How can I help my child?

Experience is the best teacher, just ask a freestyler

Two parents, who believe that the best way to teach children to manage money is through experience.

What kind of money parent are you? Take our 2-min quiz to find out.

My husband and I are firm believers in the saying, “Experience is the best teacher”. When it comes to teaching our children how to manage money, it’s no different.

It’s hardly surprising, given that our parenting personas match that of Freestylers (want to know yours? Take our 2-min quiz here). Freestylers are those who believe that real-life experience is the best way for a child to learn how to manage money. So we sent our two sons, aged 8 and 5, on a shopping trip to the stationery store. Here’s how it went.

The scenario

We gave them each $5 and told them to buy whatever they wanted. We didn’t set a list of do’s and don’ts, and just waited outside the store for them to surprise us.

The backstory — this is actually part two for our older son. When he was about 4 years old, we did the same thing, although he was on his own then. We wanted to see if he remembered what he learnt from his past experience.

Our rationale? Simple. As Freestylers, we believe learning occurs naturally through trial and error. If they make a mistake, so be it; they will learn from it. We believe that constantly telling our children or micromanaging them does more harm than good; there really isn’t a substitute for real life experience to teach children how to manage money.

experience-is-the-best-teacher-just-ask-a-freestyler-1

How it unfolded

Initially, the excitement, especially in my younger son, was almost palpable. He walked around the store with his eyes twinkling, intending to buy whatever that he could get his hands on. He’d confused $5 with $50, and assumed that he could afford anything with a number ‘5’ on it. Interestingly enough, his brother actually provided some guidance and they seemed to be working together (for once).

  • Analysing their spending power

Our older boy loosely explained to his brother how far he could stretch $5. He cited the example of his previous shopping trip, and how daddy showed him what was beyond his reach with the money he had.

He then summed it up by pointing at stuffed toys and electronics, and labelled them as impossible. Before they went further, he taught his brother the process of elimination, which we found rather interesting.

  • Planning was key

While our younger boy was running around in excitement, at some point, the older one had stopped him and said, “Why don’t we think about what we really want to get from here first?”

Our younger boy responded by saying he wanted to first see what there was. They took some time to walk around the store, before they stood in a corner, brows furrowed, in some serious discussion.

When they recounted this to me later, I was very surprised. My boys had internalised the difference between a need and a want on their own! If we were to plan such an activity again and tell them beforehand, we would definitely be interested to see if they come up with a list prior to setting off.

  • Controlling impulses

After they had filled their baskets with a range of knick-knacks, they had found an empty spot in the store and sat down to look through their selections. Much to my surprise, my younger boy had said, “Mummy always fills the trolley in the supermarket then puts some things back on the shelves, let’s do that too.”

Clearly they couldn’t buy everything, so they started putting away things they had taken on a whim as they thought about what they really wanted to get.

  • Stretching the dollar

My older boy applied the analysis his father had shared with him in their previous trip to the candy store. He told his brother that if they found things that came in sets or packs, they would be able to buy more for a cheaper price.

experience-is-the-best-teacher-just-ask-a-freestyler-1
  • Don’t empty your wallet

When they were more or less set on what they wanted, they did a further check. They were both on the same page in wanting to bring some coins to deposit in their piggy bank at home.

My older son had learned this important lesson from saving his school allowance and the treats he got to buy at the end of every term, solely from his savings. Watching him, the younger one also understood that some money should always go into the piggy bank.

We are pretty glad that the habit of savings is already a part of their life. We are even more glad that they didn’t try to ask us for ‘top ups’ as we had clearly told them before that it would not happen.

Think of others

When the boys came out of the store, they were all smiles, jingling their change, but then they’d dashed back in. We were puzzled for a bit but were pleasantly surprised to discover that they pooled their remaining money to get something for their little sister.

They marched out a second time victoriously, with one holding a pink hair band and the other showing us that they did indeed have a few cents left! They had shopped by themselves, debated on their own and bought what they really wanted (including something for their sister — we hadn’t even considered that), and still had money left! Mission accomplished! That was the highlight of our day.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. We felt satisfied that our older son did seem to recollect his previous shopping experience and that he could guide his younger brother with his learnings.

We truly believe that our children have already started to understand the concept of what money can buy through their own experiences as well as their observations of our spending habits — just what we strive for as Freestylers.

I can’t say for sure if we are doing a truly fantastic job of teaching our children how to manage money, or if our style is fail proof. But from the way it looks, I think we’re off to a promising start on our money parenting journey with our children, and we look forward to creating more of such experiences for them to learn even more!

Get #MoneyParenting insights in your inbox

Insider access to the latest content, tools and events

This document is produced by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited and issued in:

Singapore and Australia (for wholesale clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore, is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence and is licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under Singapore laws which differ from Australian laws.


Hong Kong by Eastspring Investments (Hong Kong) Limited and has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.


Indonesia by PT Eastspring Investments Indonesia, an investment manager that is licensed, registered and supervised by the Indonesia Financial Services Authority (OJK).


Malaysia by Eastspring Investments Berhad (531241-U).


United States of America (for institutional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore and is registered with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission as a registered investment adviser.


European Economic Area (for professional clients only) and Switzerland (for qualified investors only) by Eastspring Investments (Luxembourg) S.A., 26, Boulevard Royal, 2449 Luxembourg, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, registered with the Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés (Luxembourg), Register No B 173737.


United Kingdom (for professional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Luxembourg) S.A. - UK Branch, 125 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1AR.


Chile (for institutional clients only) by Eastspring Investments (Singapore) Limited (UEN: 199407631H), which is incorporated in Singapore and is licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under Singapore laws which differ from Chilean laws.


The afore-mentioned entities are hereinafter collectively referred to as Eastspring Investments.


The views and opinions contained herein are those of the author on this page, and may not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other Eastspring Investments’ communications. This document is solely for information purposes and does not have any regard to the specific investment objective, financial situation and/or particular needs of any specific persons who may receive this document. This document is not intended as an offer, a solicitation of offer or a recommendation, to deal in shares of securities or any financial instruments. It may not be published, circulated, reproduced or distributed without the prior written consent of Eastspring Investments. Reliance upon information in this posting is at the sole discretion of the reader. Please consult your own professional adviser before investing.

Investment involves risk. Past performance and the predictions, projections, or forecasts on the economy, securities markets or the economic trends of the markets are not necessarily indicative of the future or likely performance of Eastspring Investments or any of the funds managed by Eastspring Investments.


Information herein is believed to be reliable at time of publication. Data from third party sources may have been used in the preparation of this material and Eastspring Investments has not independently verified, validated or audited such data. Where lawfully permitted, Eastspring Investments does not warrant its completeness or accuracy and is not responsible for error of facts or opinion nor shall be liable for damages arising out of any person’s reliance upon this information. Any opinion or estimate contained in this document may subject to change without notice.


Eastspring Investments (excluding JV companies) companies are ultimately wholly-owned/indirect subsidiaries/associate of Prudential plc of the United Kingdom. Eastspring Investments companies (including JV’s) and Prudential plc are not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc., a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America.