Of all the things people hate to talk about, I’d say money and dying are pretty much tied. There are a lot of reasons for this: it wasn’t discussed in our family, we feel guilty or ashamed about our income and spending, it’s simply “not polite.” Parents often avoid it because they don’t want their kids to value money too much, or because we don’t want them to lose their innocence by knowing about the family budget. In his book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money Ron Lieber makes a compelling case that avoiding conversations about money actually reinforces the exact things we’re trying to avoid. Kids are better off if they learn how to talk about money in multi-faceted ways, from earning to budgeting to saving to investing and giving.
With that in mind, here’s a list of conversation starters you can use with your own family. I originally posted them on my personal blog at ameliadress.com but I realized they’re timely for us as a church as stewardship season and the pledge drive are underway. The inspiration for a conversation deck around money is a stack of conversation starters I keep near the dining room table at home. Sometimes at dinner we’ll take turns randomly drawing one to talk about. I plan to turn these into cards and when I do, I’ll share the pdf but for now, it’ll work to print them up, cut them in strips and put them in a container to draw a random question out. I’d love to hear how it works in your family!
If you had to cut your living expenses in half, how would you do it?
Do you feel happier when you get money or when you spend it?
What’s something you bought that you really love?
Have you ever purchased something and regretted it? What did you do?
Do you think it’s more important to have a job you like or a job that pays well? Why?
Imagine you won a billion dollars. Who would you tell first?
If you found $20 on the sidewalk, what would you do? $100? $1000?
Have you ever given money to charity?
If you were given five million dollars and the rule was that you couldn’t spend it on yourself, what would you spend it on?
Imagine going to a restaurant and randomly paying for the meal of someone you don’t know. How would it feel? Would you ever want them to find out who did it?
When have you received a gift (of an item or of money) that really made a difference for you at that time?
Do you think it’s important to be generous? Why or why not?
Have you ever borrowed money from a friend? When?
Have you ever lent money to someone that they didn’t pay back? What did you do?
How much money do you need to feel rich?
How much money would make you feel poor?
When you buy a present for someone, do you decide on the amount of money you’ll spend before you choose the present?
If you had to decide between volunteering somewhere or donating money, which would you do?
What’s your favorite charity?
Do you think that giving money to a house of worship (church, synagogue, temple) is more like giving to charity or more like paying for services you receive? (i.e., the inspiration you get from attending worship, care from a clergy person, etc.)
Does your house of worship require a certain amount of giving each year to be considered a member? How is the amount decided?
Does your religious community take an offering or a donation at services? Where does the money go?
Who does the budgeting in your household?
Have you ever looked at the budget for your town, school or faith community?
Do you think it’s important to give to charity?
How do you decide how much money to give to charity?
Imagine someone comes to the door asking for money for a charity. Do you donate?
Do you set aside a certain amount of money from each paycheck or allowance to donate?
How do you know if someone has more money than your family?
Do you pay attention to whether people have nicer things than you? How does it feel to you if you’re friends with someone who always has more expensive stuff than you do?
What’s the average income in your town? How does your family compare?
If you’re part of a faith community, do you think most people have about the same amount of money or are there some people who are richer and some who are poorer?
How can you tell?
Imagine you were going to make a rule that everyone in the world had to donate money to charity. Would you set a flat amount or would you make it a percentage of income?
Who is the most generous person you know? How do they make you feel?
Tell a story about a time you were generous.
When you play Monopoly, how do you decide whether to buy a property or not? Is it easier or harder than deciding what to buy in real life?
The Barenaked Ladies song “If I Had a Million Dollars” lists some unusual things they would buy including: a monkey, a tree fort, a refrigerator for the tree fort, a llama or an emu, a green dress and a fake fur coat. If you had to pick one thing off that list, which you want?
Karma Kitchen is a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu. People eat free, then donate whatever they can. Do you think people spend more or less than they would at a regular restaurant? Would you want to eat there?