Thursday, April 14, 2011

Value of a quarter

When the boys were infants, we started savings accounts for them where we are saving for college. But we have also started a system where they can earn money for special treats.

The boys each have a jar. They earn quarters for doing little chores (their first job is feeding the cats). We've also recently added earning a quarter for picking a small bucket full of dandelions (because as much as I'd like to dig them all out, picking the flowers before they go to seed is more likely to happen). Grandma & Grandpa sometimes include a dollar or two in holiday cards and that money goes in their special jars.

Sam's earnings
When they have saved enough, we let them pick something special to buy. Sam is still getting the hang of it, but Wil is learning to wait.

Wil with his jar of earnings
Wil has a list of Thomas trains that he wants to buy. He asks me to count his quarters periodically to see if he has enough. Since he's 4, I don't make him save every penny to buy one. He had over $10 today, so we went to the store where he picked a train ($13). Yes, I covered the difference, but savings that $10 took a long time. At 4, we need to slowly work toward an eventual goal of having him earn the full $13. He's getting the point and doesn't yet understand the price stickers, so that lesson can wait while we build up endurance saving.

Sam had saved $7, so he chose a train too, only a less expensive Chuggington one. At 2, he has a lot less patience and doesn't quite understand waiting for a bigger reward. And that's ok. That is actually the point of this exercise.

Wil already has a list of the trains he is saving for next: Jack, Byron, Max and Monty. Sam really wanted to buy Wilson and Brewster today, so those are going on his list. (It was a fight explaining that he only had enough money to buy one. He's still learning.)

With their spoils: Alfie and Koko
At the store, I paid for the trains. I emptied their jars.... and put the money in their piggy banks. Yep, I'm still buying the toys, but they are learning the value of saving for something, learning to work for something they want, and that money is going into the college fund (their piggy banks get emptied and deposited in their savings accounts as needed).
The piggy banks
As they get older, we'll add complexity, such as saving the amount on the price tag (we'll pay sales tax), then saving enough to cover sales tax, and finally actually using the money they earned to pay for it. We're trying to keep the lessons suitable for their age and understanding.

How do you teach your kids the value of a quarter?

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