Guest Posts, Money Conversations

Riding in Cars with Boys: The Money Edition

Riding in Cars with Boys: The Money Edition

As I drive my kids from activity to activity, or simply to the store to run a quick errand, I’ve discovered one of the greatest gifts – I suddenly have a captive audience. No TV, no computer, no random toy on the floor.

In short, no distractions, and as such, it’s the perfect time for a little conversation.

We’ll chat about school, religion, family and friends. We tell jokes, discuss upcoming projects, and we also talk money. As a parent, I’m trying to strike the right balance on teaching my kids about finances, but not create mini-money monsters who obsess about every dollar.

So what do these conversations look like? Well, here are just a few of the recent car conversations we’ve enjoyed about money – in the car:


As we drove to pick up some camping supplies for an upcoming trip, my nine-year-old son declared that we should get a RV instead of sleep in tents. Sure, that would be awesome I said, but do you know how much a RV costs? Of course he didn’t, so I proceeded to tell him that a RV was a pretty major purchase requiring a hefty savings. If our family only camps a few times a year, is the savings and sacrifice worth the investment? Together, we came to the conclusion that it probably didn’t make sense, and he was able to learn a little more about what goes into making a big purchase.


While my boys say they plan to become professional soccer or baseball players, they also know they will go to college. The other day one of my sons mentioned he already knew where he wanted to go to school, so we talked about his choice and how he still has a number of years to think about his future university. We also talked about how we are saving every month for his education because college is expensive. Some schools are very pricey, others more affordable. Perhaps he would get some scholarship money, or maybe we might need to take out a loan, or he might need to take out a loan. He was shocked that he would have to keep paying for school even after he completed his studies. Let’s hope not, but it was a perfect opportunity to talk about planning and saving and paying.

Out to Eat

Who doesn’t like to go out to eat? I certainly do, and so do my kids, especially when they get their dream meal of fast-food something. We rarely do fast food, but you better believe when I go through the drive-thru, I share how much a meal out for a family of five costs. Even the price of a fast-food meal adds up, and I want my kids to appreciate the treat.

I suppose the bottom line for me and my husband is that we try to make our kids a part of the money discussion. We want them to understand how we make financial decisions for our family so they become comfortable talking about money and choices.

Are we getting it wrong?

I’m sure there are moments when we share too much or share too little. Still, I find our time in the car provides the perfect opportunity to casually talk about how our family spends and saves money.

Have you found a great space or time to connect with your kids and talk about money?

Editor’s Note: Through the magic of twitter, Kerry and I have become good friends. I love how Kerry doesn’t shy away from talking to her kids about money and weaves money lessons into everyday activities. It’s truly the best way to teach them. Be sure to visit Kerry at Breadwinning Mama and enjoy her beautiful writing.

Kerry from Breadwinning MamaKerry juggles a full-time marketing job, husband, three young kids, an overly-energetic puppy, and a LONG commute on Southern California’s finest freeways. Squeezing in exercise is a must, and she loves to curl up with a good book. As she says, “Life is chaotic, but sweet.” You can find her blogging at Breadwinning Mama and tweeting as @breadwinningmom.

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  1. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    Good stuff here! These are great conversations to have at any time with our kids. I would struggle doing them in our minivan though. My goal when driving our four kids around is trying to keep the insanity in the van to a minimum! My wife and I dream of inventing a soundproof, limo-style window that is installed right behind the front seats so we can enjoy some peace and quiet on our trips. :)
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      I hear you! The best car conversations usually come when I'm only driving one child. We definitely have our own chaos going on in the minivan too! :)
  2. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    Kerry - I don't have kids yet, but I can only imagine how hard it is to get their undivided attention. It's great that you are teaching them personal finance at such a young age!
  3. Julie
    Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    We go out to eat about once a week with the kids and make math into a game at the end of dinner. My dad did this with my family when we were growing up and so now I do it too. When the bill comes each person guesses how much the bill is before looking at it. The person who guesses the closest gets a quarter.
  4. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    Great to connect with you Kerry!

