Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How I Talk to My Son About Money -- Part 2

Welcome back to my series on how I'm teaching my son about money.  If you haven't read Part 1, you should hop on over and do it here.

4. I set up a savings mechanism for him -- Yes, he has his own savings account but that's not what I'm talking about.  I wanted something that would be visual for him.  So, I set up a jar system that is similar to this:

Glass Cylinder Canister Set of 4 - Assorted
image courtesy of

except that our jars are square.  And there are only three of them.  The tallest jar, is his "Savings" jar.  50% of all money that he receives through birthdays, Christmas, or any random little "jobs" he does, goes into this jar.  The next largest jar is is "Share" jar.  25% of everything that he gets goes in this jar.  The money from this jar can be used in any way that Tyler sees fit with only one rule: it has to help someone and that "help" cannot benefit Tyler in any way except for a "feel good" way.  For example, he cannot decide that he wants to use the money from his "Share" jar to buy two identical toys, give one to a disadvantaged kid and then keep one for himself.  The purpose of this jar is to teach Tyler that no matter what we may "want", we should always have the capacity to give to someone else.  So far, he has always decided to use the money toward the Angel that we adopt every year from the Angel Tree at Christmas.  We take the money and go shopping together.  We count it out and I help him determine how much he has and what we can buy for the Angel for that amount of money.  The last jar that he has is the smallest jar, it's his "Spend" jar.  The remaining 25% of all money that he gets goes in this jar.  This is the pool of money that he has to spend on whatever things he wants.  Mostly we use this money at yard sales (which, by the way, are an EXCELLENT way to teach kids about money and bargaining!) but occasionally, Ty will ask to get his "Spend" jar down and count how much is in there if he's got his eye on a particular purchase.  Aside from Birthdays and Christmas, I really don't buy him toys throughout the year.  If he wants something, he's got to earn the money for it.  For the most part, anytime that he gets any money, I make him stick to this particular breakdown.  However, if there's something that he really wants and he's been working really hard toward, it I will sometimes allow him to do some chores (yes, they are six year old appropriate chores. . .I don't have my kid out power washing the house or anything!) to earn some extra money and have 75% go into his spend jar (25% always goes into the share jar--nothing we "want" is ever more important than giving to those less fortunate than us.) so that he can get his money saved up a little faster.  Most of the time, though, he doesn't even complain about money going into his "Save" jar.  He's asked on a couple of occasions what that money is for and I've told him that's the money that we put into his savings account.  Whenever the jar gets full or it's been a year or so, we just dump all the money out and take it into his bank and deposit it.  He doesn't totally understand the concept of banks yet so he still gets a little confused by the fact that we give the teller all his money and he leaves with nothing to show for it.  I'm a little worried that I might be unintentionally creating an irrational fear of banks for the poor kid!  But, I've told him that when he's older, he'll be very very happy that we saved that money for him throughout his life.  Who knows how much it will be, but at least it will be a little something to get him started off in life! 

5. I have him help me clip coupons--I don't force him to do it, but I do incentivize him to help me clip out my Sunday coupons.  I'm trying to teach him about frugality and how to get the best deals on things.  So, I sat him down one Sunday and explained to him what coupons were.  He thought it was pretty interesting that I could, in a sense, use the little slips of paper to pay for part of our groceries.  I wanted to get him involved so I told him that for every coupon that he clips out that I end up using, I'll put a quarter in his "Save" jar.  So, he clips out his little stack of coupons, I go through and put a red mark on every coupon that he clips out and when I end up using it, I tally it up on a slip of paper in my purse.  Once a month, I figure out how much I "owe" him and I put it into his "Save" jar.  It gets him involved and he can see how much work it is to try to save money.  I've been clipping coupons since he was born so he's totally used to seeing Mommy sitting on the floor in the Living Room surrounded by a mess of papers but this way, he can get an idea of how it all works.  Who  knows?  Maybe one day my little baby will be handing the cashier his own stack of coupons to use on his own groceries!

6. I ask his opinion on purchases -- whether it's a pack of cookies at the grocery store, a dress at the mall, or a TV at the electronics store, I ask his input.  Not on all purchases, of course (that would drag out trip!) but on some discretionary purchases, I'll ask him what he thinks.  It depends on how appealing the item is to him on whether or not he thinks it's worth the X dollars or not.  Seems we buy quite a lot of cookies but not many dresses!  However, the kid is actually pretty good at this already. . .he's told me before to "wait until it goes on sale" or asked me "do we have a coupon for it"!!  I feel like I've made some progress in instilling these lessons in him when I know that he'd love to have that box of cake mix but his first question is whether or not we have a coupon or if it's on sale.  On larger purchases (like a TV), we'll go and look at the TV's, write down the prices of different TV's, and then go home and talk about it.  He's helped me before look up reviews online and we've eliminated items based on what we've found.  Sometimes he'll tell me that he doesn't want me to buy something because it's too much money.  Since I don't ever tell him "we can't afford" something, I know he's doing this because he's making a choice that the particular item is more than he chooses to spend on something. 


  1. These are amazing ideas! I am definitely keeping this in mind for when we have children!!

  2. I love this!!! This is a great idea- and it provides the visual stimulation I wanted so my daughter could visually see her money add up. I also love that you put a HUGE emphasis on helping others. What a great idea as a single mom raising a child to teach them to put their focus on others!!! Seriously impressed with these ideas! Thank you!!!


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