April 7, 2011

The Giving Envelope and the Savings Jar

As the name of this blog suggests, I've been on a journey to become more like the Proverbs 31 woman.  She was wise with her family's finances.

"She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard."--Proverbs 31:16 (NIV)

"She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night."--Proverbs 31:18 (NIV)

"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy."--Proverbs 31:20 (NIV)

"She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes."--Proverbs 31:24 (NIV)

Learning to manage our family's finances wisely like the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31 is just one aspect that I have been working on lately.  As I blogged about in an earlier post called He Says, "Money". She Hears, "Glsnmickloqgtaypvx", I am trying to learn more about managing finances wisely through a course called Financial Peace University.

In Financial Peace University my husband and I have been learning that it is important to teach our son about spending money wisely while staying within a budget, the importance of saving money, and above all else, the value of giving money away.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was wise when he said to earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.  We don't want our son to make the same mistakes we have made.  Not only that, but we want him to learn at an early age that money is tied to working, and work ethic is important.  We want him to learn how to exercise self-discipline and save.  And most importantly, we want to teach him about the sacrifice of giving his first earnings to God and the church with a grateful and happy heart.

Dave Ramsey, the founder of Financial Peace University, suggests that parents pick a few chores that could be considered "work" for their children starting at around age three--work that could have a monetary value assigned to it.  He suggests not calling it an "allowance".  Rather, he suggests calling it a "commission".  Someone who works on commission doesn't get paid if he or she doesn't do the work.  If our son doesn't do his work, then he does not earn his money.  It's as simple as that.  So, we've taken this idea and tweaked it a bit to fit our 2 1/2 year old and our little family.

There are some chores that our son is expected to do simply because he is a member of the family.  Such chores include feeding our dog Sadie daily, putting his dirty clothes in his hamper at the end of the day, putting his shoes away in his shoe drawer daily, loading his clothes into the washing machine and transferring his clothes from the washer to the dryer when we do his laundry together, helping prepare his meals (taking things out of the pantry or refrigerator and putting them on the counter for preparation, stirring things), throwing away trash, putting recyclables into the recycling bin, and putting his books away in his book baskets in his bedroom after story time at night.  We'll add more age-appropriate chores as he gets older.  We picked one specific chore that would become his "work" in which he could earn commissions.  We picked the one that he has the hardest time with:  clean up time.  Our son is all boy.  He loves his toys, and he plays hard.  By the end of the day, he's had adventures with them all over the house, and boy, does it ever look that way!

So, here's what we do on a normal day.  When we have company over, we haven't figured out how to work it yet since he gets so distracted, there are a lot more toys out and about, and he seems disinterested.  But on a normal day when it's just us, this is how it works.  He gets one quarter when he completes clean-up time.  We clean up twice a day:  before nap time in the afternoon and before bedtime at night.  So, he has the potential to earn 50 cents in a day.  He spends the night with his grandmother once a week and spends the next day with her until dinner time, so he does not get a chance to earn commissions on that night and during the afternoon of the next day.  So, in one week it is possible for him to earn a total of $3.00. 

How We Do It:
1.  He must clean up on his own.  He is the one doing the work--not Mommy and Daddy (on a normal day).
2.  We direct him.  He's a little too young to stay focused and on task by himself, and he sometimes gets overwhelmed by all the things on the floor that he has to clean up.  So my husband or I will tell him what to pick up.  For example, we'll tell him we see toy trains on the ground and that he needs to find all the toy trains and put them away before we clean up anything else.
3.  He needs to stay on task.  If he decides he wants to start playing with the things he is picking up, then we remind him that the consequence of that choice will be that he will not earn the quarter.  We show him the quarter so that he can see what he's working towards.  He knows that if he does not clean up, then Mommy or Daddy get to have that quarter instead of him.  He does not like it when we say this.  "No, that's my quarter!"
4.  As soon as he is done, we praise him, and give him the quarter immediately for him to put away.  He feels so proud.  Sometimes if he has made a big mess playing, he'll sigh deeply when he's done, like he's saying, "Whew.  That was hard work."

Where does his money go?

The first two clean-up times of the week (both on Sunday, assuming that he completes his work), the quarters go in the Giving Envelope.  Not only is this roughly about 15% of his earnings for the week, but it is also his very first earnings of the week--his first fruits.  This is just a small manila office envelope in which I wrote "Give" on the front as well as a few scriptures.

"Honor God with everything you own.  Give him the first and the best."--Proverbs 3:9-10 (from The Message Bible)

"God loves it when the giver delights in the giving."--2 Corinthians 9:7b (from The Message Bible)

I drew a picture of a church on the back, and I wrote a scripture on it as well:

"Bring the finest of the first fruits of your produce to the house of your God."--Exodus 34:26 (from The Message Bible)

On Sunday mornings when we go to church, he takes his little Giving Envelope to his Sunday School class with him, and he puts his two quarters that he has worked hard for in the offering basket.  It teaches him nothing about giving and sacrifice if we give him the money for the offering.  By putting in his own money that he has worked very hard for, he is learning about faithfulness, sacrifice, integrity, and that giving is important and should be a priority before saving or spending.  His giving now has meaning to it.  God first.

After his first two times cleaning up in a week, the rest of his commissions get to go into the Savings Jar.  We have a piggy bank for him in his room, but Dave Ramsey suggests that you use something clear so that children can see how their earnings are growing.  I found an empty clear plastic canister with a plastic lid that was sitting in our laundry room unused.  I decorated it with the word "Save" on the front and drew pictures of toys, a scripture, and a picture of a little boy watering a plant that has dollar bills for branches.  I modge-podged the drawings onto the container and lid.  The scripture is "Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure out the cost so you'll know if you can complete it?"--Luke 14:28 (from The Message Bible)

Now this is not a savings jar for a car one day or his clothes or anything like that.  We'll start that when he is in his teen years.  This is just a savings jar for a special little toy that he sees at the store that he really wants.  We'll find out how much it is and work towards saving that amount of money in his jar so that he can use his money to buy it.  This is not to say that we won't buy him toys also.  This is just a great starting point in teaching him that we have to work hard and plan for things we would like to have.  It's more about the teachable moment than anything else at this point.

It is working out so far.  We've been doing it for several weeks now.  Today we counted his quarters, and he has 36.  Most days when we tell him that it is clean-up time, he gets excited and says, "It's time to earn commissions!"  He likes seeing how there are more and more quarters adding up in his jar.  The first Sunday to take his Giving Envelope to church, he was actually the one that remembered it.  He told my husband that he needed to get his commissions to take to the church.  I love that he has a joyful and grateful heart when giving.

There have been a few bumps in the road.  One evening he thought it would be fun to dump tons and tons of toys in his play tent--every single little car he owns, all the mega blocks, all the Jenga blocks, all the trio blocks, all the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head parts, every ball in the house, puzzle pieces...I'll just stop there.  You get the picture.  There were lots of tiny little toys everywhere in one big heap.  He did not like cleaning that up one bit.  But, I tried to turn that into a teachable moment:  the bigger mess you make, the harder it is to clean up, and if you don't clean up as you go, then you'll have to spend a lot of time cleaning up later.  Hopefully, he learned his lesson.  It was painful and tiring for both him and me.  I got so frustrated that I almost just told him to stop, but I didn't.  The end result was that he earned his quarter for his Giving Envelope and hopefully (Puh-leeeeeaaaase, God) learned not to make that big of a mess again.

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