OPINION

Why you should let your kids get a handle on your family budget

Would you put a six-year-old in charge of your household budget? Sounds insane - but it's exactly what's been happening in our house for the last month.

And it was all inspired by Eddie Woo and his reality TV show Teenage Boss.

If you haven't seen it, the show involves Eddie visiting regular families, giving their teenage kids charge of the household finances for a month.

The idea is that the teens learn to make smart decisions about wants versus needs, and gain some valuable life skills around managing money. It's basically maths in action.

Maths is extremely important - it is, after all, the M in STEM education.

Even without realising it, we use maths all the time in our everyday lives, like when we go shopping or balance a budget.

Our son stumbled across the show, and was convinced we needed to try it.

So we settled on a modified version, where he would be in charge of our grocery and entertainment budget.

The sweetener? Any money he saved over the month he could keep.

You might think arming a six-year-old with cash and setting him loose in a supermarket is a recipe for disaster. But it wasn't - he did a fantastic job making sure we collected all the "need" things, before adding any "want" things to the trolley.

Even better, he learnt some serious lessons about the value of money.

Even a six-year-old can grasp concepts like checking for sales, looking at unit pricing, and buying in bulk, especially when there's cold hard cash on the line. His addition and subtraction skills also got a workout, figuring out what he'd spent and how much money was left.

There's also been a few unexpected benefits. We've actually saved money.

With our tiny dictator holding the purse strings we couldn't just spend money willy-nilly on whatever, and overall spent less than we usually would. We also seriously cut down on food waste since he had us sticking to a strict meal plan each week, and only bought what we needed.

As a biologist, the S in STEM is undoubtedly my favourite. But I'd argue that, as far as everyday life goes, the M is probably more important.

Maths isn't all equations and trigonometry - it's also skills for life.

And as Eddie Woo has shown us, gaining these skills doesn't need to be boring at all.

Dr Mary McMillan is a lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, University of New England