Money Lessons. Reflections, Week 15

Money is inescapable in life as we know it, and even for a young child, unless she is being held hostage in a basement (which really isn’t very funny because it does happen – very freaky, and heart-breaking), the message that money is used in exchange for things that we need and want is displayed every time she goes to the store and sees it happen. In the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum, Unit 6 used 100 pennies as a counting tool, so money has worked it’s way into our school as well.  But I am glad of this, because, as I said, it is inescapable.  It happens that money lessons have also taken the forefront in real-life lessons this week as well.

As I wrote about in Week 12 Reflections, we have been using pennies to practice counting, adding, and counting by 10’s in particular.  When I broke out the rolls of pennies the first time, Elizabeth trotted into her room, returning to produce an extra penny that we had used as a marker on a Highlights Hi Five game board.  The second time we used the now 101 pennies, she trotted into her room, returning to produce her very full piggy bank, which she then proceeded to empty into the pile of pennies.  With the other coin types, we then added an element of sorting into our games, as well as discussing the names and values of the four types of coins.  I definitely like this added dimension as a way to become familiar with our money.  I’m thinking now that next time, I ought to rip out some Honduran and Guatemalan coins to add to the mix. 🙂  Being the observant kid that she is, Elizabeth noted that the different kinds of coins have different faces on them, and so we have talked a little about the presidents who’s faces appear on each coin, and the fact that the images have been changed in the past few years.

Outside of our school hour, a situation has arisen in which Elizabeth has a want, and I’ve decided to let her work toward making enough money for it, and be more consistent myself about giving her her allowance.  At this point, I would call Elizabeth a saver.  But, she hasn’t had much of a chance to be otherwise; she only takes her money to the store when I remind her, otherwise, she just puts her money in her special Rapunzel bag or her treasure chest.  She is not spoiled, though, and is extremely good about going to a store without getting anything (actually, she faces the shelves of cheap, impulse buyers stuff when we wait in the check-out lines).

But per some conversation about money, I reminded her before our last trip to Walmart to bring her money along.  At the end of our shopping, we headed to the toy area, and she perused the aisles.  My conditions were that her toy had to be priced within the amount of money that she brought, though I was willing to pay the tax.  She carried twelve dollars with her (I told you she was a saver), but very few things are within that price range.

The first thing that she set eyes on was an Elsa dress.  Elizabeth loves Elsa, which is funny because for a long time, she’s been very tom-boyish, wearing her dirt bike clothes and shirts with cars on them, but her love of Elsa has her wearing a different dress everyday, and other clothes that look like they could be for a princess or a queen.  I know, I should cringe, right, that the princesses have crept into my house?  But to tell you the truth, her lack of interest in girl stuff sometimes worried me, so I welcome it with girlish fun.

elsa dress

Elsa costume. Photo from Click on photo to be redirected.

The Elsa dress was out of price, to say the least.  Actually, there were two different Elsa dresses, with two different prices.  That was what she wanted though.  Around chasing Paul up and down the aisles, I explained to Elizabeth her choices: 1) she could save her money for the dress and not get anything that day, 2) she could get something cheaper and save the rest of the money for the dress, 3) she could get something more expensive and spend all of her money.  Ultimately, she chose to get an Elsa crown, which was $5, and so left her some money toward the dress.

I also discussed with her, through her growing frustration and the beginnings of a tantrum, that we would set up a system so that she could come up with enough money to purchase the dress.  I don’t think that it’s possible for a 4-year-old to completely grasp the concept of money, she has no experience with the value of a dime against a $10 bill except that the bill is physically larger, but I am trying to help her see that with time and work, she will be able to purchase her dress.  I feel that this is especially important, because I personally learned this lesson when I was young, though older than she is now.

When I was 7, I received a Pleasant Company Samantha Parkington doll for Christmas.  These dolls have all sorts of paraphernalia that go along with them, and I wanted all of Samantha’s.  I received 10 cents a week for an allowance, and my older sister received 25 cents.  We each saved that meager amount, combined with our holiday money, to purchase items from the catalogue.  This is really impressive to me, as what I recall finally being able to purchase was a $25 lunch tin.  That is a lot of saving!

Elizabeth receives a $1 allowance, she will be able to make it to $20 way quicker than I did on my 10 cent allowance, but it will still take time.  Prior to this, I had been considering an allowance based on chores, but have rejected the idea because I don’t think that it is entirely appropriate to have doing chores dependent on receiving money.  At this time, Elizabeth is very volunteering, and I would hate to have her quit being that way because she suddenly thinks that she needs money to do everything.  We used to do a “task chart” though, and my intention with it had been to reward her on her good behavior.  Eventually, we came to just being rewarding her with stars for her behavior and nothing more, but it did seem to help because it was a blatant acknowledgement of good (or not so good) behavior.  Eventually, we dropped it, because she just got stars everyday for everything and I thought that it wasn’t necessary any more.

I ran through some ideas with my older sister, who has worked with children for many years, and eventually decided that I will break out the old “task chart” with new tasks and the opportunity to earn a little extra on top of her allowance for the Elsa dress.  I tried to figure out how I ought to work the gained amount, as a week is broken into seven days, that doesn’t break down very evenly as well all know.  I felt that an extra dollar was too much to be made, and what if she didn’t complete every day?  Finally, I settled on her being able to make 10 cents a day, and she needs three stars out of a possible 6 to get the money.  Her tasks include tasks that I would like her to work on: sharing with her brother, making her bed, helping to pick up her bedroom and the living areas, obeying, and not splashing in the tub.  I avoided chores that she all ready volunteers to help with, such as washing the dishes and putting the laundry into the washer, because I didn’t want them to become something that she doesn’t want to do.  I also avoid the word ‘chore’ because I generally think of a chore as something that you don’t want to do but a task is a challenge that can be met, like Team Umizoomi!  Every night, at bedtime, we pull down the chart and go over her behavior that day.  I decided to give her her 10 cents each day, rather than once a week because she’s only 4 and that helps her feel like she is moving toward her goal.

Overall, I feel like her/our goal is attainable with the system I have put in place.  It is hard for a young child to understand the concept of money, or that some things are worth quite a bit, but I hope that the lessons that come through all of this will be the satisfaction of hard work and saving her money, and the reality that the dresses are not cheap and should then be cared for well.  I hope that a value for the things that she does have is learned too, and that that includes taking care of her toys so that they last because it costs money and hard work to replace them.

Your turn to chime in: How do you manage allowances in your home?  Do you allow you kids to work for extra on top of what they all ready get?  How do you avoid the message that everything has to be done for a price?



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