Brace yourself! I’m about to shatter the myth that artisans are (check as many as apply) flaky, unconcerned, irresponsible, ignorant and clueless about money. What’s more, I’m going to even suggest that we should be working with kids as soon as they can count to help them develop a healthy relationship with money because it’s a really important life skill. And I’ll even give you a downloadable .pdf to help you get started.
If you have little ones who aren’t ready for real money, you can check out a really good game called Money Bags or invent a version of your own. In Money Bags, there’s a board and a spinner. Each child is given a number of plastic coins that represent pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Depending on where the child lands after spinning, they have to pay money or earn money. I played this with our daughter from kindergarten to second grade because it was a great way to introduce dealing with coins and figuring out all of the different coin combinations that can add up to a given sum.
A few years later, Bill’s uncle bought a bunch of copies of a wonderful book called Raising Financially Fit Kids. He attempted to get several parents of young children in the family interested in reading it but I think I was the only taker. What I particularly like about this book is its approach, which organizes money activities and expectations by age. I like its approach to dealing with giving a child an allowance. In short, the book suggests that an allowance is not payment for chores, a right for having gotten to a certain age or getting good grades, it’s meant to give children experience handling money. If, over time they do a good job handling it, you give them more. If they don’t show responsibility with it, you give them less but you don’t take it away because they need to learn this in the same way that they need to learn how to read.
Last summer when our daughter turned eight we started discussing an allowance and the difference between “wants” and “needs.” As her parents we would always take care of every “need” and the priority will always be on saving for needs as opposed to spending on wants. We also explained that our family values time together more than money so in order to have time together, we need to be careful about money. Bill and I talked about how we use our family’s money and how she wanted to use an allowance. We told her that we wanted her to think about dividing up her allowance into three groups: 1. money for saving for a big event or expenditure, such as payment toward her out-of-state choir trip next spring, 2. money to give to the charity of her choice and 3. spending money for “wants” such as treats on field trips or a game that she wants to buy.
This whole money-education project included going to Target to buy a real wallet with a change purse of her choice, because I don’t think my fingers are tiny enough to sew a wallet and change purse. Then we went to the bank with her and told her that she would need to ask to open a savings acct. We signed all of the paperwork and coached her on what questions to ask but made it clear that this was her transaction. She loved this experience. Logistically it didn’t make sense for her to have two different accounts for savings and charity savings so she decided to combine both her charitable savings and long-term savings into the same account. To help her track her money and her expenditures we developed this worksheet and spiral bound a bunch of copies of it into a money workbook for her. This is grown-up stuff as far as she is concerned and she acts very proud when she walks up to the teller at the bank and says, “I’d like to make a deposit.”
Although it may seem like an unconventional gift for the upcoming holidays, I’m going to just sit here for a moment and think about how great it would be if people gave money workbooks to the kids in their lives and empowered them to develop a healthy relationship with money. What a gift that would be.