This morning as I was making my way through my Google Reader RSS feed articles, I was reading a post listed on Get Rich Slowly that linked to yet another article on raising4boys.com. This article was titled â€œTeaching Kids the Value of a Dollarâ€ and discussed the authors experiment at teaching his kids the value of money. The short version is that he offered his kids the choice of receiving a dollar or a soft drink when they were eating out as a family. Only one elected on their first outing to take the drink over the dollar, by the second outing all were choosing to receive the money rather than â€œwasteâ€ a dollar on getting a sugar filled drink.
Learning how to value and care for my money is one of the things I truly appreciate for my parents. I grew up being well taken care of but it definitely from a blue-collar background. As a family we didnâ€™t have a lot of â€œextraâ€ money for fun things, though my parents did whatever they could to make sure we had an enjoyable childhood. I saw how they worked hard for their money and tried to be wise in what they spent, though admittedly I got some of my penchant for buying nice â€œtoysâ€ from my dad. That said I do try to be wise with my money and would like my kids to grow up with this desire.
Along with valuing money, one of the biggest ideals I feel again for my parents was to understand and appreciate the importance of hard work. If there was anything that I were to point out from my childhood as a great life lesson, particularly from my teenage years, would be that my parents taught me the value of having a work ethic. I had chores, I had things I needed to do around the house that were just part of being the in the family. We (my siblings and I) were all contributing members and were required to do our part. We had a few short stints where my parents tried to have us earn an allowance, but in the end if we wanted extra money to do fun things we had to go out and find a way to earn that money. Chores were just part of being a part of the family. I never really questioned this as a kid. Though of course I wanted to have money to get things, I understood that we didnâ€™t have a lot of extra money than if I wanted things it was up to me to earn that money. This is something that I truly want my kids to learn and understand.
Now that I am a parent of kids getting into the age where they want money and would like to have it for fun things I am faced with the same dilemma. I have continued with the tradition that chores are just a part of being in the family, and we all contribute to make a home run as it should. My wife and I both firmly believe this. So we were met with the quandary of how to give our children an opportunity to earn money for the things they want as well as have the opportunity to have money to spend both wisely and poorly so they can learn the value of money a young age. Hereâ€™s what we have done.
I work at a small business that recently moved into a new office. The business owners were looking for a new cleaning company to keep our 1,500 square-foot office cleaned. I offered to them that we would as a family be their cleaning crew, and work for the same rate as their lowest bidder meeting whatever requirements they had for the contract. They were of course happy to let my family have the contract because we were matching the lowest bid, and I explained what my goals were. Though surprised that I wanted to do it, they understood and appreciated the values of us try to teach your kids.
We have been cleaning the office now for about five months and I have to say I feel like the experiment has been a great success and our goals are being met. There are plenty of weeks where kids definitely do not want do their job, so they have learned that we often have to work even when we donâ€™t want to; this is part of our commitment to our job. They have seen even when we have gone on a short family vacation that we still have a responsibility to get our job done or taken care of. They have also had the opportunity to earn money that they can buy things with, which of course is their favorite part. They have spent it frivolously at times but have also been able to get things they want that we normally wouldnâ€™t buy for them. They have felt the pain of having no money when they want to get things because they already spent it on other items. Iâ€™ve enjoyed watching my son looked through his Scholastic Book catalog from school happy to have the money to buy some things that he wants yet having to think carefully about how he will spend his money and choose what will give him the most value for what he spends. These are all incredibly great lessons to learn at a young age and I am so appreciative for this opportunity to teach my kids in this way.
As a family we are earning $50 per week for the job. This is not an incredible sum of money, but it is also quite a bit for our kids at this age. We split evenly with them $25 apiece, with the parents making nothing of course, we are donating our efforts to the cause. But there are more lessons to be learned. They donâ€™t have the option to just keep all this money and spend it how they please. $20 each per week goes directly into their bank accounts we have established for their college savings funds. These are interest-bearing CD accounts of varying lengths that make the funds accessible if necessary, but with a long-term strategy of saving. They get the opportunity to have an account in their name, and to learn each time as they go to the bank that they are putting money away for the future. They keep five dollars each week, part of which goes to our church due to our tithing beliefs, and the rest is theirs to spend as they please. It took a couple of weeks where kids to completely understand this process, but they do understand it now. They understand that they are saving money, they are tithing money to our church for charitable purposes and they understand that they are earning money to spend as they please.
So anyone reading this that may be faced with the same concerns or desire to teach their kids, a highly recommend getting out and finding an opportunity similar to this. There are thousands of small businesses that have their offices cleaned by companies that Iâ€™m sure would be more than willing to let a family take over for a competitive price. Itâ€™s not the most glamorous of jobs, but I think that in itself is a lesson to be taught, and it is well suited for a family to do the work together. Sometimes the value of earning money doesnâ€™t need to be found in getting the most per hour that you might get, rather in being willing to do whatever is necessary to earn the money you need.
I can only hope that as a parent I can pass along the values of my parents taught me, and I hope that this one opportunity continues well into the future. I know my kids will be better for it, both now and in the future. I hope they can look back and remember this fondly, not only for the lessons theyâ€™ve learned at the time spent together to family.
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