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Chennai-based Soumya Shankar, 43, a director of a Chennai-based garment export company, cultivates money habits in her children by setting examples for them to follow. She has two children, Sidharth, who is 14 years old, and daughter Sneha, who is nine.

Soumya says that they like to keep things simple at home, and that her children have grown to appreciate this. “But this doesn’t mean we deprive them of things; just that they are not fussy. In fact, they always look out for value for money," she said. “For instance, my son wanted to buy a laptop and I gave him a budget. Instead of opting for a high-end laptop with limited features, he bought a mid-segment laptop with all the features after a lot of research. He is careful about spending money. If he is ordering online, he will make sure the delivery is free. My daughter is young, but I hope she will learn from her elder brother," she said.

Soumya thinks her children as grounded and gives the credit for this to her husband, Gourishankar Tadeparti, 48, who is a management consultant. “My husband doesn’t splurge and likes to keep things basic. I am relatively more indulgent, but that is also because of the nature of my work, which requires me to be a certain way, and my children completely understand it. But again, I don’t overdo it," she said.

When teaching the concept of budgeting, too, the couple prefers to set examples. “The kids are aware of the concept of budgeting. We try to make them conscious of it by making sure we ourselves don’t over-indulge just because we can afford it. So, dining out at five-star hotels is only for special occasions. Or if our children have worked hard or have put sincere efforts into something, we will buy them something as a token of appreciation," she said. The children are made to understand that everything is not easily available all the time. What also helps Soumya is the school that Sidharth and Sneha go to. “There is no peer pressure as such. The school is conservative with mostly middle class and upper-middle class children," she said.

For the couple, cultivating money habits in their children is mostly about two things: setting examples for them and keeping things simple at home.

Lifelong lessons: Chitra, 9, and Charu, 17, go over the statements of their accounts and also other investments along with parents Anju Ahuja and Dipankar Khanna. Photo by: Prakash/Mint
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Lifelong lessons: Chitra, 9, and Charu, 17, go over the statements of their accounts and also other investments along with parents Anju Ahuja and Dipankar Khanna. Photo by: Prakash/Mint

Learning from doing is the best way

Charu Latha is a 17-year-old who comes across as focused and knows what she wants from life; something that might not be true for many others her age. But she was not always that way, says her mother, Anju Ahuja, a Bengaluru-based chartered accountant. “She had gone for a career camp from her college (Christ Junior College) about a year ago, where they taught them about how the economy works and the importance of money. And since then, she has been more careful about how she spends her money," said Anju.

Charu now gets a yearly allowance of 20,000, from which she has to handle all of her expenses, which include travel, food, shopping, and even parties. “What I do now is that I allocate money and spend accordingly," said Charu. “For instance, if I want to buy a gadget, I will set aside money for it. Or if I spend a bit too much one day, I will then curb my spending for the rest of the month," said Charu, who now has a debit card and also knows how to use Net banking, which she uses for transactions such as transferring money and even online shopping. She goes through her monthly statements to see how much she has spent and on what. Anju also goes through these statements and receives notifications on her mobile phone every time Charu makes a transaction.

Anju and her husband Dipankar Khanna have invested some money in mutual funds for Charu. “She does look at the statement to see where her investments stand," said Anju.

Charu and her younger sister, Chitra Lekha (who is 9 years old) are encouraged to be mindful of how they spend. “When we go on a holiday, especially abroad, we give them a budget from which they can spend. Because of this the girls make sure that they get the most for their money—they look at discounts and sales and even compare prices at various shops," said Anju.

Charu, a first-year student in junior college, says she wants to pursue a degree in Economics.

Now Chitra is also becoming curious about money. “We opened a Sukanya Samriddhi account for Chitra last year. She regularly asks how much money is there in her account and other details. We have always wanted the girls to be aware of their expenses, and know the importance of money," said Anju.

—Tania Kishore Jaleel

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