One night at dinner, my daughter was complaining about having to fold clothes. I told her that she had it easy because all she had to do was carry the clothes from the laundry room to her bedroom. When I was a kid, I schelp a garbage bag filled with dirty clothes to the closest Laundromat which was about a mile away because we couldn’t afford a washer and dryer or a car. After listening to my story, my daughter looked at me with horror in her eyes and asked, “Daddy, were you poor?”
Yes, I was poor by the economic definition. However, I never felt poor because we always had food to eat and clothes to wear. Besides, most of the people in my neighborhood were in the same financial position. It wasn’t until I was bussed to a school across town that I realized that some people have more than others.
I was in awe of the kids who arrived in school in Cadillacs and wore Izod, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Jordache clothing. My best friend, Gerald, always had the latest Atari games and Penny Loafers with real pennies adorning the tops. This new environment made me embarrassed of my family’s financial state. But I never bothered my mother with my trivial concerns about designer clothes and video games. I knew that she was doing the best she could just to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table.
Instead, I took her lessons on frugality and applied them to my life. In order to make some extra cash, I collected aluminum cans. I saved all of my earnings until I had enough to purchase the items I wanted. I scoured thrift and discount stores to find bargains. To this day, I still seek to save money whenever I can.
I’m thankful that my wife shares my spirit of frugality. When we were in college, we sometimes had a hard time making ends meet. There were times that we had to scrounge up pennies just to have enough money to purchase one $0.99 cent burrito at Taco Bell. But those lean times helped us to appreciate for money. Since then, my wife and I have managed to build a rainy day fund, pay off both cars, save for retirement, and start a college fund for our kids. More importantly, we have been able to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate.
Instilling these financial values into our children has proven to be difficult. They are constantly bombarded with advertisements and peer pressure. They think that money is readily available and rarely consider the financial implications of each purchase or whether we can actually afford the things they want.
I’ve discovered a method that helps to put things in perspective. I give my older kids $5 each week for allowance. They are required to save a portion and donate a portion. They can spend whatever is left over. Whenever they want to buy something, I ask them to calculate the number of weeks it would take for them to afford it.
For example, my daughter wanted a pair of designer jeans that cost nearly $100. I told her that we wouldn’t buy them, but she could save her money and buy them herself. Next, I informed her that it would take over about six months to save enough money to purchase the jeans. After some careful consideration, she decided that the jeans weren’t worth it. Instead, she saved her money and bought herself a Nook Simple Touch because she is an avid reader (note: she also earned extra money by selling her crafts on Etsy).
My wife and I strive to teach our kids the value of money by setting good examples and giving them practical lessons in financial literacy. We hope that our investment will produce three financially responsible adults who understand the value of a dollar.
Question: How do you teach your kids about money?