How to Set a Travel Budget Your Kids Can Live With

Parents are usually pretty good at obsessing over their travel budget to make their family vacation work, but forget their kids can play their part in the financial planning process, too. Instead of handing out a lecture every time your kid asks for a handout from your wallet, give them a travel budget they can live with. Here’s how to empower them to take control of their own vacation finances and impart some valuable life lessons along the way.

Talk About Vacation Needs Versus Wants

When it comes to money, kids are prone to allocating all of it toward wants instead of needs. Of course, it’s hard to really tease apart what is a need versus a want when you’re a kid and a vacation is already a want and not a need. Nonetheless, it’s still important to talk to kids about the differences of what they should spend money on and what that looks like on vacation. A special toy to keep them occupied in the car or that can be used by all the kids at the beach could constitute as a travel “need,” whereas a want is more likely to resemble a triple scoop ice cream from the overpriced shop across the street.

Focus on What’s Realistic

If you let your kids dictate the budget, they’re likely to ask for a few hundred bucks to cover their version of the basics, from toys to snacks to clothes and, hey, why not a new device too? Set a baseline budget and go over what that could look like, whether a few hours in the game room before blowing through it or a new toy. Walk through how using their entire vacation budget in a few hours is likely to lead to a lot of buyer’s remorse without any resolution. In other words, Mom and Dad aren’t coming to the rescue.

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Set Some Ground Rules

It’s one thing to give your kids some financial independence to manage their own money, but it’s another to just hand over funds and call it a day. They still need some ground rules to live by. Remind them they can’t use the money for anything normally off limits like a violent video game or treat that sends them into a sugar rage. Let them know you’re there to help them figure things out, but will not bail them out if they overspend and have nothing left over.

Give Them the Tools to Succeed

If you have trouble managing your own money without the right tools and apps to succeed, then don’t expect your kids to be able to do it. A budgeting app can help them keep track of their spending. Start with an app like Mint to help them manage their money and see what categories they’re spending on from entertainment to food. If that seems too robust for their needs, the free Every Dollar app budgets and assigns every dollar to a job from savings to spending.

Encourage Them to Join Forces

Handing over an allowance or travel budget shouldn’t be done with a “mine” mentality. Let your kids know the money is theirs to manage, but joining forces can help their siblings while teaming up for a bigger purchase. If your kids want a special game to play on a road trip that can be downloaded to more than one device, remind them they can pool their finances together to make the purchase. Who knows, it may just show them teamwork is more powerful than bickering on vacation.

Remember a budget is just a part of financial literacy and learning how to thrive. But so is earning money. Once the budget is set, encourage your kids to raise some extra vacation funds by doing chores for the neighbors or running a car wash. They may even appreciate you and your allowance more once they see what it takes to earn money.