Remember those dreams about being a mom and spending all of your time with your kids? All of those joy filled moments as you walk through all areas of life together? I’m with you. Then you wake up from the dream and reality hits that it is just plain difficult to juggle some of the daily and very necessary activities that are required to manage a home.
When it’s time to go shopping with a large family, it’s an event to get everyone dressed appropriately (anyone else keep extra shoes in the van just in case you arrive at your location to find bare feet?), faces washed, and everyone buckled in. Then, after we arrive, we actually have to go IN to the store. Meanwhile, my posse is dreaming up all the things they plan to purchase at the store with their own money.
There is plenty of discussion available and schools of thought as to how kids can get money. The fact is, they do have money. Through our 22 years of parenting, we have made up several methods to handle the micro economics of our kid’s cash but have finally found a method that works really well for us.
It seems like every time we go to the store the little people have their lists, too. If they are cruising the aisles with me there is a regular chiming of voices, “Can I get this? I’ll use my own money.” At times I have literally snuck out of the house because if I give them warning, a few of them make me a list of things they want me to pick up for them. Then there’s the gift shops! Who doesn’t love field trips? We all love field trips but, why do they always put the gift shops at the exit? You know… the only way out? So plan an hour for the field trip and nearly as long in the gift shop to pick out something as a souvenir of the excursion.
Let’s start with what we used to do. To encourage personal stewardship, each child kept their money in their own room, often in a mason jar that they had decorated. We have bought piggy banks, wallets and special banks divided out to allocate their savings. But when it came to the spending of it, we were hauling around mason jars of coins in our cart at the grocery store or hassling with a mad dash to transfer everything out of the bedroom bank and into some sort of non-breakable container before we all loaded up. The transfer of the coin assumes that we could actually find the jar or piggy bank in the first place. My kids like to hide their money in “secret spots” and you guessed it, the spots are so secret that even they cannot relocate them. The logistics of teaching financial responsibility was driving me crazy.
When we spontaneously made a stop (or encountered one of those stinkin’ gift shops after the field trip) we were often caught unprepared. I knew that they truly did have money at home, so at times I made the purchase and told them, “pay me back when we get home”. It was hard to keep track and when we arrived back home, it wasn’t always convenient to go through the process of paying back. Sometimes I put off having them bring me their cash because I didn’t have time to deal with it. There was a beautiful picture in my mind of a teachable moment but I didn’t always have correct change and the time to work through the math with them. Did I mention this was driving me crazy?
I realized one day that even though I like the idea of them learning to manage tangible money, our world is moving in the direction of plastic and there is no sign of reversing it. As I was cleaning out a drawer, I found a stack of checkbook registers and I got an idea. I gave each child their own register, wrote their name on the front and had them bring me all of their stashes of cash. I entered into the registers their grand total.
My teenagers manage their money independently but for my younger kids, I keep the check registers in my purse at all times. When we are running errands, at a glance we can see exactly how much money they have. This method has sparked good conversation as they record their purchases. They consider how close it is to their next allowance day or if there is anything big they are saving for. As they make entries in the register, we record the place they spend their money and what they spent it on. When they used to spend cash, they had no idea where their money went.
Now, when we are driving home, the oldest child with me will start to sort out the receipts. We keep a highlighter or colored marker in the van and highlight each purchase that is not a family expense. Next to each highlighted line with a regular pen, my helper notes the initial of the one who bought it. I loan out my phone to use the calculator app to add up each person’s purchases and they are entered into the checkbook register. After the purchase has been entered, my assistant deducts it from the total and records the new balance. It’s a great opportunity to practice practical math!
Not all of the methods we have come up with over the years have been successful but this one, has been a big win! I hope you can adapt it to bless your family as you teach them to manage their money.