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Jamie Bosse will pay $8,234 for her four kids' childcare this summer. The Kansas-based financial planner's kids are all under 10, so childcare is essential for Bosse and her husband to keep working this summer.
This is just the price tag for childcare. Bosse adds that if she wants to send her kids to a reading camp or a baseball camp, it's another $200 to $300 per week per kid. This number may be even more, as the American Camp Association saw a 35% increase in camp tuition from 2021 to 2022, according to its most recent report.
Bosse, who also writes books about money for kids, sees a lot of parents stressed about the summer. Her antidote is to talk to your kids about summer expenses.
"Just answering the kids' questions honestly and having a discussion with them helps make money a topic that's approachable," Bosse says. "It needs to be something that you can talk about in order to have a healthy relationship with money."
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Kids' finance author and certified financial planner David Delisle believes that the best way to start a money conversation with kids is talking about why you choose to spend money on certain things and not others.
"I don't like saying, 'We can't afford it.' It gets at this feeling of lack," Delisle says. "It's not that you can't afford it. This is what we choose as a family."
Parents can model this behavior of value-driven spending with summer activities. Delisle recommends parents ask their kids: What do you want to do this summer? When kids say things about what their friends are doing — baseball camps or going to Florida — prompt them about what's behind these things. Do the kids want to go to baseball camp because they want to be outside or because they want to hang out with their friends?
Once you figure out the value behind what your kid wants for the summer, you can then start figuring out the options available for them. That may be a baseball camp, or it may be that they get to visit the park every day so they can get outside.
Once you and your kids decide what's important for the summer, Delisle and Bosse recommend being open and transparent about how much value-driven activities cost with your kids.
"Most of this stuff feels daunting because money is so charged," Delisle says.
But studies show that kids are ready to start learning about money from a very young age. So try to start with summer expenses. Both Delisle and Bosse recommend telling kids how much money you have for them this summer and giving them a choice on how to spend it.
Let's say your kid says they want to spend the summer reading. You can tell them how much money you can spend on them this summer. They might want to buy a few new books, or they might want to go to the library and use the money to buy a hammock to read the books in. Let your kid decide what they want to do and avoid trying to influence their decision!
Both Delisle and Bosse recommend asking kids later to reflect on their money decision. Was it the right choice? What did they learn? This will help them learn about the value of money.
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If this summer came as a shock to your wallet, you're not alone. Bosse sees this happen to many of her financial planning clients. She recommends that parents create a year-round savings account for the summer to cushion the blow.
Write down how much summer costs this year and divide that number by 12. That's how much money you should put aside every month to save for the summer. By the time next summer rolls around, you'll already have the funds to pay for it.
"If you plan for that well in advance with a 'sinking fund,' it's not a surprise," Bosse says. "We have this bucket of cash ready to pay for it, and it doesn't feel as stressful."
This method also means you can also have these money conversations with your kids earlier. You can explain to them why you're saving a little bit each month. Bosse and Delisle assure parents that as you continue the conversation with your kids, it will get easier.
Rather than turning money into an emotional topic, Delisle suggests framing it as "habits that you build and decisions that you make. It starts making it simpler and accessible to everyone."