Teaching About Money {One Lego set at a time}


Teaching About Money

Confession: I used to be a notorious ‘treat’ buyer. A $3 Mixel, a $1 candy bar, a $2 race car – all strategically placed in or near the check-out aisle. Well played, Target, well played. Anyway, my oldest son really didn’t understand what a “treat” was, and it was completely my fault.

One rainy day this summer, we took a trip to the mall and my son spotted a $34 LEGO set that he was desperate for. Code: he almost melted down when I said ‘no!’ (We love Legos, here’s my post about why.) At that moment, standing in the Danbury Mall, I decided to change my approach to ‘treats’.  I decided that my almost 4 1/2 year old would ‘earn’ money to be able to buy the toy. Here’s our experience over the past six weeks as he saved up his money.

Teaching About Money - Fairfield County Moms Blog
Super proud of the money he’s saved!

The first few days were frustrating. Thirty four is a big number and saving one or two dollars seemed disheartening for a kid with number sense. He felt like he would never get there. We reassured him that if he continued to be a good listener, help around the house, clean up his toys, stay in bed until his clock went off, and be kind to his brother/friends that he would continue to earn money. And he did. With each dollar earned it got easier, for everyone.

Teaching About Money - Fairfield County Moms Blog
Taking ownership.

He wanted to spend the money on other things along the way. Like going to get ice cream at the cash-only local stand. Instant (or near-instant) gratification is difficult to prolong at any age! On super hot days, we had popsicles at home as a happy medium which sufficed.

Teaching About Money - Fairfield County Moms Blog
Demonstrating independence and interacting with the cashier.

The day that my son earned his 34th dollar was a happy day in our house. He had been a great helper while we went on a day trip and spent extra time in the “baby” area to appease his brother. Although a tiny part of me felt like I was bribing him, I tried to look at it as positive reinforcement for good behavior, right?

Marching into ToysRUs I have never seen my son so proud. He, surprisingly, perused the aisles with ease to look at summer specials, sandboxes, water guns, and even pointed out the Duplos to the baby. Then, he zeroed in on the Lego aisle and saw the BatCave he had probably been dreaming about. He pulled it off the shelf with poise and confidence. He marched up to the check out and laid the big red box down on the counter. The young cashier working was so sweet, asked my son a bunch of questions about how he saved the money and even exclaimed, “you must be so excited to buy this with your own money!”

In hindsight, I realize that a few things (aside from saving me a little money in the checkout aisle) were accomplished by this whole process.

1. He understands more about how much things cost. While I don’t want to burden my 4.5 year old with ideas about bills, it’s important that he knows basics about money – especially when most of the time he sees me pay for things with a credit or debit card.

2. He will take care of his things more, especially this Lego set. Understanding the hard work and money that went into purchasing this set will remind him to treat it with respect.

3. He will remember that he is capable of perseverance and resilience as he works towards a goal. Next up, the Spiderman set!

How do you teach your kids about money?


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