Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Practicing Household Economics

Just like honoring our bodies is about so much more than how we look or what size we wear, household economics is about much more than how we manage our finances.  Household economics has to do with how we manage our time, our resources, our lives.

Even still, managing our finances is something we all have to do, and I'm willing to guess that most parents would love to have more ideas on how to help teach their kids about money and how to manage it in ways that are helpful, practical, and good.  To that end, I'm going to lift up some ideas from the book Prodigal Sons and Material Girls (How Not to Be Your Child's ATM) by Nathan Dungan. 

I'm a big fan of this book, and I particularly love it because it is chock full of helpful tools and practical ideas to help teach your child how to deal with money responsively.  I don't know about you, but that's certainly something I want Esme and Reid to grow up and know how to do.  I would highly recommend it this book to any parent or grandparent.  It's broken up into two parts: 1) Under the Spell of Hypnotic Consumption and 2) A Better Way. 

The first part deals with the ways our consumer-oriented society has and does influence our kids' views about money.  Phrases like, "I want it now!" and "But all my friends have one!" definitely flow out of this reality.  Then, in response, the second part of the book provides numerous examples of how to help your child break free from the materialistic mentality.  These examples all illuminate Dungan's save-share-spend approach to teaching kids how to deal with money responsively.

Like I've said, there are a lot of great ideas in this book, so I'm just going to highlight a few of my favorites.
  1. Teach by Example- Set up a "sharing jar" in a highly visible place and fill it with your loose change.  When the jar is full, decide as a family how you are going to share it.
  2. Choose Your Words- Decide your financial values as a household.  When your child asks for something that is not in line with your values, instead of saying "We can't afford it," when you actually can (your kids will later realize this is a lie) say something like: That costs too much money and it's not in our value system.
  3. Invite Relatives to Promote Sharing- In addition to the traditional gift-giving your family does for the holidays, ask your child's grandparents to consider giving a check to your child with everything filled in but the "Pay to the order of" line.  Your child then gets to choose who to write the check to, and the only rule is that it must go to a charitable organization.
  4. Allowances- Decide that the objective of giving your child an allowance is to teach them how to manage money.  Consider having your child divide the allowance into three jars marked "Save, Share, and Spend," right when she gets it.
  5. Put It In Writing- This idea doesn't come from the book, but I remember a family friend once sharing how he taught his kids delayed gratification.  When his son or daughter wanted something, they wrote the name of that item on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge.  If, after three weeks, the son or daughter still wanted that item, then the family would discuss how to pay for it.
It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.
-The Ant and the Grasshopper, Aesop 

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