Practical Steps to Disciple your Kids through Finances
A few readers asked for the nitty gritty on the financial practices we have with our kids—dollar amounts, percentages, the works. I’ll share below what we do, if you promise to understand that this is our method and not God’s command for all families everywhere. It’s really what my husband, Mark, has come up with over several years of teaching our kids to handle money in a way that honors God. By God’s grace alone I married a man with good financial sense and degrees in both Economics and Theology. Without him, I would be lost and broke with nothing more than a degree in Cultural Anthropology to guide me. He’s a good man. I’m a blessed woman.
First, some foundations:
Mark often reminds our kids that the bible says more about money than heaven and hell combined and that’s because how we spend our money is a reflection of what we value in our hearts (Matthew 6:21). He says that teaching them about money is really a discipleship issue more than a financial issue. His goal as a father is that they would have pure hearts when it comes to cash.
Our conversations with our kids about money always center on a few main themes:
- All that we have is a gift from God (Acts 17:25).
- He has freely given everything to us, therefore let us steward it well (Matthew 10:8).
- We have been given much, therefore, much is required of us (Luke 12:48).
And now, for the nitty gritty that some requested:
At the first of each month each child sets an appointment to have an allowance meeting with Mark. During that meeting Mark pays them an allowance that they have earned and equals three times their age. For example, Zoe is 12, so she currently receives $36 a month. The allowance is earned by completing regular chores in our house like dishes, laundry, bathrooms, picking up dog poop—their tasks increase with age and I do less and less household work each month (it’s fabulous).
Their allowance is paid digitally, as we are essentially a cashless household. Mark and I do adhere to Dave Ramsey’s envelope system, but we do so by paying for daily expenses with a credit card and paying off the credit card each month (That last detail is really important—we pay off the credit card every single month. No balance ever.) Cashless, for us, makes more sense, as we’ve lived in a variety of different countries and paid bills in a variety of currencies over the years. We maintain our family budget, and therefore each of our kids’ budgets, using the goodbudget app. We use the free version of the app and each girl has her own envelope. The app is on our phones and syncs every transaction. Therefore, when we are out shopping and someone inevitably exclaims, “Mom, can I have that?!” I can respond, “Let me check your budget” and inform her of how much spending money she has for the purchase.
At the monthly allowance meeting Mark and the girls discuss how much they will each give, save, and spend in the month ahead. Mark maintains a spreadsheet for each girl on his computer, including three columns: giving, savings, and spending. He handles their savings and giving online by transferring funds from our savings account to theirs and donating money from their accounts to their recipients. Their spending money is put into their digital envelope, which we both track on our phones.
We do not require the girls to allot specific percentages in each of the three areas. Rather Mark and the girls look at the calendar to see what expenses are ahead (sister’s birthdays, camp, etc), they talk about what ministries the girls would like to give to, and they discuss their longterm goals for saving.
Mark finds that the girls, like most kids, are eager to give—so much that he sometimes has to encourage them to remember what their expenses are. He has said before in a sermon that of course they are generous—they know that they will be provided for. And so should we be—because so will we be. Reflecting on the generosity of our kids has reminded us to strive in giving, because the Lord is a good Father and He will not leave us, He will not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
When they ask him how much he thinks they should give he offers percentages as possible targets. He’ll tell them how much 10% would be, how much 20% would be, and so on. He says they usually decide to give 20%. Their gifts normally go to Compassion International, as they each have their own sponsored child, who is their age and with whom they correspond.
Their savings is for long-term purposes only and they are not allowed to access that money for many years to come. They typically choose to put away 40%. Only Zoe has a firm goal in mind for her long-term savings: a car when she turns 16. Mark desires that the kids would develop strong habits for saving money. Therefore, he matches what they choose to save. If Hannah saves $10, he adds $10 of his own to her long-term savings account. When the account reaches $1,000 a big thing happens—Mark teaches them how to invest in the stock market and the savings account is used to purchase shares in a company that the daughter and Mark choose together. In this way, they learn to invest early. Investing teaches them so much more including the power of interest, having restraint when the stock market spikes or tumbles, and the power of time.
Spending (aka short-term savings):
The girls typically decide on spending amounts based on gifts they need to purchase and items they’ve had their eyes on to purchase for themselves. Their spending amounts are typically around 40% of their monthly budget. They often stockpile a couple months of spending to purchase a large item that one month’s allowance would not afford. We require them to spend their money on gifts for one another when it’s birthday time (or Mother’s Day or Christmas, etc), toys, clothing (We buy them plenty of clothes at thrift stores or on sale and they receive many hand-me-downs, so if they want more than that they have to buy it. We do buy their shoes.), music, special dessert or candy or treats when we’re out and about, and really, anything that is outside of the budget that Mark and I need to maintain to make ends meet each month.
This summer our three younger girls are going to camp. We are requiring them to work to pay for it, in order to attach their hearts and work ethic to the reward of an awesome week in the mountains with a terrific youth ministry. We’ve assigned them tasks that earn them credit towards the camp fees—yard work, house organizing projects, reading hard books, doing math, etc.
That about sums up the Oshman Financial Discipleship Program. I’d be happy to clarify, if you have any questions. As I said at the beginning—this works for us, but it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. My hope is that it helps you as you consider how you might disciple your kids in the area of finances.