept confidential.

Talk to you soon!

Comments or suggestions?

If you have any comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please let me know. I want to be sure that this newsletter meets your needs. Feel free to provide your comments using this contact form.

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