Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Try This Tuesday: Teaching about money


When Cuddlebug and Bearhug started asking questions about why I go to work every day, it was a good opportunity to start teaching them about money and making the connection between work and money. We taught them that the reason I go to work is so I can make money, so we can pay for our house, food, toys, etc. I think at one point, they thought I was physically making quarters at work. I remember Bearhug once telling me something along the lines of, "we're almost out of quarters, can you go to work and make some more?" LOL

When he was five, Bearhug told me once, "You don’t need to go to work anymore, Mama, we have enough toys." How sweet is that? I thanked him, but explained that we still need money for our house and food. Another time, he asked me out of the blue if we were still going to have enough money for our house. Confused, I said "of course, why?" His answer, "you haven't been going to work." Then it clicked and I realized he was concerned because I had taken a few days vacation time. I told him that my job let me take a certain number of days off and still get the same amount of money. He's quite observant though, it hadn't occurred to me that he might get worried if I took time off.

So they learned pretty early on that money and work are connected and that money is not in infinite supply (not even close, haha). We have never done an allowance. Instead, we set up a system of "stars" when they were four, where they could earn stars for doing jobs or for exceptionally good behavior. The catch was, they lost stars for breaking the rules. We used a white-board so it was just as easy to erase the stars as it was to put them up (mwahahaha!). And it was REALLY easy to tell when they got hold of the dry erase marker and tried to add their own stars, lol. I think it was something like 20 stars needed to get a train (obsessed with Thomas much?) and 10 stars for something smaller like a hot wheel or a treat.

This is when they learned the concept of pooling their resources. It didn't take long for them to figure out that if they each had 10 stars, and were willing to agree on one train, they didn't have to wait as long to get a new train. They still do this at school where they earn plastic money for good behavior and often save up together for something they both want from the “treasure box.” As they got the hang of the star system, we slowly increased the number of stars needed in order to get something, (a) because we couldn't afford to be buying new toys all the time, and (b) to teach them the concept of saving up for something.

Just for the record, they didn't earn stars for EVERY job they did. We wanted to teach them that there are some things we do just because we're part of the family (things like bringing mom a diaper for baby brother, or putting your shoes where they belong), or just because we want to be nice, and that we shouldn't expect compensation for every little thing we do. We had specific jobs that they could earn stars for, and they were welcome to offer suggestions if they wanted to figure out ways to do something extra so they could earn more stars.

The star system has kind of fallen by the wayside over time, but it was really helpful at the time.

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Sticky (not too) on May 5, 2009 at 10:01 PM said...

I love that they worked together to get their toys! Awesome.
We give nickels (weekly)for finished chores and he has 3 jars to put them in "spend" "save" and "give". SO now he has to buy his own! Not really, but he loves playing with the coins!

Trish @ Another Piece of the Puzzle on May 7, 2009 at 9:24 PM said...

Awesome post! And my favorite part was when they pooled their money too - now they'll be ready when they grow up and get married. :)

The Farmer Files on May 15, 2009 at 2:08 PM said...

Liked this...have a 4yo asking about $$ all of the time...and wondering how to best incorporate an "earning" system. I like the idea of money not necessarily being tangible...giving them the actual coin or paper, because even as adults, we have to understand concepts of saving/spending/investing without something directly in our hands, as much as we need to understand the concept of how to wisely use our money.


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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