Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cookie Tins Repurposed

We have begun the "Grocery Buddy" process in our house. Each week, in rotation, a child is responsible for looking through the grocery store circular, choosing items that are on a good sale, and making up a menu for the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. They cut out the sales from the paper and tape them onto the back of the menu. Then when I go shopping, my Grocery Buddy tells me which items we need to buy and what products are at the best prices. In return, whatever savings my receipt shows for sales and coupons goes to the Grocery Buddy for her piggy bank. This requires a largish bank, for bills and change, so we looked through the collection of cookie tins that we amassed over Christmas and each child chose her favorite design. Now the cookie tins are labeled and stacked on top of one of the bookcases.

Something new went into the cookie tins today: Wishlists. The book Skating Shoeshas been a happy fit for this new activity, because it talks so much about making a financial plan, setting a goal and saving up for it. So it seems natural to have conversations with the children about what they'd like to do with their money. I have three girls so several weeks go by before they get another turn to be Grocery Buddy. The first two children each got about $15 so that was fine but this week Leah was so thrifty that she earned an amazing $46.16! At first I was shocked, but I realized that my budget was $150.00 for a week of food and I spent $101.87 thanks to her so, in fact, I can afford the money for her and still be in my budget. She certainly earned it. She worked hard! I am planning on spending the money each week anyway, right? And I don't want to pay them for chores. I think that chores are a fact of life. And I don't want to pay them because they have reached a certain age -- just because -- or because I got rooked in by big blue eyes... so I want them to EARN it and VALUE it. And I want it to be enough that there is a true opportunity for spending and saving. When I was a girl in the 80s I got a dollar a week allowance as a teenager. You can't buy much with $4 a month and so I never learned any money skills... I simply just lusted after everything and when I had my first credit card.... oh boy.

Leah getting such a windfall led to a conversation about saving or spending, and led to everyone making wishlists to help them make more thoughtful choices. At first she wanted ice skates but I pointed out that she would most likely outgrow them very quickly and that it was cheaper to rent. She is determined to save up for something really expensive. Natalie, on the other hand, is ready to burn through hers at the gift shop on our field trip Friday. It will be interesting to watch this aspect of their personalities emerge.

I also really like how invested they are in the meals. Leah helped me make "her" chicken for dinner tonight. When someone opens a new box of breakfast cereal, they turn to the person who chose it and say, thank you, I really like this one. They stay up at night whispering about their chosen menus. And it makes me happy that they are so happy and proud.

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