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5 gift ideas to teach kids about money

While children get more holiday presents than most of us, sometimes they lose interest before the batteries die. Why not give a gift that earns interest, or lasts a lifetime?

By Stacy Johnson Nov 29, 2011 10:49AM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

How much money will you spend on presents for the kids this holiday season? And how much of that will be spent on cheap plastic or fabric that will be forgotten in a few short weeks? (If you're sticking to the "hottest toys" shopping lists, probably most of it.)

In the video below, Stacy Johnson takes a look at some alternatives -- gifts that keep on giving because they teach kids important lessons about money. Check it out, then read on for more ideas.

While there's no guarantee any particular present will have a lasting impact, you might as well try for something fun and educational, right? Here are several ideas, including those mentioned in the video…

Books. If your son or daughter is a little bookworm, this is a rich place to start. For instance, "Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock" is a story about twins -- one who saves and one who spends. Try "Arthur's Funny Money," about a brother and sister starting a bike-washing business to buy clothes and candy. Or maybe "Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday," about a boy whose allowance burns a hole in his pocket.

Credit counseling group Take Charge America has a list of money books for elementary school kids, all of which could work as gifts.

Coin keepers. For kids who need more hands-on learning, a fun place to keep money might teach good saving habits. There's the traditional ceramic piggy bank (which can be an arts project too, if you pick a plain one) but also ATMs for kids, money mazes and cash registers.

Digital coin counters that display a balance may be less fun but offer more encouragement since the growth in savings is always visible. There are also a variety of "three-jar" coin savers like the Moonjar, which encourage kids to split their money into different categories: save, spend and share.

Games. A game as simple as poker can teach about math and money, especially if you use poker chips. There are plenty of money-oriented board games, from the obvious -- Monopoly -- to the less well known, like I’m Debt Free or Charge Large. If you want something the kids are less familiar with but not overtly focused on money concepts, try Payday or The Game of Life.

Charity. Teach kids about giving back with You make the donation, and they can pick the charity. A list of options, broken down by category, makes it easy.

Sites like the one Stacy mentioned,, teach about charity and entrepreneurship, since they involve making micro loans (as little as $25) to small businesses in developing countries. Since you get paid back, this is one of the cheapest gift options, and it will help someone besides your kids.

Investment. What about presents for teens? If you have older kids earning (reported) income of their own, you might start funding an IRA for them. You can only contribute as much as they earn, but Roth IRAs for kids can be set up easily. Add $1,500 a year and, as Stacy mentioned, in 50 years this could be a gift worth a million dollars.

Investing is an option even for younger kids. Buy them a share of stock in something they like -- their favorite video game company, restaurant, or retailer -- through a site like OneShare or ShareBuilder, and teach them how to monitor their investment.

Another idea? Start saving for college with a 529 plan, a gift that can eventually offer a broader education. Check out, which has tons of information and options.

These probably aren't gifts that will have your kids jumping for joy on Christmas, but hopefully they will lead to greater happiness later in life -- and you can always mix in the educational gifts with the moer fun ones.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:



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