Summer's almost here, which means it's time for your kids to get part-time jobs and start building up their work experience. If that can't happen (the job market can be a rough place, even to a teenager who simply wants 15-20 hours a week at a local fast-food restaurant), then they should at least be expected to help around the house and earn their allowance.
Of course, then comes the question, "What to do with the money?" A kid's first instinct might be to spend it all on fun stuff, like candy and video games. It's your job to steer them away from that, and teach them the value of fiscal responsibility and proper budgeting. The earlier they learn that saving their money is a good thing, the more likely they are to do so later on, when it really counts.
Obviously, your teaching methods will vary depending on your child's age. As long as your tailor your words with that age in mind, your message should be heard loud and clear.
If your child is old enough to do things on their own, take advantage of that by arranging for them to do basic chores around the house for a small allowance. Tell them that, if they want a certain toy or goodie, then they need to put all their allowance money in a piggy bank or jar until they have enough. Then, they can buy it themselves.
Once they do this, remember to praise and compliment them on their willpower to resist buying disposable and forgettable junk, and tell them how proud you are of them for constantly focusing on their goal, and working hard and saving smart to reach it.
Now that your child is old enough to understand, it's a good idea to sit your child down and teach them how budgeting an entire household works. Using language they would understand, explain how you keep track of every cent you bring into the house, as well as how much each bill/necessary expense costs.
Make sure they understand that by doing this, you are able to control your money, take care of what's needed to survive, and have enough left over every month to have fun.
Once they hit the high school years, your child should be working somewhere, even part-time. If they're truly unable to find a job, then that part-time work should be in-home -- cooking, cleaning, fixing-up, etc. Grown-up chores, in other words.
With the money earned either from their job or from their chores, your child should be ready to actively contribute to the household budget. If they want a cell phone, it should be on their tab. If they use the Internet more than anydiv else, perhaps they should cover that bill as well. Some parents charge their child rent, especially if they remain at home post-high school.
Teaching your child responsibility by making them actively practice it will very likely pay off in the end, when they move out and begin their own life as a financially intelligent, budget-conscious responsible adult.
Whatever your child's age, Mint.com's budgeting system can make managing money easy and fun. Click here to find out more!