Teaching Kids the Value of a Dollar

Written by dad - 5 Comments

I’ve been thinking about ways to teach our kids more about the value of money. When it comes to such abstract notions, we’ve found that it’s far better to give them a bit of real world experience than it is to just talk to them. So… When we went out to a local pizza joint awhile back I decided to make it a “teachable moment.”

More often than not, we opt for ice water when we go out to eat. However, there are times when we decide to have a soda instead — for my wife and I, that means Diet Coke, whereas the kids get the only caffeine-free drink on the menu: Sprite. While we’re not crazy about letting them suck down sugar water, we don’t do it all that often. Anyway, I digress…

Instead of making it an arbitrary decision that’s handed down from Mom and Dad, we decided to let the kids decide, but with a twist. I told the kids that they could either: (1) have a soft drink to go with their meal, or (2) opt for the dollar that it would’ve cost. This is where it gets interesting.

Our eight (soon to be nine) year old went for the dollar, as did our four year old. But our six year old saver decided that he wanted Sprite more than money, so he skipped the dollar and had a drink. When we got home, his brother’s got paid and he didn’t. But he didn’t really care. He had his Sprite, and he enjoyed it. The next time we went, however, they all asked if they could skip the Sprite and have a dollar instead — and this was before I even brought it up as a possibility.

I think there are a couple of lessons here. First, sometimes it’s worth the cost to buy the little things in life. In this case, our six year old really wanted his Sprite, and he didn’t regret the deal that he made for a minute. Second, real world experience really does help kids understand the value on things… Our kids quickly came to realize that restaurant drinks really aren’t worth the cost when the money is coming out of (or least not going into) their pocket. That being said, my wife and I both opted for Diet Coke on our last trip, so maybe we need to learn a lesson from the kids.

Published on October 17th, 2006 - 5 Comments
Filed under: Money
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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Yeah, I think that your kids did a better job of teaching you the value of a dollar rather than you teaching them.

    I especially like how they finagled your second trip to the restaurant into a money making venture for themselves.

    Now it is expected that they can make that choice every time.

    Comment by Blaine Moore — Oct 17th 2006 @ 1:45 pm
  2. I’m fine with them doing it every time… My intention was to offer it on the second trip, but they asked even before we got to the door. Gotta love that entrepreneurial spirit!

    Comment by dad — Oct 17th 2006 @ 2:20 pm
  3. What a great idea. I’m working with my 4 year old on money right now. He asked to learn about it. I’ll have to remember what you did here when he gets a little older and understands money better.

    Comment by vw bug — Oct 21st 2006 @ 4:14 pm
  4. I only wish my parents knew the value of money to be able to teach me. They’re getting on track (20+ years late), and actually taking advice from me now.

    Comment by Clever Dude — Mar 28th 2007 @ 10:40 am
  5. I’m with you, Clever Dude.

    This is a neat trick, Nickel. Can’t wait till my kids are old enough to try it.

    Comment by rocketc — Oct 24th 2007 @ 9:57 pm

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