A Shiny Penny

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en Español / em Português

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I am writing this article at the start of the fair season here in Lee County. The judges and volunteers have just completed awarding and placing ribbons on a wide array of wonderful exhibits submitted by many of you. What a talented county we are! I am now excitedly awaiting the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting of the Lee Regional Fair so you can all take in what I have been seeing over the past four days. The midway rides and fair food displays are getting set up and adventure awaits. By the time this article is printed, it will be a recent memory. If you took a stroll through the Educational Exhibit Hall you saw the creativity of our individuals and groups in the county. In addition to the 921 individual exhibits, Eighteen non-profit organizations and clubs shared eighteen messages with fairgoers with topics including seat belt use, littering, shooting and hunting safety, hiking and camping, photography, picnicking, and the “Best in Show” booth winner which shared with us how to budget with young folks. You might remember this one, it contained the cute little piggy banks created by club members with recycled supplies. This booth was designed by the Magetsi 4-H Club. The club chose this theme because the volunteer leader, Myrna Rodrigues has been working on a budgeting project with her young members. What a great idea Myrna had, as we definitely need to be teaching our children about money. Do your kids know where the family income comes from, how to save it, the value of a dollar, and how not to be vulnerable to the advertising youth and adults are bombarded with?

Ask your child, “Where do I get my money?” On social media, I requested caregivers in my friend group to conduct this experiment with their four to eight-year-old children. The youngest said, “from the bank,” or “from the machine.” Now you have a good opportunity to explain that all money has to be earned and talk about how your family earns their money. “What do we spend our money on?” Many eight-year-olds understood that the money comes from “working” and one probably didn’t have time to expound upon the list of expenditures more descriptively than, “We spend it on us.” A helpful follow-up exercise is to mull over where your money is spent and it’s important to keep it age-appropriate and simple. Talk about tangible things they can easily understand like charity, the house, electricity, and food. Most things cost someone something, even when they may be free to you. If you are able to provide an allowance, this can also help them understand the concept of money further. Keep it at a reasonable amount for young children, a good rule of thumb is one dollar per year old each month until they get to be a little older. Surprisingly, this also saved me money because I stopped buying all the items that fell in their “wants” category. 

Speaking of wants, do they understand the difference between needs and wants? You can make a list, asking them to name things they have seen you buy. Is a trip to the fair a need or a want? When is it ok to spend money on a want? The answer is, of course, only after you have put some in the piggy bank and you have all you need. To demonstrate this to her members, Myrna had them plan a club party. She gave them a budget and a list of items for the party with an associated value. They determined as a group what they needed to have at the party and with the leftover money they were able to agree on some additional things they wanted. I can’t wait to see the pictures from the party.

Saving is a skill that can be learned early. I love Myrna’s recycled piggy banks that didn’t cost a thing to make, saving money so they can put more into their bank. Banking their money makes it more difficult to spend, requiring thought and time to “withdraw” before purchasing that impulse item. All parents know how impulsive our youngest can be and how the store’s market to their eye level. A good response to, “Mommy, may I have this?” might be, “Sure once you save up enough money to buy it.” Using their own money to purchase an item will begin to build a level of value to the exchange. 

Why are things advertised? Let us teach our children to look critically at the commercials and advertisements they see. Road trip games can include the billboard test, “What are they trying to sell?” Advertisements may save us money but they are more likely to make us want something we didn’t know we wanted before. While in that checkout aisle, try and redirect their minds to the lesson of whether or not they really need an item AND are they willing to spend their own money to buy it. 

The best way to learn income and expenditure is by doing. Awarding a small allowance and taking advantage of teachable moments are going to build financial knowledge that lasts a lifetime. Many of these ideas came from the Magetsi 4-H Fair Booth, my personal parenting experience, and The Big Book of 4-H Cloverbud Activities. For information and resources on this topic please contact Pam Kerley, the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4H’s programs are available in Lee County and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use every day to improve your life.