Kids’ Gifts That Pay

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All the money and hard work you spent on Christmas for the kids will probably go appreciated for about as long as the batteries last. So give a gift that keeps giving by teaching them about money.

You spent weeks shopping for the kids and hours wrapping the gifts – and they’ll spend just a few seconds opening them. Some will be forgotten in mere minutes. Others will last as long as the batteries.

What if you could give a gift that lasts a lifetime, like teaching them to save more and spend smart?  There are plenty of gifts out there to help for every age group. And many might work as last-minute stocking stuffers. If you’ve already watched the video above, check out these:

  1. Books. Teach them to read and to save at the same time. Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday is a great book for kids 4 to 8, and it runs about $7 in paperback on Amazon. Shel Silverstein’s classic The Giving Tree is another that’s good for any age. The Incidental Economist blog has this big list of children’s books about money, which also lists suggested ages.
  2. Board games. Interactive learning is often the best kind. Monopoly is an obvious choice, but there are others like Payday and The Game of Life. These certainly aren’t the most realistic depictions of spending but can get younger kids thinking about money. For something a little different, try I’m Debt Free or Charge Large.
  3. Piggy banks. You can’t get much more old-fashioned than this, but they’ve stood the test of time for a reason: They really do teach kids how to save. These days, there are so many variations on the piggy bank that you’re sure to find one your kid will like and use. The “three jar” system – split into compartments for saving, spending, and sharing – is pretty common. There’s the Moonjar, three plastic jars, and here’s a literal piggy bank that uses the jars idea. You can also buy piggy banks and decorate them with the kids. Or you can go digital with the ThreeJars.com website.
  4. Toys that teach saving. There are plenty of toys for teaching kids about money, too. Here’s a mini-ATM, a money maze, and a digital coin counter.
  5. Gift cards. These are a pretty simple gifts and work for anyone. For younger children, though, they can be “practice plastic” before they get a debit or credit card.
  6. Charity. Though younger kids probably won’t understand this, you can make a charitable gift in your child’s name. Or better yet, use a service like CharityGiftCertificates.org, which allows you to make the donation, but the recipient to choose the charity. There are also sites like Kiva.org, where you can open an account for your kids with as little as $25. They can then make micro-loans to poor businesses in other countries, and learn about both charity and entrepreneurship.
  7. Financial organizer. For kids who are a little older, help teach them to budget and track their spending with one of these. The Cash Cache is a financial organizer designed for teens, and there are high-tech alternatives like the iXpenseIt and Expense Tablet apps.
  8. Stock. One way to get kids of any age interested in saving is to invest in what they’re already (emotionally) invested in. Buy them a share of stock in their favorite video game company, restaurant or retailer through a site like OneShare or ShareBuilder, and teach them how to monitor their investment.
  9. Other investments. One gift that could contribute to a broader education is starting a 529 college savings plan for your son or daughter – you can start with just $25. You can read more about 529 plans at the SEC’s website and start looking at options on SavingForCollege.com. Or, if your teen is already earning income, consider contributing $1,500 to an IRA for them every year – it could add up to quite a nest egg over a few decades. Read about how you can set that up in just 15 minutes on CBS Money Watch.

These are the kinds of gifts that really do keep on giving. So if they don’t make it into Christmas stockings, they might work for your kid’s next birthday, too.

Stacy Johnson

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