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Teaching Kids the Value of Money, One Cheap Soda at a Time

by Ashley Garrett  |  3709 views  |  0 comments  |      Rate this now! 

There's a case of Big K Cola in my pantry that my late husband purchased in 2004.  Yep, still sitting there, and not just for sentimental reasons.  Richard was a professor of finance.  He taught investing to college business students.  He dabbled in options, futures, derivatives, puts and calls - all the stuff that gives me the willies.  To him, money was interesting and carried no emotion.  Money is a simple math problem.  It grows if you invest it; it disappears if you spend it.  It has nothing to do with love or security or worthiness.

For his first job, Richard mowed lawns at nine years old.  Instead of blowing that money on Star Wars figures or candy, his father opened an account for him and taught him how to invest in the stock market.  Spending money carefully and thoughtfully was a lifelong habit for Richard, and it showed--even in his choice of soda.   Whenever he bought Big K Cola at the supermarket instead of regular old Coke, he saved a couple of bucks.  I rolled my eyes at him then but I get it now.  If he wanted to buy a car or take a big trip, he could pay cash because he had been drinking Big K instead of Coke.  So I keep the case of Big K (it's not like I ever drank the stuff!) to remember his lesson about saving money where I can so that I can spend it where it counts.

This is the same lesson I try to teach my kids.

When my teenage stepdaughter wanted to redecorate her room, I had a budget in mind--$300.  Instead of making all the decisions to stay within that budget, or giving her free rein to spend whatever she wanted, I showed her the budget and put her in charge of the decisions.  She wanted a blue rug that cost $75 at the carpet remnant store...but there was only $50 left in the budget.  I could have fudged the extra $25, but I didn't.  I left her in charge of the decision.  

She realized that she could return the comforter she had selected for a cheaper one that she liked just as much--she not only got the blue rug, but she also learned an important lesson about give and take when it comes to money.  The answer isn't "Where can I get more money?"  It's "How can I make this money fit my needs?"  Her budgeting lesson taught her that the buckets of money from which we spend are finite.  We have to manage them wisely because spending it in one place means you can't spend it in another.

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