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Back-to-School Money Lessons

Inspired by Money as You Grow, a project developed by The President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability (PACFC), DCA offers financial lessons based on grade level that parents can use with their kids. It is never too early to start teaching your children about managing money, saving for the future, and avoiding debt.

Share your back-to-school money lessons with us. Tweet @NYCDCA or post to our Facebook page


Needs vs. Wants Comparing Prices Saving Budgeting and Credit


While shopping, help children identify and differentiate between things they need for school versus things they want. Buy the things they need that you can afford. Talk with children about the things they want. After more consideration, they might prefer to save the money you would have spent or put it toward something else. At the store, compare the prices of different brands or styles of pencils, folders, books, and other items they need for school. If you have time, visit multiple stores to keep comparing.  Have children identify one thing they want for school, like a new backpack or sneakers, and encourage them to save toward the purchase with money from a job, chores, or allowance. To encourage saving, explore opening a youth savings account or offer to match what children are able to save. Let children purchase the item only after they have compared prices and saved the money for it.  Create a budget with children before you go to the store. Have them make a list of everything they will need and estimate individual and total costs. At the store, review how your estimates compare to actual prices and if you budgeted enough money. Do your best to spend less than the agreed-upon total. As an additional exercise, talk with children about the difference between paying with cash or by credit card, in particular how interest rates can affect the total cost of items over time. 


Learning early on the difference between “wants” and “needs” will help your children develop good spending habits. When they purchase only what they need, they’ll be able to save more by spending less. They can apply this concept to many types of expenses.

By shopping around for the best deal, children will learn the importance of reducing expenses whenever they can.

Learning how to save toward a goal encourages children to develop good savings habits.

Creating a budget will help children avoid overspending and learn to plan expenses. Also, helping children understand that a credit card is not “free money” but money that must be paid back with interest teaches them how to use credit cards responsibly.