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Learning the Value of Money

Learning the Value of Money

When I was a middle schooler, all the cool kids wore the same brand of insanely expensive jeans. I coveted these jeans. Most of my “cool” clothes came from hand-me-downs or garage sales. I begged my parents for a pair of these highly prized jeans. Instead of denying my heart's desire, my mother was much savvier. She promised me that if I could save my money and earn half of the price of the pants, she would pay the other half. What a deal!

I scrimped. I saved. I washed my grandparents cars and solicited odd jobs like a pro. It took months, but I could finally afford to be decked out in denim. As promised, my mother brought me to the store. I tried on the must-have jeans, and learned three lessons.

One, these jeans were hideously uncomfortable. Two, just because other people deemed them cool, didn’t mean that they were for me. Three, and the most important lesson learned, was the value of hard work and money earned not given.

To this day, my mother swears she knew that’s what the outcome would be. I think she likely did, as now I have kids of my own and am teaching them the value of a dollar.

Sometimes ours can seem like a world of entitlement, especially with our kids. With, ‘Can I have…’ and ,‘ I want…’ parents can become overwhelmed by requests. We have pretty much nipped that in the bud!

Financial Literacy

According to a study conducted by T. Rowe Price, parents are very reluctant to talk to their children about finances, and when they do it may not be very effective. Some parents lack financial skills themselves, so are unable to teach their children about money and debt issues.

“My parents never talked with us about money. Those were conversations held behind closed doors. When I moved out, I got into some pretty nasty credit card debt. It took ages to work that off. Now, I want to make sure my kids don’t make the same mistakes, but I’m not always sure how.” Dad Eric B. shared his concerns about teaching his kiddos financial responsibility.

“Talking to teens about money should be as routine as brushing your teeth or grocery shopping,” says Robyn Gilson, U.S. Bank Coach for Student Financial Education. So, where do we start?

Earn it!

In our kitchen is a small bulletin board upon which we post jobs that need to be done around the house. When we started this program, we had family dinner discussion about the value of different chores. Easier chores are worth less than lengthy ones and chores that take more time, effort, and skill are worth more. The adults set the tone by identifying chores worth fifty cents and chores worth a few bucks. Then, the family came up with a robust list of job opportunities and their corresponding values. Over time, we have adjusted the values based on chore preference, for example, unloading the dishwasher is a particularly unpopular chore, so it’s value has increased.

In order to get a job, the kid simply unpins it from the board, does the chore, and asks me or my husband to inspect. After inspection, the chore card is initialed and goes into that kids job envelope.

On Fridays, the kids have payday. They take out their completed chore cards and add up the value. This has led to some interesting talks in our family. Our youngest, seven, is a doer while the oldest, nine, prefers to relax. This has led to the little one earning way more than the oldest and discussions of getting paid for the work you complete. The nine year old no longer complains, but has figured out chores that she likes more than others, how to balance the responsibilities, and how to make her money last.

Spend it!

Now, when we go to the store or on a little getaway, my husband and I are no longer bombarded with requests to buy things. The girls bring their wallets and choose their items more wisely.

Strategies like ours have also led some parents to have their children purchase birthday or holiday gifts for friends or family. With the holidays right around the corner, allowing your child a budget for spending on gifts is another way to teach value, prioritizing, and savvy shopping.

Save it!

There are lots of ways to teach your children the value of saving their hard earned cash. “At the age of eight, our children did Financial Peace, Jr by Dave Ramsey,“ Rhonda B. local mom and high school teacher shared. ”We did Dave Ramsey as a family, so they each had 3 envelopes to divide their allowance into. Save, spend, and give! The kids had a chore chart with dollar values and received an allowance each week for chores completed. Our children are six years apart, so Jackson was living this as long as he can remember. At the age of four he realized he had to pay cash for anything he wanted. Once, Jack asked a store clerk how much a webkinz cost because he received one for his birthday and I’d told him if he wanted another one, he would have to use his own money. After finding out the price with tax, we came home, counted out his change and dollars (educational too) and we went back to the store. He was walking like he was six feet tall! He grabbed the toy he wanted, paid cash, and thanked the cashier. I asked him what the webkinz name was. Jack said, ‘Cashie, because I paid with my own cash!’ That was a proud mama moment. Our eight year old would put $1500 in monopoly money aside during the game before buying property because you always need an emergency fund! She's 22, has her own place, lives by a budget...even in California!”

Mom of three and teacher Pam L. shared, “I try to emphasize saving for later by asking how much of their birthday money they plan to spend and how much they plan to save. Sometimes I double the amount they're saving to incentivize that. That's what my parents did when I was a kid, and it really helped! My kids save more than they spend now, especially when they see how little they can really buy anyway.”

There’s an App for That!

Like almost everything else nowadays, there are lots of apps to help kids learn financial freedom.

Bankaroo - a virtual bank for kids. Kids learn how to budget by saving toward set goals. Lauded for great customer service, the app is family friendly and accessible through the app or online portal.

FamZoo - with nearly perfect five-star reviews, FamZoo is an app from preschoolers through college aged kids. Participants choose where to prioritize their money by dividing into different accounts such as savings, spending, giving, and investing.

iAllowance - makes piggy-banks a thing of the past. This app allows parents to manage chores, finances, and rewards. Kids earn rewards for meeting parent-set goals.

The Last Word

"I try to get whatever my 9 year old boy asks for within reason but there are times, more often than not as a single mom, when we pretty much live paycheck to paycheck,” mom Andrea B admitted. “So, if something comes up, like a specific Halloween costume this time, he took it upon himself to earn money to buy it himself. Within two days he had earned $5 from me and $10 from a neighbor who needed some sticks picked up in his yard. The next afternoon he was calling me asking if he could go ask the neighbor across the street or his grandma’s for odd jobs. I don’t know if I’ve necessarily taught him the value of a dollar but he knows we don’t always have extra and that he can try to earn money on his own.”

Published in Baton Rouge Parents Magazine.


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