We kicked off our family year of “ADVENTURE” with our month of vegetarianism for the month of February. Tonight we ate at a restaurant to celebrate our accomplishment. We ate meat for the first time in 28 days and had an informal post-mortem meeting. The kids’ chests swelled with pride as they talked about their vegetarian experience and what they learned. In the end, we all decided that we would remain omnivores but reduce our overall intake of meat by half and continue to eat a large portion of veggies, lentils, and beans. (As an aside, we did save money on food after we tallied the grocery bills.)
I was in the art store the other day buying felt for the kids’ valentine’s day craft when #2 wanted to purchase other items. I told her that we didn’t have enough money right now and she said, “Just go to the bank.” I started reciting my little lecture about money including the “money doesn’t grow on trees” rant. Instantly I knew what our next family challenge would be.
This month we are exploring MONEY: teaching the kids the value of money, introducing financial tools like budgeting, defining purchasing power, investigating the importance of bartering versus using money, discussing the good/bad value judgments of the concept of money, and balancing want versus need when you have a finite amount of money.
The big challenge we have set for our family is to limit our spending this month to $100. This doesn’t include groceries or our fixed expenses including mortgage, cable, phone, utilities, insurance. The $100 includes toiletries, gas, school expenses, gifts, restaurant bills, and any other incidentals. (We are not counting tonight’s meal.) Part of this will be including the children on our expenditure planning and giving them an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. For example, #3 is invited to a birthday party this weekend and as a family, we need to decide if we are going to purchase a gift or try to come up with an inexpensive way to create a gift for her friend.
A lot of the activities this month will incorporate the use of math and logic. For example. at the grocery store, there are plenty of ways to challenge the kids. If we give you $5.00, how many apples can we afford if they are $1.79/lb? Which is the better deal: $9.99 for 355 ml of contact lens solution or $18.99 for 2 bottles with 355 ml of solution in each? These are questions the older one can try to figure out while the little ones can simply try to look at the prices of products and compare which one is the cheaper choice or even just indicate what the price is and practice number identification. The kids can keep the receipts and tally up our expenses for the month. We also plan to play games like Monopoly and research the purchasing power of other currencies in relation standard of living in different countries.
At the end of the day, it is about opening up a dialogue with our children. We want to make sure that the kids have a healthy view of money with no emotion attached to it. Money in and of itself is neither good or bad. It is a necessary means for exchange in our society. However, too often people have the perception that money can solve any problem or the lack of it is used as an excuse for being in a difficult situation.
Ideally, I would hope this ongoing education about money will prevent the kids from falling into that perilous mindset of instant gratification and at least become aware of the truly important things in life that money can’t buy.