8 Examples of Teachable Moments about Money (from Real Parents)

Teachable moments aren't always easily identifiable, so I'm sharing 8 real-life examples of teachable moments where parents saw an opportunity to teach their kids something about money.

man with young son in restaurant, son pays, text overlay "8 examples of teachable moments about money from real parents"Have you ever heard the phrase Teachable Moment?

A Teachable Moment is a specific time that is ripe for a conversation or lesson because your kid(dos)’ interest about a subject is peaked.

Why would that moment in time be the right one to give a lesson?

Well, when your child is highly interested in something – either because a situation has presented itself in real life (IRL), or because they’re just into it (you know how kids go through crazy phases!) –then they’re way more likely to not only listen, but to absorb what you’re saying.

For example, if you’re on a nature walk and your kiddo becomes highly fascinated/upset about all of the pieces of trash everywhere…you could start a conversation about recycling, trash pick-ups, taking care of your trash and how it ends up in beautiful places like this when people don’t, etc.

But if you’re walking into a restaurant for dinner and your child happens to chuck a piece of trash on the way in instead of putting it in the trash can, then you’re likely to experience an eye-roll or a half-hearted “sure” when you point out what they’ve done wrong and how bad that is for the environment.

Lucky for us, life takes money. Which means money situations are all around us. So teachable money moments are everywhere – both in your own life and in your child’s life.

Yet, it’s not exactly second nature for all of us to identify these moments and capitalize on them to teach our children something.

So, I wanted to offer up 8 examples from my blogging friends about actual moments they took to teach money lessons to their kids, IRL.

8 Example Teachable Moments

I just love teachable money moments where teaching money skills to your child just happens naturally.

You know, the moments that pop up in everyday life that are just too ripe for the taking to impart a lesson to your child?

Though they’re normally spontaneous – like when the checkout person forgets to scan something on the bottom of your cart and you show your child what it means to be honest, or when a too-good-to-be-true offer comes on the tv and you sit down with your child + a calculator to show them that “just pay extra shipping & handling” means you’re basically paying for the second product (a product you didn’t want two of, anyway).

But, you can also plan a few of them ahead of time by thinking through some typical things your family does in a week or month, which is what these example teachable moments are going to help you do.

Teachable Moment #1: Consider Spending Alternatives

Moment: Ordering Mac ‘N Cheese at the Whole Foods Prepared Section
Kiddo’s Name (real or anonymous): Bash
Age: 14

Stephen Chen from New Retirement says that a teachable money moment, “happened this evening after we were headed back from playing basketball. He was hungry and wanted to grab something at Whole Foods – macaroni and cheese from the prepared foods section.

He thought it would be < $5. I thought it would be a lot more since it was dense and this is not a great thing to buy by weight from Whole Foods…

Turns out it was $10.50. I ended up buying it since it would have gotten tossed but we had a good discussion about being thoughtful about spending and considering alternatives.”

I asked Stephen to follow-up on what, if any, his child took from his efforts to impart some money wisdom in this teachable moment.

Stephen said,

“he understood that it was a lot to pay for a food choice that is normally inexpensive (and not that nutritious) and that there were lower cost options (frozen or stove top). He did get that there are better value ways to spend dollars when buying things by weight – ex. mashed potatoes vs. raspberries. Also discussed that different retailers have different price points and types of customers (whole food/paycheck vs Safeway – regional California chain). Would he have spent that much if it was his money vs. mine? What else could be get for $10.50?”

Teachable Moment #2: A Loan is Never Guaranteed to be Repaid

Moment: from a Hasty, $5 Yard-Sale-Teddy-Bear
Kiddo’s Name (real or anonymous): Anonymous
Age: 6

Kate Horrell of Paycheck Chronicles writes about how her child, who normally receives $1.50/week in allowance, asked for an allowance advance on the remaining $6.00 one month after learning that her big sister gets their entire months’ allowance in one fell swoop.

But what happened?

Well, her daughter turned up crying in a very short amount of time. It turns out her big sister had said she “might” pay for a teddy bear the little girl wanted at a yard sale ($5.00). The big sis paid, and then told her little sister that she now owed her the $5.00 because by her paying for the teddy bear for her little sister it meant that she had taken out a loan (with the “gotcha” being that she said “might” and not that she actually, 100%, would).

What an interesting situation!

