Friday, March 7, 2008

The General Store

Since we are chatting about finances, and I mentioned that I find it very educational and empowering to have some money that is my own to spend, I am planning to do the same for the children. I had noticed that they lose pencils, break crayons, etc, with little thought to any consequences. If they were in school outside of the home, there might be more natural consequences, but borrowing a pencil from Mom always seems like an easy option for them.

To that end, I have decided to make a "school store." The first purchase was made by Merry, who replaced her crayolas at a cost of $3 (the same price I paid at Staples). When I saw the new crayolas scattered all over the floor, I gently reminded her that she had purchased them and they were quickly and happily cleaned up. Since then, the crayons have stayed neatly in the box. It was interesting, because Merry was happy to pay for new crayons whereas PT searched high and low for his pencil rather than part with a quarter.

Merry is also really bothered by messy water colors. I can well imagine her choosing to purchase her own, and keep them seperate from the rest, rather than continuing to share with three year old artists. PT is ready for a new baseball glove, and we are going to ask him to pay for it himself, there is no occasion for a gift at the moment.

For now, this money is coming out of piggy banks stocked by birthday dollars, but next year I plan to lay in a bunch of supplies and give each child a small cash budget for the school year. Thinking about winter realities, perhaps extra mittens will also be available in the school store as well as, periodically, special treats, books, etc. I have heard that some families operate a Christmas store, if the school store is going well then I may also add that.

As with my own spending budget, one of the small goals of this financial freedom and responsibility is to make gifts more appreciated. When we have the sense that all of our needs are being met by some magical force (dad's credit card), it is easy to become spoiled. However, when we start to have a better understanding of how the world really works then that reward pencil from the dentist becomes much more attractive.

Any thoughts on what worked well from your own childhood? For those who commented on being good at budgeting, what practical tips do you have for us to encourage this in our children? Thoughts on allowance generally? Responsibility about their things, activities, etc? I know I took my husband's law school classes much more seriously because I was paying for them!


4ddintx said...

I found your blog from First Things and have really been enjoying it. Dh and I converted to Catholicism 6 years ago and I'm pregnant with baby #6 (we have 5 dd's).

My children have normal chores that they must do daily because they are part of the family, but then there are "money chores". Picking up dog doo is 5cents per pile, weed pulling is a penny a piece, the 5 year old loves to magic sponge walls, etc. We have a huge change jar that we pay them from.

This money is then used for their needs, to buy gifts, etc. Our oldest dd (9) is putting all of the money she is earning during Lent into our Lenten offering jar from church.

In January we were able to take the girls to the American Girl store in Dallas. I told them I'd buy lunch, but anything from the gift shop was on their own dime. They all came away with treasures that they really take care of because they spent their own hard earned money.

They know that if they want money for something, all they have to do is ask and we'll find them a way to earn it.

As for gifts, we take them to the dollar store at Christmas. I don't have to worry about the cost and they love to buy each other gifts from the toy aisle and can usually find a food item that Grandparents will like. I used to just pick up the tab for that trip myself, but this last Christmas they wanted to spend their own money to buy each other gifts. They also made a lot of gifts for people out of their own initiative. It was neat to see that the giving part of Christmas really came home to them this past year (the 7 and 9 year old anyway, the 5 and 3 year old, not so much yet!).

This system has really been win-win so far and they are learning responsibility with their finances (and that money is not given out for "free", it must be earned).

Lara said...

We don't have soda in the house, and save it for a special treat when we eat out. When it's time to order drinks, however, my husband asks my son if he'd like the soda, or a dollar. It's a small thing, but it makes him think about the power of a dollar. And even at 14, he usually takes the dollar. :)

Amy said...

Wow, I really like the idea of the store, esp. for home schooled kids. (As a former teacher, I worry a bit about my kids missing some of those responsibility lessons that come naturally in a well run classroom. For some reason they seem harder to implement at home...)
I do have a question for those of you that have older kids (my oldest is just 2 1/2). How do you go about implementing a new policy. Any new policy from a new change in house rules, a now your old enough to....rule to a new concept like a family store. Do kids react well to waking up in the morning and finding the rules have changed (I doubt it) or is there a good way to preface it (one that doesn't require too much of a 2 year old).

Right Said Red said...

Great idea MaryAlice! You always have such creative, natural consequences based solutions. I'm not sure that I would have the discipline to run a store like this. What is your long term plan for the store? I think I would start something like this, forget about it, then try to re implement it, and it would be a disaster.

Mary Alice said...

Right now the store is just out of a box of stuff I have in the basement, overflow supplies, etc.

This all came from Merry's crayons, she couldn't do her coloring project becuase they were all broken and I was on my way to Staples anyway, so I offered to buy her some, but I told her she was going to have to pay for them. Now that I am on an allowance, I am not going to use it for things like that -- needs are a different matter, but when it is irresponsibility or dislike of what you have, that is different.

My kids do pretty well with my randomly announcing arbitrary rule changes, as long as they get some notice. Usually, I announce at a calm time, like breakfast. I have made announcements that have included the fact that we will no longer be having desserts except on the weekends. We went cold turkey on snacks after a day at Red's house, and that was only about a 48 hour adjustment, and has been working well for over six months.

One thing that helps us with new rules is that we move constantly, so there is a chance to have new rules in a new house. It takes some discipline to lay out the rules and then enforce them in the beginning, but usually they work out fine.

I gravitate very naturally to a September as a new year mentality, so that is also a good time to put new routines in place, for me, or to tweak them.

However, we did start Training Tuesdays mid year, and now we are starting this store. In some ways, I like to try things casually for a while to see if they are going to stick. The tentative plan for the store is for it to get more formal and grow overtime, in September in our (yes, yet another) new house, I plan to have a "school store" drawer or basket, and a place to keep the money and write out receipts, make change, etc. I may have a rotating monthly store manager who gets to do the math and pick the "treat" (pack of sugarless gum, etc) that will be for sale that month.

I have to say, I have very little discipline about most things, but anything that I can link to "school" in my mind and in the childrens seems to go really well -- they love school! Today, I was having a really crummy day (more on that over here ) and they just got out their books, sat at the table and started up school on their own. Crazy.

Overtime I will perhaps add "money chores" -- for example, as they get older, I plan to pay for babysitting at home on weekend nights, garden work, etc. They also have regular chores that are "just part of being in the family."

Katherine said...

I know this is off topic but it is here because of timing...

Does anyone besides me have trouble with this time change thing with little ones? We are trying to adjust their sleeping gradually so tomorrow isn't a full hour shock but with a 2 year old and a 3.5 month old adjusting times is not ideal. I mean, I try to keep them on the same schedule and I'm having to change it for something as pointless as a time change.

Right Said Red said...

I find the best way to handle the time change is to adjust about 1/2 hour the first night and 1/2 hour the second night. After about 3-4 days my kids have adjusted to the new schedule.