Teaching Stewardship to the Next Generation

I’m the youngest of a large family and I’ve always felt lucky that I could learn so much from the collective wisdon and experience that I’ve witnessed over the years.  Here’s a great example of that from my sister, Rita.

For years, Rita and her husband, Scott, have used the following plan to teach their children financial responsibility.  But, I’ll let Rita tell you in her own words. 

“Starting at age 5, we give our kids an allowance every week in dollars equalling their age.  So a 5 year old would get 5 dollars a week.  A six year old 6 dollars a week., etc.  This sounds like a lot of money for a five year old but they have to divide it into categories.  The child has 4 jars.  They are SAVINGS, SPEND, CHARITY AND TAX


SAVINGS is for saving up for something.  They decide what they want, find out how much it costs and save till they can buy it.  No impulse buying from this jar.  Of course we allow them to change their plan if they want as long as it is not an impulsive decision.  We have found that they begin to look for sales and coupons in order to get the best deal.  For video games, my older boys will sell to Gamestop their old games in order to get a new game faster.  They have learned to work the system so…MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

SPEND is for pocket money.  Impulse buying.  We don’t want them to feel like they can’t ever spend anything on a whim.  My older boys figured out after a while that they can put their spend money into the savings jar to get to their goal faster.  We allow that as long as they don’t take that spend money back out on a whim. Once it goes into savings it stays there.  But, this showed us that they realized that their impulse purchases ( a candy bar, or a cheap toy at the Dollar store) weren’t as rewarding to have as the stuff they saved up for.

CHARITY is for the charity of their choice.  My kids used to put it into the offertory basket at Mass.  But after forgetting to bring it many times in a row, they used it to buy Magi gifts at Christmas.  Even a dollar a week for 52 weeks can get a really decent gift for a needy kid.  They have a lot of fun doing this.  Occasionally, one of the kids will want to give to a different charity, something they heard of through school, etc.  That’s fine with us.  We just want them to be aware of others needs and get into a habit of giving back.

TAX works a little differently.  There is one tax jar for the entire family.  Each of the kids who receive allowance AND my husband and I put one dollar each into the tax jar every week.  Just as the taxes we pay to the government benefit our community by paying for roads, city services, etc., our tax jar benefits our community…our family.  Any money spent from this jar has to be agreed upon by all who put into it.  We only spend it on things that we feel will benefit the entire community (family.)  Things we have spent tax money on in the past: going out for ice cream, a new video, a basketball goal, a hotel room in Tyler for a family getaway, a board game.  This gets the kids used to paying taxes and educating them on the PURPOSE of taxes.  We all remember our first paycheck and the shock of how much was taken out.  My kids will be prepared.

Some people ask us what the kids have to do to earn their allowance.  NOTHING.  I know that sounds crazy, but here is my philosophy.  Our kids do chores around the house because it’s their house too.   I am not paying my kids to do what they should be doing anyway.  They SHOULD put their things away.  They SHOULD take out the trash and help with the dishes.  My kids even clean the bathrooms…even the toilets!  Allowance is for teaching the kids how to mange money. PERIOD. This is an incredibly important thing for them to learn and I don’t want them to miss out on that lesson because they didn’t clean their room.  If a punishment is required for failing to do a chore, pick something else to punish them with.  Take away a privelege (computer time, tv time etc.)  There are many who disagree with me on this.  You have to figure out what works best for you and your family. This works for us.”

You may ask me why I decided to include this in a discussion about faith and the environment.  Well, this is why-when we teach our children to be good stewards of all resources, including money, we are teaching them to 1)not waste their resources, 2) to look for quality over quantity 3) to think of others and, 4) not to give up when things get hard.  Those lessons are the foundation for a life of temperance, prudence,  fortitude and justice!  [For more about how the Cardinal Virtues relate to the environment see my previous posts beginning with The Virtues and You!]

Rita, thanks for sharing your plan with me.  I hope that some of you give it a try.  I would love to hear how it works for you and you family.


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