Family Life

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

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.

Financial Literacy
According to a study conducted by T. Rowe Price, parents are reluctant to talk to their children about finances, and when they do, it may not be effective. Some parents even lack financial skills themselves, so they 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,” shares local dad Eric B. 

Robyn Gilson, U.S. Bank Coach for Student Financial Education, adds, “Talking to teens about money should be as routine as brushing your teeth or grocery shopping.” 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 a family 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 50 cents and chores worth a few bucks. Then, the family came up with a list of jobs 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 its value has increased. 

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

On Fridays, the kids have payday. They take out their chore cards and add up the value. This has led to some interesting talks in our family. Our youngest is a doer while the oldest 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 oldest no longer complains, but she 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 ways to teach your children the value of saving their cash. “At the age of eight, our children did Financial Peace, Jr. by Dave Ramsey,“ shares local mom, Rhonda B. ”We did Dave Ramsey as a family, so they each had three 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.”

Mom of three Pam L. shares, “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.”

Mom Andrea B. shares, “I try to get whatever my nine-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. So, if something comes up, like a specific Halloween costume, 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 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.” ■

There’s an App for That
Like almost everything else nowadays, there apps to help kids learn financial freedom. 
Bankaroo: Kids learn how to budget by saving toward goals. The app is family friendly and accessible through the app or online portal. 
FamZoo: App for preschoolers through college-aged kids. Participants choose where to prioritize their money. 
iAllowance: This app allows parents to manage chores, finances, and rewards. ■

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