Guest Post by Kasey Wenz.
How to Teach Young Children About Savings
I will be the first one to admit that I am not good with money. No matter how hard I try, I seem to never have extra money each month to put into my savings. Sometimes, it’s hard to even know where my money goes each month. I am not a huge shopper (okay an occasional trip to Target or Amazon does make it easy to buy that gotta have item, but in all seriousness, I’m not a big shopper). I don’t get my nails done, I drive a practical family vehicle, which I am proud to say is paid off, and my family and I only eat out at restaurants every once in a while, so where does it go each month?
My family and I live in Austin, Texas which is a very expensive city. It’s always on different lists for best places to live and largest growing metropolitan city. We have chosen a life in the arts and non-profit, and sure, it’s not like living in New York or Boston, but it isn’t cheap. My little boy is also getting older and starting to be involved in more activities which do cost more money as well. However, my husband and I still check the bank account each month and stare in disbelief. Even when we do get a little ahead, I swear that’s when the car breaks down, or we end up in the emergency room for an allergic reaction. Just our luck!
Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I do pay all of our bills each month and always on time. We have learned how to skate bills to the last minute, move money from one account to another, and how to rob Peter to pay Paul so to speak. Even though we may be sweating it until the end of the month, we always sigh a breath of relief in the end. Now, my big sister is somewhat of a personal finance guru, and she probably won’t even finish reading this article, because she has already run off to create for me a household budget spreadsheet, a binder with organized tabs, and an extensive filing system for my receipts. My thrifty-sister has the head for money, but unfortunately, I apparently wasn’t born with this gene and lack financial savvy.
Although I may not have a talent for saving money, as a mother, I do know that I want to teach my children about saving and the reward it can offer in the long run. My oldest child is six years old, and he isn’t quite old enough to understand the value of a dollar. At this point, if you gave him the choice of two one-dollar bills or one ten-dollar bill, he is going to choose the two one-dollar bills, because it’s “more” money. If only it worked that way. I am lucky that my son really does not ask for much. If he sees an advertisement for a new toy, his first thought is to put it on a Christmas list or ask for his birthday. He rarely demands anything right then and there. He doesn’t whine for candy at the grocery store, and he is pretty good at being happy with what he has. Right now, it doesn’t make sense to offer him up money and tell him to put it in a piggy bank, because he just doesn’t ask for much.
Instead, of offering up a weekly allowance, we have come up with a jewel system. He believes these are the most beautiful treasures (they’re the little round marbles you find in candles or flower arrangements). He earns these jewels for doing his weekly chores around the house. Since he is only six years old, most of his chores consist of “helping” with something. He helps set the table, he helps take out the trash, he helps to do the dishes, etc. Even though they are chores he does as a helper, they are still a part of his expected responsibilities around the house each week. As he completes a chore, he earns a jewel for his jewel jar.
Some of his chores are worth one jewel, while other longer or more difficult tasks may earn two or three jewels. Sometimes we will even give him an extra jewel just for making good choices: picking up his toys without being asked, being an especially good listener, or helping his baby sister with something. He is always pleasantly surprised when he earns a jewel unexpectedly when it’s for a good deed, rather than his regular chores. He likes to pour out all the jewels and excitedly count how many he has earned so far for the week.
Washing dishes to earn some jewels…..
To my son, these jewels are as good as money. He can choose to turn in his jewels at the end of the week and earn a “treat.” We don’t have it down to an exact science of how many jewels equals what treat, but he can turn in say ten jewels and earn a root beer (we are a soda-free house, so this is a huge reward!). Or, he can save up the jewels and turn in more for something a little bigger, like renting a new movie. I can see his wheels spinning, as he asks me what will happen if he were to save up two weeks worth of jewels. Or, what if he saves a month’s worth of jewels? What happens then? The more he saves, the bigger the treat he earns in the end.
Most weeks, my son turns in enough jewels for a root beer on Saturday, but he has saved weeks-worth of jewels, and even earned enough to pick out a small toy from the toy aisle at Target. God-forbid he actually does save up months worth of jewels; who knows what the expectation will be for this special treat. But, however many jewels he earns or turns in at the end of the week, I am proud of the way he earns and counts his treasures, as I know he is learning the value of hard work, making good choices, and saving. And he knows, it is well-deserved.
Now, if only I can learn how to save up my jewels.
Kasey Wenz is a hippie-chick from Austin, Texas. She has been a faculty mentor and advisor in higher education for the past several years. In addition, she is a freelance writer with a passion for travel, the arts, live music, literature, and education. When she’s not writing, you can find her spending time outdoors with her husband and two small children.