Smart About Money: Opening Bills Together

Smart About Money: Opening Bills Together

Every month you can count on needing to sit down to pay household bills. In our household it seemed to be my daughter Madelyn who would hang around looking interested. So, I started inviting her to come in, sit down, and pull up a chair next to me. She likes to use the letter opener on the envelope and then to sort out the important contents from the parts that go straight to the recycle bin. She’s learned to identify the invoice or statement and really study it to find the amount that’s due and the due date. This can be a challenge because each statement is laid out differently. On one statement, it may say “balance due” and another may say “payment”. Sometimes it also has a certain amount due by x-date but a different amount due by y-date. Some statements have “round-up” amounts. She has learned to hunt for the right amount and the right due date.

It is important for her to know that we pay just to be in our house, that we have a mortgage, that there’s a cost for the roof over our heads. It also teaches her that we shut the water off while we brush our teeth not just to conserve water, but also because we pay for the water that is used.

If you’re ready to try it, make opening bills a game for your kids. See how much money can be saved from one month to the next by making small changes – turning off lights, watching the amount of water being used, putting a sweater on instead of turning up the heat. Then take that savings and put it toward a family fun night or savings toward a vacation. It’s a real life way to teach your child financial literacy skills.

Warning: Having your children involved in the monthly process of paying bills may slow down the process, but I think the benefits outweigh the cost of time. In the end, we both feel satisfaction. She’s pleased when she’s done and I’m pleased when it’s done. Sometimes we miss a month, but these financial skills are like a sport. You have to PRACTICE. You have to BE CONSISTENT and REPEAT IT for it to benefit your kids.

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