When your child completes a task, help them value their work. “Bring it all out,” Orman says, and pile everything that you haven’t used in at least six months in the center of the living room. Lesson One: You don’t have to spend money to have fun. Include your kids in the decision about how to spend the money. Though conversations with kids about money are tough at any time, the coronavirus pandemic has opened up new opportunities to initiate these discussions – whether that’s for a reason as simple as everyone being home and cleaning out closets together, or for one as difficult as job loss and having to cut way back on nonessential spending. What should we do with it? Most importantly: Don’t spend any money right now that you don’t have to spend. What is their plan to begin paying them off if they haven’t secured a job by then? (And remember to get a donation receipt for next year’s tax return – which teaches another lesson: “It’s a really great thing to get a tax write-off,” Orman says.)
The main concept this decluttering exercise teaches is shopping smart in the future. Instead of just trashing the things that don’t spark joy, Marie Kondo-style, give it a Suze Orman twist: Put price tags on everything, estimating what you paid for them. “All I ask, at this point, is that parents and children get together, and realistically look at what it is costing to send your kids to school,” Orman says. Use your time at home to empty toy chests, closets and storage bins. If they did a spectacular job, and they’re undervaluing themselves, then give a bonus, Orman says. You got to talk with one another about things you probably never talk to your kids about. But right now, everybody is staying at home. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. If they did a sloppy job, tell them why you don’t think they earned the amount you agreed upon for weeding that garden or cleaning the bathroom. Do not put the mountain of rejected items back into your closet, Orman says. Try a lightbulb for the electric bill, or Baby Yoda for Disney Plus. How much is Netflix? Have a cake and ice cream Zoom party. “In life, you have to work your way up,” Orman says. There are still some charities that are taking no-contact donations. When you create the job list, vary the prices, Orman says. “Mazel Tov,” Orman says. What was the cost-per-use? These exercises teach kids that if they want money, they must negotiate a fair wage, know their value, and to put care and effort into their work. While very serious illness is the most horrible thing to prepare for, many families are also dealing with the extreme difficulty of job loss in the pandemic-affected market, and don’t know how they will pay the student loans they co-signed: “Thousands of people have written me, ‘Will the Parent PLUS loans be forgiven?” Orman says; they won’t. “Teach them money smarts and how to value even pennies.”
Lesson 6: Teach Your Kids to Live Debt-Free
This is also a great time to reset and change your family’s spending habits. Do you need it? Find one, or wait and donate after the pandemic: “This teaches children that it’s a great thing to help others that don’t have as much,” Orman says. You have a choice. Lesson 4: Real-Life Home Economics
Add “adulting” lessons to your homeschool curriculum: Teach kids how to execute a household budget and how much everything actually costs. When she talks to children, they often tell her a sibling earns a bigger allowance — not because they did more chores, but simply because they are older.  
Lesson 3: Deciding whether to save, spend or share money. If kids see a literal payoff, you might not have to hound them to be mindful of their energy usage. When you’re able to shop with your kids again, remind them about the experience and ask if they foresee using the items in six months. Even though you may be tempted to order the super-expensive Lego set to buy yourself some peace, don’t. If, for example, you have two kids, and they help you knock $50 off your electric bill next month by turning lights off when they leave the room or not blasting the A/C, they would each get $25 in their savings account. “And all of that starts to teach your kid values.”
Lesson 2: Declutter your home, while teaching kids not to waste money and to spend smart. If you still have a paycheck coming in, have no debt and have ample savings (by this Orman means a two-year emergency fund), you may not personally need the stimulus money. Did you receive a stimulus check? For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. For families looking at college options going forward, expensive private schools are great if you can pay them off without accruing lots of debt, Orman says, “but if you can’t, do not think that you are a bad parent because you can’t send your kids to schools you can’t afford.” Her own success makes her firmly believe that the name of the school does not guarantee future success. Then, show them the real budget, Orman says, and explain how money is earned: “You can work for money, or you can save money so you have more money.”
Right now, because your kids can’t do things like pick up extra babysitting jobs, help them get creative with ways to add money back into your accounts. is safe and sound in the house.’”
Celebrating a birthday? Orman hates kids’ allowances. “These are things you can now teach them.”
Lesson 7: Paying for School – and Tackling Student Loan Debt
If your child has a full scholarship to college – or you have saved for his or her whole life (perhaps in a pre-paid college plan or 529 from the time they were in diapers) and can cover all the expenses without taking on any debt – that’s wonderful. “It’s okay, Aunt Suze, it was just a penny,” Orman remembers the little girl saying. Have one family member get out a calculator, play the banker, and add up how much each person’s discarded items cost. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. But her aunt saw an opportunity: She asked Sophia’s mother to go to the bank and withdraw nothing but pennies. “If something happens to you, the parents: How are you going to pay those loans?”
