One of our favorite things to do is pop over to Toys and Co and check out some of the cool toys they have. That used to be enough … just to look at all the toys, play with a few and then head out. But then the incessant questions began … “Mommy, I want this” “Can I have this, please?”
Around that time, we also started battling a nasty fingernail biting habit. Nothing seemed to work and finally I turned to bribery – for each day that we did not catch him nibbling his digits, he got a dollar. And once we reached $10, he could go to the toy store to buy something fun. And that’s when “The Money Jar” was born! Literally – an old applesauce jar with a lid that became home to dollars that could someday be spent on whatever Jake wanted to spend them on. The piggy bank is still reserved for money meant to be saved.
At first, we waited until he had $10 and then made a trip to the toy store and got to pick out something that was around 10 bucks. But Jake soon realized that most of the things he wanted were BIG items and a 10-spot wasn’t going to cut it. Lesson #1 – you don’t have to spend your money just for the sake of spending it. You can always save it until you have enough to buy something you really want. Lesson #2 – how to read the price stickers on the toys to know how much you need.
I wasn’t sure if a 4-year old would get the concept of the value of money, but to my surprise, he quickly caught on. The money jar expanded to beyond bribery on the nail biting, but to a whole variety of things. If he was good at the dentist … helped out extra with his sister … or even if he just happened to find a dollar in the dryer as he was helping to pull out a load of laundry. A quick side story: One morning we were doing a quick, thorough house cleaning before the arrival of the grandparents from out of town. Our little “Ry-nado” was tearing things up just as quickly as we were cleaning. So I asked Jake if he could play with his sister for 30 minutes in her room while we cleaned to which I was greeted with “Aww Man!” (5-year old speak for “do I really have to??”) So I offered up not one, but TWO dollars if he would please play with her. His response … “I’ll do it for three!” I walked away shaking my head and realized it’s no wonder we pay so much for babysitters – I had just bargained 3 bucks with my 5-year old for 30 minutes!!!
Anyway, back to the money jar … I figure there are things I would by my children anyway. But introducing a means to allow them to earn and start managing their own money has proved to be valuable beyond what I could have imagined. Maybe I didn’t initially give Jake enough credit, but he totally gets it now when he so badly wants something and I tell him how much it is. And now when we pass the toy section in Target and he just wants to “look”, he’ll ask me how much that StarWars action figure is and, if in the right range, can he get it and give me money when we get home? Of course, any money he gives me eventually goes right back to him, or better yet, tucked into the piggy bank as savings. It’s not a matter of making him pay for his own toys, but learning the value of money that will carry on with him for years … and, maybe a little bit of bribery here and there!