Financial and money matters affect everyone. Learning how to deal with savings, everyday costs and budgeting is something that many of us try to do to the best of our ability. For someone who is diagnosed with any of the autistic spectrum disorders and in particular their parents, managing money is an issue that can sometimes cause worry and upset, especially as children turn into young adults and both parties have to come to terms and embrace the fact that they want their independence and to be able to look after their own concerns. Very often, this can be an issue that ends up being put further back down the “to do” list, but is a crucial element of growing up and learning about life and should, if at all possible, be addressed sooner rather than later.
For many people this may not seem like a very exciting or interesting thing to have to discuss, but it can be really essential for a number of different reasons, particularly for young people living with autistic spectrum disorders:
• It helps with planning ahead and knowing that there will be money available in case of emergency – for both parties.
• It helps to cut stress levels down on both sides, because you and your child will know where the money is and where it is going.
• It can simplify life, knowing that payments for things like bills can come out of a bank account automatically without having to remember every week or month.
• Money will be kept safe in a bank account.
• It can actually be very rewarding to know your child can monitor their own money and even plan to save some for special treats.
Learning to budget
One of the best skills to instill into your teenager, whether younger or older, is how to budget properly. This is to ensure that the costs of the most important things like rent, bills and food are covered if they are to soon be leaving home. Or, in the cases of children who are that little bit older but still living with you – how to manage the money they are given from you for treats, for school excursions and social occasions. This can be done in a few different ways, in order to help your child gain an understanding of the importance of money.
Monthly expense spreadsheet: If your child is about to leave home for the first time, it can be helpful to sit down with them and make up a spreadsheet on the computer which will show them how much money they have for the month. It should list everything from food, bills and rent to disposable income and show how much money comes in and goes out every month. It can also help to try and color code each part of the spreadsheet to make it easier to visualise and remember. Encourage them to update this themselves as often as they can, or to arrange a time in which this can be done together so you can both keep track of expenses.
Cash only: This is when you give your child a laid out, set amount of cash for the week. It is more suited to younger teenagers who are starting to manage their own money. It is non negotiable and will cover everything from school meals, trips to the movies or other sundry items. This money is then divided up into the right amount for each day of the week and put into seven separate little plastic bags. For each day, the child takes with them the right bag with the right amount of money in.
For young adults, the thorny issue of a credit or debit card may also arise too and there are a number of ways to deal with this in order to ensure sensible spending which does not get out of control. It also helps to make sure your child can actively avoid debt that then needs to be paid off. The first one of these is to invest in something called a pre-pay credit card. There are a number of reputable companies on the market that offer these solutions. The card can be topped up with money, just like you would do with a mobile phone. It can then be used as a normal credit card would be in a store or shop, the only difference being that once the topped up money has all gone from the card it can no longer be used until such time it is replenished. This can help to give a sense of independence and freedom. The second idea is one set up by PayPal, who have created something called a Student Account, ideal for young adults who are learning to manage their own finances. There is an accompanying debit card which can be used online or in stores to buy things, but can be monitored by both you and your child. An added bonus feature is that you can set up e-mail and mobile phone alerts that make you aware of when the card has been used, where and how much has been spent on it.
These simple ideas can really make a difference to giving your child the confidence to manage their own money.