    I love the way both you and Shannon find ways to include conversations about savings and expenses in your day to day regular activities with your kids. And I love your positive approach and the way you acknowledge your children when they suggest a purchase, like the RV situation. That is something I really missed out on as a kid.
  5. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I still have big conversations with my mom while we're in the car. It's a great (albeit unexpected) environment in which to have a good talk. My parents shared some of their money experiences when I was little, the most memorable of which occurred while we waited in a checkout line. I asked why my mom couldn't just "write a check" for something I wanted, and I was quickly educated about checking accounts and how money actually has to be there in order to spend it.
  6. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    Great post, Kerry, and great to meet you! We do LOTS of our money, and other serious, discussions in the car. It's such a non-confrontational way to have great talks, isn't it? And those money talks like you have with your boys are so important. For us, it's taught our kids to step back and weigh their purchase decisions, which is so wonderful to see!
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      Glad to hear you've had success with the car talks as well. I love when I get one my kids 1v1 especially. I find I really get to know them a little better in those times, and hopefully we're imparting small nuggets of info. Fingers crossed some of it will sink in!
  7. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth
    Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I think keeping kids involved in money decisions is a great idea. I know my parents were pretty open with money and it helped me learn about it as well. I plan on teaching my kids the value of money at a young age. They don't need to have to worry about money when they are young, but they should know about it and how it works.
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      I think the discussions simply help them understand how we make decisions - and they learn to respect purchases big and small.
  8. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    My son isn't old enough to understand what I am even saying, but I think you are using the time appropriately. There are too many instances where children and adults don't know how much things actually cost. It is great to teach your children young, so they can apply the principles later in life. I think you are doing them a service.
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      Thanks! I hope so. I feel like my oldest son is definitely starting to get it - and I find he is very appreciative when he gets gifts, a special meal, etc. Fingers crossed the other two learn these lessons as well.
  9. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I love that you take advantage of your captive audience to feed them something interesting. From my own experience, just be careful with your words. My father lost his job and we were really ok financially but they put it in a way I thought we'd be homeless by the next month, it was really scary!
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      Wow, I can see how that would be scary for a child. I'm hoping we are striking a balance, and hopefully they are getting the message that we save for a rainy day as well.
  10. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I don't have any kiddos yet, but these are some great tips to remember. I fully support not keeping financial information from your kids. The earlier they learn, the better!
  11. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I think fitting these conversations into everyday life is really the best way to do it. There are no lectures, no random diatribes, just casual conversations in a relatable environment that allow them to think about money for a minute. My son is too young to do this with, but I had a similar experience with my niece recently and it was definitely beneficial.
    • Monday, July 22nd, 2013
      I think this is the case with a lot of lessons we wish to teach our children. There isn't just one big lecture, but a series of chats. We try to take this approach on other topics too - like faith and friends and school work. And as the kids get older, the conversations will continue to evolve. I'm pretty amazed about how much kids can take in - we need to give them more credit. :)
  12. Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    We have some of our best conversations in the car, although at 6, I'm not sure how much goes over my daughter's head. We had a conversation not too long ago about littering. I can't remember why, but I haven't though much about it since.

    We actually drove by a state penitentiary on our recent vacation, and she asked what it was. I told her it was the jail. She asked what you had to do to go there, and I said bad things. She asked if that was what happened if you throw trash in the water. Not quite, but I guess she got the point about not littering!
  13. Sam Gill @ Digital Spikes
    Monday, July 22nd, 2013
    I don't have kids but these are really good points which I will keep in mind for future. I wish my parents had talked about money when I was kid even before my teen age. Anyways as i grew older i was able to learn from them but not at an early age
  14. Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
    I love that you talk to your kids about money. I want my kids to understand money and I love your approach with it. It's an FYI, a "for your information, do you know how much that costs?" That's practical and realistic. I think in a world that is so material and where a lot of my neighbors live on credit to "buy their kids stuff" there is value in keeping it real the way you do. Thanks for sharing!
  15. Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
    I think these examples are great for kids to learn about money at an early age (especially with the "little" expenses like going out to eat that can add up). It's definitely something I plan to do once we have kids since it was such a taboo subject for me growing up. My partner, on the other hand, had the conversations from his parents like you have with your sons, and he's all very matter of fact about it rather than shying away from it like I (used to) tend to do.
  16. Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
    Such great subjects, and what a great place to have these chats! Usually our money talks in the car are me and my fiance complaining about how gas has gone up AGAIN...
  17. Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
    Sounds like you're doing a great job! I don't have kids myself, but I wish my parents were more open about talking about finances when I was younger.
  18. Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
    While my little 2-year old is maybe a little too young, I think getting kids involved in money conversations at a young age, is a great idea. Growing up, the few money conversations that I had, were mostly done at the dinner table. But basically, anywhere where you can get your children's undivided attention is a great opportunity to turn a simple experience into a casual money lesson. Great post!
  19. Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
    I love using car time for conversations! My teen is easily distracted by bright, shiny things so it's nice to have a solid chunk of time without a screen somewhere!
  20. Thursday, July 25th, 2013
    One of the best presents I received for my high school graduation was Quicken software. Yes I know your kids are obviously way too young for that but I look back and using that software really helped me understand where my money was going. At 18, I definitely would consider that a child anyways.
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    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan