Cash-flow lesson for youngsters

Teaching children about handling money can be fun, if approached creatively.

When our two children, Dawn and Wayne, were in their midteens I wanted to demonstrate to them why we could not always fulfill their requests for the little extras.

We were paid bimonthly and were on a tight budget, so I decided to try and use Monopoly game money to give the children a concept of a budget.

I handed each child the equivalent of one paycheck, after taxes, in the colorful Monopoly cash. They thought it was a huge pile of money. I had the weekly and monthly bills written out on separate slips of paper. I then distributed to each child the bills that fell due in their portion of the month, just as in real life with the family bills.

Each child had to "pay" the bills from his or her pile of money. The piles of money dwindled as they covered the basics - food, house and car payments, gasoline, utilities, insurance, and church.

A moan from our son to "stop or I won't have any money left" was worth the whole adventure.

I explained that was why I sometimes had to say no to the extra things they asked for. It all depended on how many other expenses were in the same pay period. We also had to decide which were the most important things we wanted to do, if we could not do them all.

Another money lesson took place in the summer when we had some free time. I let the children plan the menu and do the grocery shopping. This provided the freedom for them to choose the dinners and select which night we would have them. (We did have an understanding that meals should be balanced, not just pizza and ice cream.)

With the menu selected, they made up the shopping list and I let them know the weekly grocery budget. Then off we went to the store with the menu and a calculator in hand.

Using the calculator, they made the choices of which foods and treats we would have based on how much of the budget they had spent. Sometimes by the end of the week we would be eating strange combinations, but it was educational and gave them input into our menus and budget choices.

A couple of years later when I went back to college to get my teaching degrees, the whole family helped out with chores, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The family's support was vital to making my scholastic achievements possible. I feel what the children learned earlier about budgeting, grocery shopping, and cooking was vital in helping me achieve my goal.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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