There's teaching them the idea of delayed gratification ... don't spend a little now, when you can save it and maybe get something better later.
There's the actual math involved ... no, three $1 bills isn't more than one $5 bill.
There's concepts of value ... your $10 birthday gift from Aunt Suzy isn't enough to buy a Wii.
There's ethical considerations ... it's not okay to take money from your brother's bank just because yours is empty.
But, the hardest concept of all, both for them and for me ... be smarter about money than I am. Save for the future even when I don't. Tithe. Wait and see if you really, really, REALLY want something before buying it.
I'm not very good at that. I go into Goodwill looking for a pair of khakis and leave with three turtlenecks, a corduroy jacket (seriously ... I must have four corduroy jackets), and a new purse. And no khakis. I see, I like, I buy. Sorry, I don't have enough Latin to translate that beyond the vidi part.
And the kids aren't very good at it either, so it's definitely something we have to work on. This summer for whatever reason (we've lived here for eight years and this has never happened before), an area Blue Bunny ice cream man discovered our small development. At least three or four times a week, he'd cruise through and park right in front of our house, The Entertainer wafting its tinkly, crinkly way into our home. And at least two or three times a week, my kids would meet him there, waving dollar bills over their heads. Until mid-August.
They'd run out of spending money. The gravy train had run dry. They were devastated. "Please, Mommy! Please give me a dollar!" they'd cry. Um, no. That's not how it works, kids. I was proud of myself for standing firm that first day. The second day they whimpered a bit, but didn't actually ask for money. The third day we heard the music running by, they didn't even look up. The fourth day, Blue Bunny man didn't even stop.
We have a simple money system in our house. The kids get no regular allowance. They do chores and participate in household activities because they are part of the household, not to get a paycheck. We sometimes have extra special jobs we'll pay out for (like the icky, but all-too-important "We'll pay you a dime for every gypsy moth egg sac you scrape off a tree." expedition). But mostly, as I tell them ... we share what we have in the house. When I have cash in my purse (which is seldom in this world of plastic, plastic, plastic), I give them each a few bucks. When they truly need money for something important or special, I give it honest consideration and share some of what we have with them.
They take the cash and divide it among their three canisters: Spend (can use any time, anywhere, mom and dad's opinions pretty much notwithstanding), Save (must be spent in $10 or greater increments), and Share (for church or other chritable contributions). Birthday money, coins they find on the ground, etc go into the same containers.
It's not a perfect system, and at some point Joe and I are going to have to discuss what we're going to continue to pay for and what the kids will be responsible for. We're not at the designer sneakers, cell phones and dating years yet. So there's still time.
Special thanks to The Parent Bloggers Network and Capital One's Financial Education Program for inspiring this post. I needed to give this some thought, anyway.