Saving moneyKids can coach you through the set up of a Skype account. They can recite the full lyrics on any MTV playlist. They can bring you up to speed on reality show melodrama. But when it comes to money matters, they are completely and totally clueless. And if you don’t teach them to care, they’ll run roughshod all over your bank account until they have one of their own to destroy.

I’ve already concluded that, should a fairy tale character show up here in Washington, D.C. peddling magic beans or secret potions, Girl Child would be the line leader. Homegirl has a real cavalier attitude about money that I just can’t seem to shake. That became quite clear when she lost a $20 and didn’t even break a sweat.

Let me tell you something: if I lose 20 cents, I’m down on the ground scouring, looking, searching, trying to figure out where it went. For $20, I might take a day off of work and unfold a full-out investigation complete with witness interviews and shakedowns. Not because I’m cheap—I like to call myself frugally fabulous—but because I hate losing stuff for one and for two, the thought of wasting money I’ve worked for really grinds my gears.

So I instituted the opportunity for her to work for allowance, even though I don’t really believe in kids being paid for things they should be doing around the house because they live there and need to be contributing anyway. Once they’re old enough to tell you they can’t find the TV remote or start asking for their expensive little hearts’ desires—like video games and $150 sneakers—they’re old enough to get a little household chore to do on a regular basis.

But the bottom line is I want her learn the value of money and the benefits of saving it. Childhood innocence assumes that cash flows in bountiful supply from parents’ wallets and purses, but I stomped that dreaminess a long time ago with snippets of reality about money in the adult world. It’ll take a while to sink in, I understand. And there are plenty of distractions to dissuade her from saving the crisp, spendable dollars she gets for birthdays, good report cards, or this whole allowance thing, but I want her to get it early before credit cards get a whiff of her greenness. You know the rest of the story.

Four years until she graduates from high school and the loan sharks start circling. Sheesh. I have my work cut out for me.

Is your kid a spender or a saver by nature? Any valuable lessons you have to share that changed their spending habits?