Mama Bear Kate took the situation as a teachable moment for several different kinds of lessons, such as the perils of lending/borrowing with friends and family, fully outlining and understanding financial negotiations before entering into them, loans aren’t always repaid, etc.

But of course, all these teachable moments from this one incident didn’t happen at once. That would be a little overwhelming even to an adult!

Kate says,

“In my experience, they each learn a little bit every year (just like us adults.) I think they have definitely learned that a loan is never guaranteed to be repaid:).”

Teachable Moment #3: Thinking through The Free Toy Sales Gimmick

Moment: Kid’s Candy-Toy Addiction
Kiddo’s Name (real or anonymous): Michael
Age: 5

Joseph, who has curated a big collection of tips from financial bloggers on how to teach kids money-saving tips, shares, “My son Michael just turned 5 years old. He’s completely hooked on the candies with little toys inside – the chocolate eggs or the cups of yogurt with the plastic toys in the bottom of the cup. Of course, the toy really isn't worth much and they mark up the candy because they know kids will pressure their parents to buy.

Trying to ween my son off these, I told him that instead of buying one or two of these a week as we normally did, he could spend half the amount on anything he wanted. I helped him see choices between buying the one candy/toy combination or buying a much better toy by itself.

Not only was I trying to get him off the candy treats but also wanted to help him see through the commercialized sales pitch, i.e. see through the candy/toy gimmick.

He still asks for the candy every once in a while, but not as often as before. Hopefully it will help him be a better consumer, not so easily persuaded by gimmicks and sales pitches, when he's older.”

Teachable Moment #4: Kid Loan

Moment: Broken Laptop
Kiddo’s Name (real or anonymous): Anonymous
Age: teen

William H. Dwight of FamZoo offers up the following teachable money moment he used in his own household with his son, the heavy metal drummer:

William, a self-proclaimed “nerdy computer science Dad,” bought his son a fancy Mac laptop to record music with his buddies. He wanted to support his child’s creative pursuits, especially since it was being encouraged by his son’s music teacher.

Except that then, six months later, he learned it had been trashed. Not only did his child show complete disregard for this really expensive gift from his father, but he casually announced, “my music teacher says I need a new one.”

As if laptops fall out of the sky!

William said, “Here’s the deal: I’m not going to buy you one, but I’ll give you a loan, and I’m going to garnish your wages for the next year and a half to pay this thing back.”

This resulted in 40% of his weekly allowance disappearing to pay for an item he really wanted. Subsequently, he took a LOT better care of the second laptop than he did the first.

William recalls,

“He took really good care of that thing. He had that computer longer than any computer I could remember. It was a total game changer.”

Teachable Moment #5: How to Start a Business and Create a Business Plan

Moment: Daughter’s Idea
Kiddo’s Name (real or anonymous): Sienna Jaye
Age: 11

Small-biz-owner Jennifer Franklin shares, “My 11-year-old daughter recently came to me with an idea for her own business. She told me her idea to start an online apparel store for young girls like herself. We talked about a business plan and how she was going to fund her business.”

I was super curious to hear what they talked about during this business plan conversation. Jennifer shares the following points:

Business Plan:

1 | We talked about what she would need to get started. She made a list of things she would need that included: logo, website, designs, apparel, heat press.

2 | We also talked about how she was going to get started. She made a to-do list.

3 | Her original idea was to print the shirts herself, but soon found out the initial cost was going to be more than she could invest.

4 | She researched and found a company online that will print her designs for her. The company she found would not have been my first choice because the profits are smaller and she has to send her customers to their website to make the purchase. I gave her my advice, but in the end she chose to go with her original decision. The reasons she gave were: the apparel options are “cooler” and it was easier for her to create and upload her designs.

How to Fund Business:

1 | We talked about how much money she had on hand and in the bank. And how she probably didn’t want to use it all up front.

2 | We also talked about who she could ask for a loan if she needed more money to get started. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa were some of her answers.

3 | She also brought up that she could ask Grandma if she had any jobs for her to do. (Grandma sometimes “hires” her to help out with odd jobs.)

4 | Her initial investment was only $51.51 to get started. We used a coupon code from GoDaddy to set up a domain and a managed WordPress website for only $12 for the year. She purchased one of her designs to make sure the quality was what she was looking for and used a 30% coupon code. The hoodie cost $39.51.

