Tips for helping young people with additional needs understand money

Tips for helping young people with additional needs understand money

Over the festive season, some of our young people may be lucky enough to receive money from relatives. Once the festivities are over, it’s the perfect time to talk to them about money, if you haven’t already. Here’s our top tips for helping young people with additional needs understand more about money:

The basics

Find out what your child knows already. It’s pointless talking about budgeting if your child can’t identify coins and notes!

Explain where your money comes from. If they get it from you, is that from your wages or benefits. Do they have an allowance? How do they earn this? If you transfer a part of their DLA or PIP into their own account, what do you expect them to use this money for?

images showing groceries separated from takeaway food by a jagged lineShow the difference between needs and wants. Talk about what you spend money on. Explain how you prioritise between the things you need like food and bills, and the things you want such as holidays or eating out. Seize the moment at the shops, in a café, or planning a holiday to discuss costs and alternatives.

Get practising

Talk about money as part of your routine. Get into the habit of doing your thinking out loud; at the shops and at the kitchen table. Talk about how much things cost, what is affordable today and what you can save up to buy. Make sure you use plain English, explaining any difficult terminology.

Get your young person to plan a meal. What do you have in the cupboard at home and what ingredients do you need to buy together? Get them to have a go at writing a shopping list and finding the items. Make this a regular activity.

At the supermarket, compare different brands. How much do items cost? Can you buy cheaper? Is it worth buying a larger amount? An own brand? It’s not always a straightforward choice. Make time to talk about the pros and cons. We all have favourites and it’s ok to buy Heinz ketchup if it tastes much better to you!

Keep a money diary for a week or two. What do they spend their money on. Are these needs or wants? If they spent less, could they save a little? What might they want to save up for?

Show them the way

Be a good financial role model. Keep a track of your own spending and check bank statements. Let your child see you plan meals and shop to your list, make meals from leftovers and save waste!

Explain loans, debt and interest. If you use a credit card or loan to pay for big items or unforeseen expenses, explain how this helps you to delay and spread the cost. But also that loans and credit incur extra costs in the long term. How much will it really cost to pay for things this way?

Teach them about saving. Little wins soon add up! Do the maths: Buying four single chocolate bars a week for 70 pence each costs £145 a year. Buying a four-pack of slightly smaller chocolate bars for £1 a week costs £52 a year. A massive saving for a small change!

Let them have a go

Remember it’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them. Expect things to go wrong, that wallets get lost, your child is scammed, they make impulse purchases or ‘lend’ to unreliable friends. It happens to the best of us! Be there ready to offer the support. Your child needs to know that whatever has gone wrong, you are there to help them sort it out. Reassure them by sharing a similar mishap that happened to you. Together, agree some risk reducing strategies to help avoid the same thing happening again.

We all build our skills with experience. For young people with learning disabilities, confidence around handling money is best learnt through everyday opportunities to practise money and budgeting skills – this can be done partly at home but mostly by making real life purchases in the community. 

Further help

GoHenry is a finance app that helps young people learn the basics of budgeting and banking without the worry of racking up huge charges or costs. If your child is under 18, think about opening a GoHenry account.

All banks have accounts for vulnerable customers who need more support to manage their money. Ask your own bank and ‘shop around’ together. Which bank offers the best deal?

Dosh offers financial advocacy to support people with learning disabilities to manage their money and has information on topics like managing money and opening a bank account

Info and guides for people with additional needs

Videos and podcasts 

Other useful resources

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