Kids and Money: Teaching Needs Versus Wants

Nancy Phillips, author of the Zela Wela KidsHave you ever had moments while shopping with your young children that were somewhat… challenging? It turns out most of us have, and yes, the massive amount of media advertising directed to our kids does play a role in our shopping challenges. That said, teaching our young children the difference between needs and wants is more important and trickier than ever before. Why? Because there are so many items being touted as needs, it makes the line between a need and a want blurrier than ever (sounds like a popular song doesn’t it?).

Why teach our kids the difference between needs and wants? There are many reasons such as helping them begin to learn the value of things and how to think through buying decisions. It also helps us as they begin to understand that as parents, we have responsibilities to provide for their needs, but not all of their wants. Plus, by giving our children the opportunity to save for their own wants, they develop self-control and goal setting skills, both essential skills for future financial and life success.

Here are some tips to help your child work through their wants:

To prevent a meltdown at the store – rather than saying “no” when you get a request, (which will just increase their adrenaline and fire them up), try saying something like this in a relaxed tone:

“that is a nice xx however it’s not on my list, in the budget etc. If you would like it, you can put it on your wish list  and decide if you really want it. Let’s write the name of it down and the price so you know what it is and can decide if you want to save up for it or get it for your Birthday.” You (or they) can also take a picture of the item with your phone.

When they see you taking them seriously and respecting their request, they will usually stay calm and often just say something like, “that’s not worth my money.” If they do think it through and want the item, they can talk with you to determine how they can earn the money for it. This whole conversation only takes one or two minutes in the store, and even if you’re in a rush it’s far faster (and much more pleasant) than the alternative.

If you are looking for a resource to share with your young child to help them understand the difference between needs and wants and why they can’t have everything they see, the Zela Wela Kids Learn about Needs and Wants was created to help parents deal with exactly this type of situation (yes, I needed it myself as well as my son was two when I wrote it).Sarah Cook and Jon reading The Zela Wela Kids Learn about Needs and Wants

Created for children ages four through nine, the book gives parents a fun and easy way to teach their children the difference between needs and wants in a real-life setting – a store.

In the story the characters learn:

the difference between needs and wants

* how a wish list can help you make good buying decisions and prevent “I want …” tantrums.

* why using cash saves you money

* why an “ATM” doesn’t endlessly spit out money

* the importance of tracking your spending

* what a bank account is

 This is a book many children read numerous times over months and years as their learning and maturity evolves. The book is also available in a downloadable form for parents with tablets or teachers who use SmartBoards. The book is appropriate for anyone living or teaching in countries that use a dollar and cents currency. 

I hope you find this helpful, enjoy your weekend.


Kids and Money Blog: How Do I Help Prevent My Child from Spending Their Saving Money?

Recently I received a great email question from a father in Winnipeg, Canada. Justin W. has been teaching his son the “give, invest, save and spend” or GISS Method of Money Management to help him learn the different ways money can be used. Here is the challenge Justin is dealing with:

“My son is Brad is turning 8 in November and is increasingly aware of “things to buy”.

We are using the GISS method for financial literacy. One thing I have noticed lately, and this is the reason for my message, is that although Brad is very good at distributing his money into the different banks, I think his notion of Save and Spend are somewhat confused. We have made a list of some items he would like to save for. However, at times, when we are out, he will see something he wants and change his mind about what he is saving for…For him, getting something (often anything) is what he chooses over truly saving for something.

Any advice on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance! Justin W.”

This is a great question and one many parents commonly face, I just dealt with this situation last spring when Max was seven.

First, we need to consider why it is so important for children to learn how to save their own money for something they desire. For example, my son really wanted a bunch of customized lego mini figures. The purpose is to help our children develop self-control through delayed gratification. Self-control impacts all areas of life, and the level of self-control in young children has been proven to be directly related to their financial security and success in adulthood. Another important reason to allow children to save for their own “wants” is that this how they begin to learn the value of things, they can’t understand something they have never experienced.

