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The Hard Lesson My Son Learned About Money

We’re a family of nerds. So it didn’t surprise me when my 6-year-old daughter came to me and told me she wanted a book about the human body. I told her we could go to the library and get a book that weekend. That wasn’t good enough. She wanted a book she could own, carry around and sleep with. I reminded her she had been great about saving money and told her I’d take her to the bookstore that weekend and she could buy her own book. When my son heard the plan, he was totally on board.

The next Saturday morning, I told the kids to go get their money and we’d go to the bookstore. My daughter came rushing down with her purse and my son… didn’t come down. After a few minutes I went upstairs and discovered him tearing his room apart looking for his money. He couldn’t find it anywhere and it was time to go.

This was one of those really hard mom moments. It wouldn’t be fair if I told my son I’d buy his book but make my daughter buy her own. But at the same time, this was a trip the kids had been looking forward to and it broke my heart to see him sad. I made him a deal. We normally pay the kids for their chores from the previous week on Sunday night, but I offered to pay him what he’d earned so far (which was only $2) and gave him three quick chores he could do before we left, which would earn him another $0.75. I’ve never seen that boy work so fast in all my life. Since he’d found another dollar and some change in his dresser, he went to the bookstore armed with a little over $4. My daughter, went with $20.

Through our shopping experience my son kept finding books he wanted that cost anywhere from $10 to $35 and begged me to loan him the money vowing he’d pay me back when he found his money.

Again, another hard mom moment. I want my son to know he can count on me, but I wanted him to learn a valuable lesson about working hard for what we get and then being responsible enough to take care of it. In the end he found a book for $5. I told him he could get it and I’d give him a big chore when we got home, agreeing that I’d hold onto his new book until the chore was complete.

You may or may not agree with my methods, but at the end of the day, I think my son learned something from this experience and it gave me chance to exercise my “tough-mom” parenting. I could have easily given my son the money and he would have had the book he wanted but in the end it wasn’t about the money. It was about a lesson my son needed to learn.

Right now I could go on a tirade about how kids today don’t know what it’s like to work hard for what they have, but I’m not going to. I don’t believe this generation is completely lost but I do believe we have to work harder to teach them about what it takes to earn money, how to save money and how to respect what they buy with that money. In past generations, these lessons were taught as kids just lived their lives. Now we have to go out of our way to teach them. But it’s important we do. I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject and we generally make it up as we go along, but here is what has worked for us as we teach our kids about money.

Our kids have weekly chores we pay them for.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t pay their kids for chores. They say chores earn their kids the right to have a home and food, etc. I completely understand this and this teaches a different kind of lesson, but that’s not how we roll. As parents, we want our kids to know it’s our responsibility to take care of them and provide necessities for them (notice I said necessities and not every want). I don’t want them to think they have to earn the right to live in my house or eat at my table. Plus, since my kids are young, they don’t have an opportunity to learn how to earn, spend and save money if my husband and I don’t teach them this at home.  But in all fairness, we’re not overly generous. In general, they get $0.25 for each chore they do, but some go for more. Cleaning the toilet is $0.50 and pooper-scooping is $4 (I really hate to pooper-scoop). They have to do basic things like clean their rooms, pick of after themselves and put away their laundry without payment, but we pay them for the extras.


We teach them to donate money to charity.

Each week when they get paid, they donate 10% of their earnings to charity. Sometimes they decide to donate more. One week my son emptied his piggy bank and donated everything he had. We want our kids to know that the opportunity to earn money isn’t something everyone has.

We discourage impulse purchases.

Every time we go anywhere that has things for sale, my kids find something they want. The conversation goes as follows:
Child:”Mom! Can I please have it?!”
Me: “No.”
Child: “I’ll pay for it myself.”
Me: “If you still want it in one week, we’ll come back for it and you can buy it yourself”
I think there have only been two times we’ve had to go back for something. We want our kids to understand that spending money is a decision that requires thought and patience.

We make them save for what they want.

I illustrated this in the story above but if my kids want something, they are responsible for it. We’re not completely mean parents so we’ll occasionally get them something for a treat, but if we bought everything they wanted, we’d officially be hoarders.

I’m sure the way we teach our kids about money will change over the years but the point is, it’s never too early to start teaching these lessons.

I’d love more tips. How do you teach your kids about money?

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One Response to The Hard Lesson My Son Learned About Money

  1. Jessi Miller February 20, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

    We are a lot the same way in our house. Another thing we do that just came up one day is have them to pay to replace things they’ve ruined. It came up when my then 4 year old twins emptied all the contents of the shampoo, conditioner and body wash into their bath. I told them they had to buy replacements. Since they don’t have much money I told them it would cost $2, but it got the point acrossed and I was pretty proud of that “natural consequence”. Since then we’ve had things come up where one will borrow and lose something and have to pay to replace it for their sister or they’ve left things like sidewalk chalk outside and if they want more they have to buy it. You get the gist of it!

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