For graduating seniors with large amounts of debt, and facing a difficult job market, Federal Student Loans are currently going to be postponed until Sept. Make them start off with the lower-paying jobs. To help you get started, Orman has a children’s book, The Adventures of Billy and Penny (download it for free here). Have a conversation with them about it.”
Many families, however, truly need the stimulus money to survive. You are not going out,’” Orman tells PEOPLE. What do they suggest you change? But if you have a child home from college and you have taken out student loans, sit down and talk to them about how much it really costs to send them to school — from food and housing, to books and tuition. “Sophia learned the value of a penny,” says Orman of the Women & Money Podcast and the recently released Finance App (download it for free at iTunes and Google Play). Skip this section. “’You are going to stay home and figure out how to entertain these kids with things you already have around the house’.”
“Be creative,” she says: There are a zillion Pinterest toilet paper-and-empty milk-carton crafts. Do you want to give? Are there other opportunities for loan repayment they haven’t considered? “Let’s make it a goal to live a lifestyle that we no longer put on credit cards,” Orman says. “Ask your kids, ‘What should we do with this money? If you are drowning in credit card debt, sit your kids down and talk to them about it. There should be a variety of $1, $3 and $5 jobs as well as $10 tasks. For more information or to donate, click here. “That shows creativity, that shows love, that shows how to do something that really doesn’t cost any money,” Orman says. Ask them how you can spend less money and live debt-free in the future. And she also has some exercises and games to make money smarts feel manageable and digestible for kids from ages 2 to 22. PEOPLE’s Real Tips for Real Life presents practical answers to some of the most commonly asked questions around finance, employment and preparing for the future—even when that future can seem very uncertain. “I said, ‘Oh no you don’t. “ say to them, ‘One day, maybe we can do that again. “They can start making money by decreasing the bills,” Orman says. Instead, explain why you’re not buying new toys in a way that makes sense to young ones. Lesson 5: Teaching kids to work for their money, negotiate a fair rate, and do good work. “You’re not entitled to money, just because you were born,” Orman says. 30, Orman says. In that case, have a very different conversation with your children. When Orman’s nephew, Elliot, recently turned 6, he sat in his driveway while his friends drove by and sang Happy Birthday from a safe, social distance. Don’t let kids only pick the big-ticket items, Orman says. “You cannot say to kids, ‘We cannot buy that right now; we do not have any money,” Orman says. Do you want to keep some? It’s not fun to sit down and talk to your kids about how they will pay off student loans if – worst case scenario – both parents die of coronavirus. But Orman always advocates planning for the worst, and hoping for the best. “You got to eat together. And you have now taken this time to teach them — above all else – family, and people that you love, are the most valuable entities in your life.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. “If you need every penny, talk to the kids about it,” Orman says, and ask your children which bill they think you should pay first. Orman’s niece, Alexis, recently mentioned she was heading to the store to buy crafts, art supplies and toys to entertain her kids during the quarantine. Ask your kids write down their best guess about the costs of everything you spend money on. When Suze Orman’s niece Sophia was 5, she swallowed a penny. Challenge your children to help you lower the bills, Orman advises, and then split the money they helped you save into their savings account. The money expert says the pandemic can inspire conversations “about money with children in every aspect of their lives, from what they spend it on, to what they think they’re worth, to getting rid of things,” Orman says. Then discuss the total with your kids, and ask your kids if they think they got their money’s worth out of each item. “This is the time to teach your kids about what it costs to run a household,” Orman says. The Takeaway
“What you really want to come out of this experience is the fact that you’ve got to spend precious time together,” Orman says. (They may completely forget about it!)
And no need to wait to put it into practice: If you’re doing all your shopping online for the time being, put an item in your shopping cart, wait a week, and see if they still want it – if they don’t, hit delete and save the money. The next time the girl and her mother went shopping, her mom paid exclusively in pennies. “They will say yes,” Orman says – a valuable lesson. Next, ask if they would rather have the money in their piggy bank, as opposed to a pile of stuff they no longer want. Now is the time to “upcycle.” Have a camp-out in your back yard. You can’t go hang out at the mall, or browse Target to kill an afternoon. You can’t eat out. How much do you spend on groceries? Make it fun by playing Price is Right: Home Budget Edition, with cards that have a symbol for every bill you pay. “Here’s how the real world works: You work for your pay.”
Sit down with your kids, and together, make up a list of chores, and ask the kids how much they think each task is worth. Do we need it? Tell them how much money you’ve been spending to maintain their lifestyle. Put items on hold for a week, Orman says, and see kids still want it a week later.