Piggy banks are out

I recently came across a book on teaching your child about money that had an entire section about the many flaws of piggy banks. (My wife quickly pointed out how odd it was that the book had one on its cover.)

Here are some of the reasons why they are so bad, apparently:

  • They teach us to put all our money in one place.
  • You can’t see or count how much you’ve got.
  • We end up leaving our money there doing nothing.
 
Have you ever wondered how much financial literacy is being taught at school? It’s actually a topic that can be woven into a number of other subjects, like maths or social studies. 

 

Now anecdotally we know that some schools are more onto it than others, so you might consider raising your hand to ask some questions when the kids head back for their final term.

Now I had heard before of parents using multiple jars to help kids manage their money, since jars have a number of advantages over piggy banks. For one, kids can learn to make choices about where their money is going each time they drop a coin in. Then there is the fact that they are clear, so kids can watch savings grow and have a better idea how much they’ve got and the progress they’re making towards their goals.

So a couple of months back, when we started our three urchins (aged 4, 6 and 9) on pocket money, we also gathered up some jars. I had a somewhat ambitious, four-jar system in mind – one each for spending, saving, giving and growing. The idea was for the ‘spending’ jar to cover the week’s expenses, the ‘saving’ jar to be for larger goals that could be reached within a month or two, and the ‘giving’ jar to be for charity or gifts for each other.

While those first three are pretty self-explanatory, I figured that the ‘growing’ jar could be for a bit of an investment or entrepreneurial fund – money set aside to make more money someday. Kids get lots of ideas about small businesses to start, and I thought that this jar could help cover the costs of sugar and cups for a lemonade stand, for instance.

 rsz img 0211 

My eldest daughter and I built the prototype seen here (shows you how much jam we go through at home). I simply screwed four lids to a strip of wood I had lying around. She took it upon herself to decorate them, which I went along with, even though it made it a bit harder to see inside. It really made it hers.

‘I like the spending and saving jars, but I’m not sure about the giving and growing ones,’ she told me.

Although it’s early days, the four-jar bank has been a mixed success so far – she’s only got her pocket money in the first two. I’ve now offered to match some of her funds if they get spread to the others. Some incentives may be needed.

The younger boys, since we haven’t found enough olive jars yet (I guess we go through fewer olives at home), are still on a single-jar system for the moment. Their lone jar has become their saving jar, and we’ve been discussing which of the other three types they’d like to add next. Depending on their personalities, they gravitate to one or the other – big brother is more interested in giving and growing, little brother on spending for his collection of Beyblade tops.

What’s been interesting is that both boys have insisted that there be a slot in the lids so they do not have to keep unscrewing them open. Turns out those piggy banks got something right after all – kids like dropping coins in.

So with the school holidays here and the classroom lessons on hold, perhaps we can still get in some money lessons during the break. I’ll be adding some more jars to our collection.

 

What works for you?

Comment (1)

Gravatar for Sylvia Bowden

Sylvia Bowden

9:51pm | 18 Jun 2016

Instead of keeping the money in the savings jar, go to the bank with your child and deposit it. This is a great way to teaching about how interest works. Because children like to keep things visual - replace the money in the savings jar with marbles. Give each marble a dollar value - so the child can count how much 'money' they have. When you take money out of the bank - take out an equivalent amount of marbles, so your child always has a visual equivalent of what is in the bank.