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financial responsibility

Family

Millennial mom teaches her 3 young children money management by charging them rent

Though the method has caused some parental debate, this mom says it's a great way to teach kids about money “in a safe environment.”

@samanthabirdshiloh/TikTok

Is it ever too early to teach kids about money?

Back in May of 2023, a Texas couple sparked a huge parental debate after saying that they charged their 19-year-old daughter rent after she graduated high school. While some thought it taught responsibility, others felt like they were merely adding another arbitrary obstacle for their child.

Now, if this was the response to a 19-year-old getting charged rent, imagine how folks might feel to hear about it happening to kids under 13.

In a viral TikTok, mom and personal finance influencer Samantha Bird shared that she charged her three elementary school-aged children rent and utilities each month. This method might seem unconventional, but Bird argues that it’s simply a way to learn about money “in a safe environment.”


Here’s how it works: each of Bird’s children (ages 6, 8 and 9) gets $6 a week for allowance. One dollar per week is expected to go towards one of three monthly expenses: rent, utilities or groceries.

“They track it on their budget trackers and other spending or categories happen after those payments. They set that dollar in a separate envelope for utilities, and then at the beginning of the next month, we charge them for their bill,” Bird explained.

For the most part, viewers loved the idea.

@samanthabirdshiloh We increased the boys allowance to accommodate them paying “mock” bills. I want them to have a sense of responsibility and learn how to manage expenses in a safe environment now! #budgeting #finacialfreedom #parenting #kidstiktok #kidsoftiktok #kidspersonalfinance #financetiktok #moneytips #debtpayoff #debtfree #debtfreejourney #debtfreecommunity #investingforkids #investing #personalfinancetips #moneymindset #moneymanifestation ♬ original sound - Samantha Bird

“It’s a great way to teach financial responsibility,” one person wrote. While another commented, “first I was like wow this is ridiculous. Then I was like man I wish I learned this at any point of my life.”

It also inspired a few comedic gems. Like:

“Should give them $5 per month but expenses are $6. More realistic.”

“No need for this. School will teach them all they need to know. Like parallelograms. Which comes in handy during parallelogram season.”

But her budget-conscious parenting style didn’t fully escape criticism. One person wrote “They’re too young for this. Chances are they’ll become hyper-fixated on money and be over anxious about it. I speak from experience.”

Another added, “Kids this age absolutely do not need to learn about expenses and bills. This is a perfect set up for creating financial anxiety.”

Experts over at MarketWatch, while they too had mixed reactions to Bird’s strategy, agreed that teaching money handling at a young age is crucial.

Kate Yoho, a financial adviser at Tennessee-based TBH Advisors said “starting them at that age is great,” adding “I love her strategy. It’s good and basic. Kids get excited about stuff when they’re little — especially money, because they don’t understand it.”

Meanwhile, Rick Kahler, a financial planner and financial therapist and founder of Kahler Financial Group in South Dakota, noted that while Bird’s strategy works for her, it is certainly not one-size-fits-all.

“When it comes to teaching kids money skills, there isn’t one way to do it. I applaud [Bird] for being aware that she has a responsibility to teach her kids money skills. Whether the way she is going about it is [right] is always one of subjectivity,” he said.


Yet another expert, Michele Paiva, a Pennsylvania-based financial therapist, warned that this specific type of “envelope budgeting” can be uninspiring and anxiety-inducing to kids. Which can also be true for adults as well. But she did also note that it’s a great way to teach math skills, as well as how to have constructive money conversations, especially when it comes to deciding how to spend the remaining money.

For Bird, it all comes down to teaching her kids valuable skills they’ll need as adults “while they’re little and this process still feels fun for them.” Not to mention she wants to protect them from going into heavy debt like she did. That’s why she not only goes over all things money management. She even talks with them about credit and the stock market.

Even if parents don’t plan on adopting this strategy for their own family, it’s important to find some way of instilling these skills. Yes, of course kids should be kids while they still can, but, just as in Bird’s case, children tend to love learning adult skills, especially when it’s presented in a fun way. Maybe with more ideas like this, we’ll finally have a generation of financially savvy adults that don’t have to make the parallelogram joke.

If you'd like to get even more money savvy content from Bird,—and check out her cool finance workbook for kids—follow her on TikTok.