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Three Jars {First lessons in money for little ones}

Posted by on 02 July 2013 in Be Informed, Be Inspired, Good Cents, Make It, Savvy Advice | 0 comments

My four year old just started asking how much things cost.  We’ll be in the grocery store and she’ll want to know how much money that stuffed animal “will take.”  She’ll ask me if we have enough money to buy a toy today.  She’ll wonder about the bread that I put into the cart and say, “Does that cost a lot of money?”  And it really wouldn’t matter if I told her something cost $2 or $200 because she doesn’t quite understand what a lot of money is and what affordable is.  But she wants to, and she’s curious about it.   She hears me tell her things like, “We’re not buying that doll today because it costs a lot of money and she’s something that we’ll save for a special present.” “Mommy and daddy really want to buy you a power wheels truck but they cost a lot of money and we need to save up for that–we can’t just buy everything as soon as we see it.” Or she sees the pictures that our Compassion child draws for her and knows that we send her money every month and wants to know what that money goes towards.  When we tell her it’s to help Jacquline’s family buy food and shoes and go to school she’s amazed that someone would need someone else to help them buy shoes and wants to know if she can help too.

All those money ideas.  They start early in kids and when we see them creeping in I believe we should capitalize on them to build a healthy fiscal foundation as soon as possible.  Kids as young as three and four (and I’d argue some kids can grasp rudimentary principles earlier) can start learning about budgeting, saving, spending, and giving.

This summer in our house we started what we call “The Three Jars.”

Kids & Money 1

Kids & Money 2


We explained what each of the jars were for.  What it meant to have a gift jar, and the difference between saving and spending money.  Our daughter is four and can easily complete some jobs around our house now.  She has nine per day to complete that she needs to finish without being asked, or reminded too much, and she can earn a penny to put in her jars for each job completed.  Nine cents a day, a maximum of about sixty cents a week; breaking the bank is not a necessity to teach kids about money.  She is thrilled to earn a penny a job and distribute them amongst her jars.

Her nine jobs:

1.  Make bed (And as a four year old–this started out hairy–but she is getting amazing at it!)

2.  Brush teeth in the morning.

3.  Put dirty clothes in basket.

4.  Do one letter practice page.

5. Pick up toys without complaining when asked.

6.  Stay on bed during quiet time.

7.  Put napkins and silverware on the table before dinner.

8.  Brush teeth before bed.

9.  Go to bed without throwing any fits or getting out of bed.

We have little posters hanging around the house with pictures on them that show these jobs in action, where she’d complete them, so it’s easy for her to remember. Every time she earns a penny she gets to put one in one of her jars.  For now, we’re not dictating which jar gets what, it’s her choice.  And in true innocent kid form she’s being sure to divide up the pennies evenly between jars.  We’ve talked about who we could buy a gift for when she has enough money in that jar, what she might want to save some money for (right now it’s our vacation up north in two weeks) and what she wants to spend her money on–the dollar store is always calling.

Kids & Money 4

Kids & Money 6


Eventually, we’ll need to move on to something a little more structured, with some more jobs, and the current ones will fade away and just become expectations, but for now…..this has worked to build an age appropriate awareness of money and how when we’re part of a family we all have jobs to do.  And sometimes…..you might just get rewarded for those jobs.  We all appreciated a reward for a job well done, right?

How about you? What are some of your great ideas for teaching little kids about money?

Signature Maggie


Visit my other online home at apairofpinkshoes.com

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