The money was burning a proverbial hole in his six-year-old pocket. We needed to get to a store and we needed to get there as fast as humanly possible. After earning his allowance he had not a moment to spare before it was spent, all of it, on whatever he could get his hands on.
Changes needed to be made. And quickly. My husband and I decided it wasn’t healthy to race to the store at the whim of our son every single time he came into money. It could be $5.00 or $25.00, no matter the amount, there was no option other than to immediately shop and off-load the cash. It was time for a lesson in managing money. But how do you dive into financial planning with a first grader?
Enter the magical jars. We decided he would have to split his money into three categories – spending, helping, and saving. When he earned or was gifted money, 50% is placed in savings, 40% in spending, and 10% in helping (with us matching this jar’s amount after one month). We discussed the plan as a family and helped him decorate the labels of three mason jars for identification.
This new system would accompany our current “block” allowance sheet. For each chore he completes, he earns one block. After 10 are colored in he is given $10.00, which he would now have to, yikes, split.
Of course, there is the occasional protest, especially during birthdays and holidays when the cash flow is generous. Or when he is only a few dollars away from that golden toy calling his name. But other than minor irritation, he has really taken to the plan and, gulp – enjoyed it.
As a now 11-year-old, he says the jars help him, “make better decisions”, about his money and, “not blow it all at once.” He is amazed at how quickly his savings is growing, and when he does buy something from his spending, it is with more deliberation and pause. Not a race to the nearest toy store to buy something just to buy it.
The helping money has had an impact that resonates deeply with him. “I have a good feeling in my heart when I use that money,” he told me. Once he purchased an Elsa blanket for a little girl hospitalized during the holidays. He has bought canned goods for a Thanksgiving food drive and donated to many school fundraisers. All out of his own pocket and his own decision, straight from the heart.
Three little jars have taught money management, the importance of budgeting, and the value of charity. Not to mention, saved us precious time not racing to the store to park ourselves in a toy aisle for an hour. And that is priceless.