Give your child the gift of budgeting this holiday season


Give your child the gift of budgeting this holiday seasonThough it’s nice to surprise your kids during the holidays with the most-desired and brand-significant gifts on their wish list, when it comes to smartphones and digital devices, it’s wiser to discuss the possibilities with your children ahead of time. Use this opportunity to teach your kids about budgeting, shopping around and getting the best deal.

Once you’ve determined that your child is responsible enough for their very own smartphone and you’ve laid down the rules about usage, it’s time to do some online research. Check out online reviews and what other parents have to say about the best options. Next, create a cell phone checklist and do some market research on different brands and providers.

Cell phone and data plan checklist

  • Estimate the number of minutes your child will use in a month and make sure the plan you choose covers this usage.
  • Factor in the quality of the phone itself – battery life, durability, keypad, hands-free option and screen features.
  • Consider the cell phone basics – what kind of coverage will you get from the data plan? How many minutes? How many texts? How many downloads? etc.
  • Find out about usage periods and special deals. Estimate the busiest time your child will be using the phone and choose a plan that complements this usage.
  • Consider what kind of data plan best suits your child’s needs – contract or pay-as-you-go?

As you work your way down the checklist, get your child to mark down the different costs associated with each brand and each carrier. This is a good way to introduce the subject of money and how they will have to budget in order to cover the cell phone plan, the phone itself and the monthly charges. Let them know upfront how much, if any, you will contribute to these ongoing expenses. Consider creating a contract between you and your child to document what you’ve agreed upon. Then comes the big question.

How will your child budget for their cell phone bill?

Whether your child has an allowance or part-time job, teach them to create a spreadsheet of their monthly income and expenses. Show them how to set aside enough money each month by cutting down on their spending, and learning the difference between need and want.

After you’ve purchased the smartphone, it’s time to put those budgeting strategies into practice. When the first bill comes in, sit down with your child and go over the bill. Make note of excess expenditures and set a goal to keep these costs down. As the months go by, your child will soon pick up on the nuances between living within their means and going overboard. And that’s the best gift of all.

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