As your children grow up into fine young adults, they will need guidance to stay on the right track–and it all starts with you. The lessons that you teach your children now will stay with them for a lifetime, so make sure you’re putting out the right message. Helping your children prepare to go into the world feeling confident and unafraid is one of the most important tasks of parenthood, and you can achieve this by teaching the kids how to deal with real world problems in responsible and intelligent ways.

One of the most important facets of modern life that your children will need to learn about is the economic side. No one can deny that we live in difficult times, and it’s impossible to tell what the future holds. Maybe things will turn to the more favorable side in the next few years, or maybe they’ll get even worse. We really don’t know, and if our children are to be prepared, they should be prepared for the worst. If they know how to survive in a tough economy, your children will have a great head start if you can teach them how to spend less and save more.

Fiscal responsibility is a virtue uncommon in young people these days. But of course, no one is naturally good at saving–it has to be learned. This starts with you. Take your kids along with you when you go shopping, for starters. Learning to look for the best discounts in the grocery store is a valuable skill on its own, and will lead to a long and happy future of responsible spending. Educate the children about taking advantage of coupons and buying necessities in bulk for long-term savings. The way one shops predicts the way one lives, so be a smart and responsible shopper and teach your kids to follow in your footsteps.

Spend less on luxury items and teach the kids to do the same. A large part of being responsible with finances is being able to say “No.” Stores, advertisements, and mass media are all designed to make you purchase things you don’t need. Marketing fat-cats are constantly trying to blur the line between needs and wants. If you let this subterfuge infiltrate your home, it will infect your children for the rest of their lives.

Try to cultivate creative habits like art, crafts, or gardening rather than dropping tons of money on toys and video games. These are great ways to save money and make productive use of free time at once. Teach them to take advantage of free product samples for even greater savings. Be open about the family’s finances and invite the kids to weigh in on budgeting concerns. There’s no limit to the things you can do.

This will be an important step in your kids’ development, and is not something to be taken lightly. Your children need to learn the ways of responsible spending and saving early on so that they can get off to a good start in life with the right habits already established.