5 things to teach kids about holiday spending

When on holidays with your children, they usually have a million requests to buy things that they won't use or need. Try our tested tips on how to stop your kids nagging.

Family Celebration Christmas

Whenever you go near a shop with children, they always seem to be asking for something. “Can I have...(insert desperate need for ice cream, toy, gadget, clothing or whatever has caught their eye).” This is a phrase parents hear everyday and it drives most of us crazy! If we said yes to every little request, our houses would be full of junk that no one would ever play with or have any memory of even buying.

So what happens when holiday time comes around, and your children are surrounded by exciting new shops and food outlets?

Thankfully through trial and error, and a fair bit of research, we have discovered some great ways to save your wallet and sanity on your next family holiday.

1. Where is the money coming from

Rather than handing out cash at the start of a holiday, or handing over your card every time someone wants something, get your children to save a portion of their pocket money for each family holiday. This way it is their responsibility how much money they get to spend on holidays.

My boys (9 and 7) have to save at least 50 percent of their pocket money each week, to go towards holiday spending. No I’m not making them pay for food and accommodation. This is for them to buy things they need or want (within reason). It’s up to them if they want to save more than 50 percent and to boost their savings by asking for money for their birthday or Christmas.

2. What can they spend their money on

Help your children to come up with some ideas of things they might want to buy at your destination. It could be a souvenir, food, toy or gadget the destination is famous for, or even an experience like zip lining through a rainforest canopy or surf lessons. The sooner your children come up with spending ideas the better, so they have something to aim for with their saving.

Having these ideas in place should reduce the begging for everything in sight but still give enough flexibility to buy something special they’d never thought of.

Word of caution: In our house, the rule on holidays is, if you buy it, you carry it! This is aimed at avoiding us having to lug around metre high toy crocodiles, or huge boxes of LEGO that will never fit in any bag or vehicle.

3. How to budget

No family holiday is like another. Therefore there are no set rules about how much to budget for each age group or for each destination. Once you have worked out what type of things your child wants to spend money on and how much they can save, you’ll have a much better idea of how much to budget. Just because you’re going on holidays doesn’t mean they have to spend all their money.

To give you an example, we recently visited Italy and Denmark via Singapore, and the boys saved every cent of their pocket money and asked for birthday and Christmas money, so had $250 each to spend. They worked out they wanted to get souvenirs from Italy and Singapore, but in Denmark wanted LEGO plus souvenirs. We came up with the idea of budgeting $50 for Singapore, $75 for Italy and $100 for Denmark, which worked really well.  

4. How foreign currency works

If you’re heading overseas, it is beneficial to give your children a little of their spending money in foreign currency. It’s an amazing way to teach them about different currencies but still keep your money safe.

I never like carrying around too much cash, so we usually get the boys to work out how much their latest purchase is going to cost and pay for it on card.

5. How to keep track of their spending

It’s really easy to lose track of who has bought what, and how much it cost, so write it down on a piece of paper and stick it in your wallet. This way when one of your children wants something, you can show them whether they have enough money left.

Your children are much more likely to remember the joy of buying a Mickey Mouse statue from Disneyland, a t-shirt from their favourite beach, or a crocodile safari, than they are the latest toy, gadget or in-fashion shoes. Family holidays are brilliant for creating amazing memories, but let's help our children learn to spend their own money, so we can then save faster for our next holiday.

Nicci O’Mara is a writer, blogger and mother of boys who loves nothing better than heading off on an adventure. Her blog, Travel with Boys aims to inspire families to travel more and make it easier for them to get out of the house and explore their town, region, country and the world. Nicci spends the rest of her time picking up dirty clothes, banishing balls from the house, cooking, and wondering why on earth boys are always wrestling and always loud! Follow her blog at Travel with Boys or connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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