This talk really got the ball rolling. Jennifer says,

“Over the weekend, she put her plan in action all on her own: designed her logo, created apparel designs on a website she found and set up her website (she had a little direction from me on how to set up the website.) She has told her friends at school and has already sold a few items. It was pretty cool to see her in action.

Love that we can inspire a whole new generation of girl bosses!:)”

And a little cherry on top? Her daughter left the following note on her mother’s desk (*heart melting*):

Wow. These are some powerful money teachable moments that could have passed by as so many other moments do in our lives.

Instead, these mothers and fathers seized the opportunity and decided to create a lesson from it that their kids are not likely to forget.

Next up, I want to show you three teachable moments about money in my own childhood.

What is an Example of a Teachable Moment? Examples from My Own Childhood

When I look back on the journals that I’ve kept since kindergarten {some in crayon scribbles}, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in my money journey.

Sneak Peek: One of my most favorite entries is this really funny, dramatic essay where I moan about having to ‘drain’ $13.00 from my account each week for gas (oh, the look of horror in my 16-year-old eyes at what our current monthly gas bill is)…

Yes, I’ve financially matured since then.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

If I travel back through time, I can think of several mistakes I made with concrete (read: savings account-draining) consequences.

At the time, they were really painful {financially} to go through. Especially since I was earning my money mainly through mucking horse stalls, milking cows, and other forms of exhausting, smelly work (I grew up on a dairy farm!).

But boy am I glad I learned them when I did compared with learning them as an adult…because when you’re an adult, small mistakes can have much costlier consequences (and, potentially, even be irreversible).

Lesson #1: There are Financial Consequences to Not Taking Care of Your Belongings

Flip back in time. The year is 1999, and I am a drummer in our high school marching band. I manage to lose my marching band tunic. It could have happened at any of the parades we went to, or perhaps on a bus to/from the event (to this day it’s never shown up in my belongings). I dreaded each and every event we had thereafter because I had to ask to borrow one from the band moms, explaining yet again that I still could not find it. Then, the end of the year came. I signed over $385 to the band fund to make up for my mistake. Ouch.

Flash Forward: I honestly don’t think I’ve lost anything of large value (or perhaps even of ‘small value’) since that band tunic. I am organized, and keep my belongings in good working order because I’ve realized how costly it is to replace them.

Lesson #2: Some Deals are Too Good to Be True

I was one of those teenagers who desperately wanted some CDs of my favorite music, but just couldn’t afford to purchase them all. One day I found a deal in the mail from BMG (remember those guys?). It was something extremely tempting, like 5 CDs for $25. My mother gave me fair warning the first time I approached her with this unbelievable deal, but still dutifully sent in each check I gave her when I didn’t want to listen. Then one day, it dawned on me. Since you had to become a member of the club and buy a certain number of CDs over the next year or so, it turned out that in the end, you really paid just as much for those CDs as you would have in the store. Except you spaced out the purchases. Doh!

Flash Forward: I excel at finding great deals. By learning all those years ago to sit down and do the math before signing up for an offer that sounds too-good-to-be-true, I’ve developed quite the system for quickly sifting through fool’s gold to get at the real thing.

Lesson #3: Sometimes You’ve Got to Cut Your Losses and Move on

One night my father offered me $20 to milk the cows. I decided that I would do it because I really wanted this new jean skirt from a catalogue (ordering from a catalogue was something I rarely did, so this was a special treat). So, I spent the two hours or so sweating it out in our barn, milking all of our cows, and showering off the manure smell right before settling into my homework. The next day I placed my order. But the skirt didn’t come. Three weeks passed, then four weeks, then I just about forgot about it. Until a letter came in the mail letting me know that this company had declared bankruptcy. Yikes! All that work for nothing.

Flash Forward: This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, and honestly, I need a tune-up every so often. Things do not always pan out in this world. When I sink tons of time and energy into a losing battle, it’s important to cut my losses and move on before investing even more time, energy and money into something.

I’m sharing this with you so that hopefully, as you continue finding those teachable moments with your kids, you can feel more confident and steady when allowing your child to feel their own financial mistakes. Because guess what? My parents did not bail me out of any of these situations. Because of that, I learned some pretty valuable lessons.

Learning these lessons when the consequences were relatively minor, and when I had my entire life to reap the benefits, really changed the course of my money future.

Now it’s your turn! What teachable moments have you taken advantage of in your own life? How did they crop up? Any inspiration from the moments above? Please share!

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