Bill paying is something all adults need to do, yet we don’t really teach our kids how. Here’s ideas for how to teach kids how to pay bills.
How to teach kids how to pay bills?
It’s a great question – because I think this is one of the most neglected personal finance lessons to cover…yet everyone (and I mean, everyone) will be doing it as soon as they leave home.
Are kids and teens just supposed to intuitively know how to juggle various due dates throughout the month when they get their first apartment?
I don’t think so.
That’s why I’m going to talk about a few strategies and free resources to help your kids and teens learn how to pay bills.
Bill Paying Lessons to Cover
In order for your child to successfully pay bills as a young adulthood, they’ll need to know how to do the following:
- Have a system for gathering/collecting bills
- Understand how to read a bill
- Understand that many bills can be paid automatically, and some will have to be paid manually (by check, debit card, cash-in-person, or credit card)
- Understand that some bills are variable, and others are fixed
- Understand that bills have varying due dates, and they’ll need to manage these
- Understand how to sync up their monthly cash flow with their bills, to make sure there’s enough to cover everything
- Understand that even if they misplace a bill or never receive it in the mail, it’s still due, and they could get a late fee for missing it
- Understand how to confirm/keep track of when a bill was paid
How to Teach Kids How to Pay Bills
Use these ideas and resources below to help with how to teach kids and teens how to pay bills.
1. Make them the Household Bill Tracker for 2-3 Months
Give your child the job of tracking bill payments throughout the month, for at least one round of bills (I would do 2-3 months, so that they can take the lessons learned and apply it to the next month).
This doesn’t mean you have to share the amount each bill is – though you could.
But it does mean you’ll need to share with them each of the household’s bills, line itemed, when the due date is, whether it’s paid automatically or manually, and the date when it’s been paid.
Your child can use one of these free bill pay checklists to then fill in as you go.
You’ll also want to give them a blank calendar (or, they can use a regular calendar), so that they can visually write in when each bill is due.
Bonus: are you also sharing the amounts with them? Cool. Then you can have them calculate which bills have gone up, and which bills went down, and which stayed the same from one month to the next. This is a great starter to conversations about variable vs. fixed expenses (for example, electric bills which change month-to-month, and mortgage payments which stay the same), and how things like seasonal changes and usage affect bills.
2. Do a Bill Pay Simulation
Are you working with a group, or several kids/teens (a classroom, Girl Scouts troop, advanced class, etc.)?
I created these free Bill Pay Printables that will help you set up a month-long bill-paying simulation.
Here’s how this works:
- Step #1: Assign a Job + Bills with Due Dates to each Child
- Step #2: Set Up a Bill Paying Station
- Step #3: Run the Month-Long Simulation
You’ll choose a treasurer/banker, and they’ll be in charge of keeping the bill-paying station running, as well as filling in the one-sheet student ledger for when each person pays and how much they end up paying.
And someone else can be the person in charge of paying students on each of the two paydays.
There’s even a set of reflection questions for kids to fill out at the end of the month!
3. Use Practice Paying Bills Worksheets
There are some practice paying bills worksheet pdfs that can help students and kids wrap their heads around the process (and to reinforce some of the activities from above).
Paying bills worksheet for students include:
- ConsumerFinance.gov’s Paying Bills Worksheets (Recommended Age 11-14)
- FDIC’s Money Smart Lesson 5 on Cash Flow (Grades 6-8)
- Reading Utility Bill Worksheet + Lesson Plan (PDF) (Grades 5-8)
- ConsumerFinance.gov’s Debating Ways to Pay Bills (Recommended Age 13-19)
- How to Write a Check (1-page PDF)
4. Connect Things in their House to Bills
Many kids (and teens) have no idea how the things they use each day in a house are connected to bills.
You can have an eye-opening conversation around this topic by asking them if they can pick out 2-3 things in a home that, when running, cost money. Then, ask them to identify what the bill is called for that particular service.
- Computer = electricity bill
- Internet = cable/internet bill
- Water = water bill
- Bedrooms/walls/floors/actual home = mortgage/rent
- Smartphone = data plan/cell phone service
- Car = possible car payment/gas/insurance
- Dishwasher = water and electricity bills
- Clothes = washer/dryer = water and electricity bills
- Food = groceries and trash pickup service
5. Give them a Bill to Pay
As your child ages into the teenage years, you’ll likely be shifting more responsibilities onto them. One of those you might want to think about is having them be in charge of a bill in their life.
This could be their cell phone bill (or just the data portion), or part/all of a car payment (here’s how to save up for a car as a teenager), etc.
And it could be having them pay the service provider directly, or, having them write out a check to you, the parent, for their share of amount due.
Hint: If you choose the paying-parent route? Make sure you give them a due date when their check is due each month to you. This is the best way to simulate real bill-paying.
Finally, here’s a great intro video to help your kids get interested and understand the scope involved with paying bills when living on your own.
Whether you choose a practice paying bills worksheet, to do the bill paying simulation, or any other strategy above, just know that any prep you give your kids and teens with bill paying will put them in a better position to make consistent, on-time bill payments as a young adult. And that's the goal, here!
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