Here are a couple of tips that helped us address the save/spend confusion:

*To start out, make the situation easier and more enjoyable for everyone by ensuring your child is using a wishlist to help them prioritize their wants. This activity helps children learn to Wishlist make conscious choices rather than asking for everything they see, and helps parents shift the buying decision to the child. The child then gets to decide if they are committed enough to save for the item. This is a great approach to reduce stress for parents and encourages resourcefulness and entrepreneurial thinking in kids.

*Create a time period for which they are allowed to spend their saving money, perhaps once a month at Brad’s age of eight years old.

*Open a savings account with your child so they have a place to put the money from their savings box/jar at home. This will help demonstrate how important it is to save and create a barrier to spending – having to withdraw the money.

*To help ensure your child has carefully considered the desired item, request the item be printed on the wishlist before they are allowed to buy it. This prevents the challenging, and often emotional, outcomes of the “shopper’s high” J.W. mentioned. These occur when the child can’t find what they want. Their excitement and anxiety then lead them to want to “just buy anything” in order to fulfill their buying desire, and walk out with a bag in hand.

Boy shopping for toys

*Distraction sometimes works, going to another store, etc. A great old-fashioned idea is the “sleep on it” concept. It is tried and true for kids and adults because, by going home and taking time away from the item, you prevent those quick emotional in-store decisions.

Either way, it is likely Brad’s interest in toys is going to change every 3- 6 months at this age, so many of his toys will be “obsolete” and sitting untouched on the shelf sooner rather than later. If we can give children the opportunity to think through their buying decisions, the value and use of the item will generally be much higher than if we don’t. Most importantly, Brad will develop his real-life critical thinking skills and self-control, both of which will be extremely beneficial to his future success and happiness.

Thank you for the great question Justin and Happy Birthday to Brad!

Teens and Money: Tips for Spending Summer Earnings Successfully

It is sunny and hot today, and many a teen is working hard to earn their own money during these summer months. Parents today are wondering how to help their teenagers make the most of their earnings in this fast-paced, consumer-focused world.

Fast fact: The average 18 to 20 year old now spends $1,000 per year or more on coffee drinks. Hmmmm, no wonder many teens feel broke.

Yahoo! Finance reporter Gail Johnson and I recently discussed some key tips for teens to keep in mind before they decide what to do with their hard earned money.

Now that fall is – gasp – in sight, it’s time for teens who are spending the summer working to figure out what to do with all that hard-earned cash. Spend it on an iPhone 5? Concert tickets? Clothes? A new piercing? Not so fast.

Sure, teenagers who join the workforce for July and August deserve to reward themselves. But money maven Nancy Phillips — author of the forthcoming books The Parents Guide to Teens and Money and The Teen Guide to Wealth and Happiness — suggests young people take a moment to think about the bigger picture before blowing money on the small stuff.

“Because of the speed with which our society is moving and the changes in technology, teens can spend money faster and more easily than ever before, and that means they can go into debt far faster and more easily than ever before,” says Phillips, founder and president of DollarSmartKids Enterprises Inc.

“It’s more important than ever that teens learn financial life skills and how to manage money before they leave home.”

Without pausing before purchasing, the influence of advertising, the media and peers becomes harder to resist.

“The best place for teens to start defining their money strategy is to begin by identifying their personal values, interests and goals so they know what they really want based on where they want to go,” Phillips says.

“The easiest way to do this is to write down their wish list and prioritize [items on] it so they think through the pros and cons of the items they want most. This approach will help teens begin to plan purchases and as well as make decisions they’re happy with, as opposed to them feeling buyer’s remorse because they wasted money on something they didn’t really want or need.”

For concrete tips on smart money management, Phillips urges youth look to so many individuals with high net worth who tend to divvy up their earnings into four categories: giving, investing, saving, and spending.

“They don’t spend their way to wealth; it isn’t possible,” she says. “I call this the GISS method of money management, and it’s simple, inspiring and effective. Teens can use the process to make their goals and dreams a reality.”

The easiest way to track money is to divide a bank account into four sub accounts. The DollarSmartKids’ website also has financial-tracking worksheets and values-based goal-setting resources for teens.

Give 10 per cent

“Giving is a very powerful experience for teens, because as they give and help others they become aware of their ability to make a positive difference in their world,” Phillips says.

“This enhances self-esteem, increases the feeling of personal leadership and responsibility, and connects them with causes that are personal, relevant, and meaningful. It is also a wonderful way to meet people with similar interests and can often lead to job opportunities and help define career paths.”

Invest 15 per cent

Investing for the future is an essential part of financial independence. And the sooner you start, the less intimidating the process.

“It’s essential that they understand an investor doesn’t have to have a large amount to start,” says Phillips. “Small, consistent steps can lead to big long-term results. This money can eventually be used to start their own company, invest in a company, buy rental properties or purchase commodities, stocks or bonds.”

Save 25 per cent

Saving allows a teen to work toward and acquire what’s most important to them, whether it’s a car, a university education, or a new cell phone, Phillips notes. They can save for multiple goals at the same time with differing amounts allocated to each.

“Research has shown that self-control in childhood is a key indicator of future financial success in adulthood, and saving is one of the best ways to develop self-control,” Phillips says.

Spend 50 per cent

“This category will ultimately become a chequing account and is the money used for expenses such as lunches, gas or a cell phone bill,” Phillips says. “A portion will also be the fun, ‘live in the now’ money, so teens need to ensure they manage this category well over time.”

Kids and Money – Fun ways your crew can earn some cash this summer

Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore the concept of earning their own money. They have more time to come up with ideas, to plan what they need to do, and they can give their venture plenty of energy and focus. The world is full of opportunities and never has it been more important to share this idea with our children than today. With constant messages about the negative things going on in the world, it is even more critical that parents provide positive messages so children feel hope and optimism about the future.

As with any venture, it is critical for our kids to ask good questions before setting out. Determining what the needs are in the “market” around them and what they enjoy doing are good places to start.

You can use the list below to begin and then have your children add to it. This makes for a fun discussion and can help narrow down their interests. Have them circle their top five choices and think about the “why” behind their choices. This may help them think of more ideas and it’s a fun way of going through the critical decision-making process.

Summer 2022 Entrepreneurial Ventures

Author a book

Babysit/host a story hour

Bake – cupcakes, cookies, pretzels

Breed pets or fish and sell to pet stores or individualsZela Wela Kid sorting bottles

Buy snacks in bulk and sell individually

Care for pets

Clean pools

Collect returnable bottles for the fee

Design brochures/logos/web pages

Host a circus, concert or social –sell food and drinks

Kids sports referee – soccer, hockey, baseball

Landscape – weed, mow, rake. Hire a team and earn a portion of their pay

Lemonade Stand

Make (or decorate) and sell products – themed gift baskets, jams, dressings, soaps, clothes, bracelets, quick stickers, headbands, purses, wallets, pens, jewelry, cards, furniture

Organize – closets, garages

Organize – parties, and special events

Paint – artistic creations

Paint faces/nails –at the farmer’s market, fair, lemonade stand, yard sale, birthday parties

Photographer/Videographer – special occasions, sports games

Set up an arcade

Teach music, fitness

Tutor a subject

Wash Cars

What are some fun ways your kids have earned money over the summer holidays?

Tips for Helping Your Teens Spend Money Wisely

We’re into the sunny, warm days of summer and many parents are wondering how to help their teens learn to manage their money effectively, so it isn’t wasted and there’s some portion going towards meaningful pursuits.

Jeff and Robin at the are parents and very passionate about helping people become financially and personally successful. They asked me to write a guest post on this topic and I would like to share it with you. In this post I give some straightforward, easy to use tips that can positively change your teens life in the short-term and long-term.

I hope you find this information valuable. If you have ideas and experiences to share, we would all love to hear them!

AND, if you have family or friends with teens, please feel free to share this post with them. Our teens need and want guidance on this topic so they can make their goals and dreams come true.

With gratitude,


Holiday to-do list: Customize for your family

Have you ever worried you’re forgetting someone on your mental list, and can’t think of who? Do you have to buy for someone else in the family, like grandparents or far-away relatives? 

Customize this holiday to-do list for your family, and you can have peace of mind knowing you will not forget anyone, or anything, that is critical for your holiday festivities.

I hope you find it helpful, please share your additions if you have a moment. We all want to make the “to-do’s” easier so we can have more time enjoying the wonderful people in our lives.

 Happy holidays,


Inspiring Book for Dads Who Want to Be Great Dads

Today I have the pleasure of sharing very special interview with you. I had the opportunity to speak with Keith Zafren, Founder of the Great Dads Project. He has just completed his first book called How to Be a Great Dad No Matter What Kind of Father You Had.
This is a powerful book, one that gives meaningful and helpful insights about parenting. I hope you enjoy the interview!

NP: What inspired you to write this book Keith?

KZ: I grew up as a wounded son. My dad left our family when I was seven then rejected me numerous times before eventually abandoning me entirely. I know the pain of not being loved by one’s father. As a result, I had no real model for what being a dad looked like. I became a bewildered new father at the birth of my first son. Over the last fifteen years, I’ve become an effective and very fulfilled dad, but it took real work at my own healing, and lots of learning from books and other good dads how to do it well. Given my long journey and success (I now have three remarkable young men as sons), I want to give to men everywhere the tools and encouragement I needed to transform myself. I enjoyed the privilege for six years of teaching incarcerated dads how to become great dads even while they were still in prison. I now am taking that teaching and coaching to the world.

Keith Zafren, Great Dads Project

NP: The book is clearly written for dads, are there any particular dads it is specifically written for?

KZ: Well, it is ostensibly written for dads, though many women have read and loved the book. Even my editor, Jennifer Hawthorne, wrote these words to me, “I am not even the audience for this book, and yet, I was moved to tears numerous times; it gave me a new perspective on my own wounds—having lost my biological father five weeks before I was born; and it showed me how I can be a better mother to my two adult stepchildren. The content is relevant and timely, and you’re providing an answer to a problem that has the potential to profoundly impact the world by modeling and teaching how to transform non-love into love. What could be better than that?”And Dr. Lori Friesen, an Animal-Assisted Literacy Expert who works with parents and children wrote, “Reading Keith’s book was truly a transformative experience. Told through a compelling and artistically crafted narrative, How to Be a Great Dad offers a deeply soulful awakening while providing a practical guide to being the dad every father desires to be. It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey or what your relationship with your own father has been; Keith reminds you that it is never too late to heal, or to learn to transform pain into joy.”

Yes, my target audience is of course fathers, particularly fathers of adolescent children or younger, even dads who have their first baby on the way. What a better time to begin learning how to heal your own father wounds and begin gathering the skills to be a great dad. 

NP: What three life lessons do you feel are especially critical for dads today to share with their children? Do you have any tips to share on how to teach these important lessons effectively?

KZ: I teach men three core fathering practices—affirmation, acceptance, and affection. To affirm our children means to praise them with our spoken and written words—to tell them how great we think we are, and preferably more for their character and choices than for their performance or appearance. Our affirmation builds their self-confidence and helps them believe in themselves that they are smart, capable, and able to accomplish whatever they set their good minds to. Our acceptance needs to be unconditional and unending so that our kids know they always have a place with us, that they belong no matter what. Sometimes we miss the key distinction between acceptance and approval. I can disapprove of a behavior or choice my child makes but still fully accept and love them. Our kids need to know and feel that distinction. Our physical and spoken affection helps our kids know they are loved and lovable and that they deserve good, loving relationship all their life.

NP: What are your hopes for this book? 

KZ: I hope it helps millions of men worldwide to become more healed men and great dads.

NP: Since this blog is about financial and life success tips for parents to help their children, can you comment on the role you see dads having in teaching their kids financial life skills?

KZ: Alongside moms, dads can play a very important role in teaching kids financial literacy and confidence. I have benefited so much from your teaching and extended it to my three sons all of whom have their own G.I.S.S. banks and divided their money every week after they get their allowance. I love teaching my boys about business, how money works, working hard for money and getting your money to work hard for you. Dads can have a lot of fun with this and a big impact.

NP: Thank you so much for your time today Keith, I wish you great success with your new book.

KZ: Thank you Nancy, I appreciate the opportunity to share my message with your community.