Sitting on the beach, swimming and building sandcastles all seem like a dream right now as I look out my window at the deep snow banks. Our three children, ranging in age from 2 to 6, are dreaming about summer camp, playing in the sun and bicycling with friends. There’s nothing like a relaxing week with happy kids, good friends and a beautiful spot in nature.
But this dream doesn’t happen without our children’s participation. They are busy saving up money to go to camp because we make them pay for our family vacations!
Sound harsh? Maybe.
Sometimes our family and friends wonder how we could ask this of our children, but it works and here’s why: In our house we have been teaching our children to “share, save and spend” as the way we handle money. Most of the time, they are eager to share and spend, but finding motivation to actually inspire saving was hard . . . until last year.
Friends of ours went to the Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel with an indoor waterpark. The kids loved the idea of saving their money so they could go. Their savings piggy bank filled quickly and energeti-cally with their Christmas money, birthday money and money earned doing a few extra things around the house.
They saved for six months and came up with $150 needed for this hotel experience. (My bargain hunting made this a little more affordable.) What a rewarding milestone for them and our family as we sat around the table counting their money, and they were able to treat themselves and their parents to a family vacation! Was it hard to take this money from our kids? Yes! It was really difficult, but it was worth it.
Now we are saving up for summer family camp. Our kids absolutely have fallen in love with our church camp. Around our house these days the kids are looking in couches for extra money, sometimes asking for jobs they can do to earn money and tucking birthday money away.
But they are also tempted by instant gratification. They see a commercial on TV for a new toy and they “need” it. They are faced with a real-world dilemma: Do I satisfy my immediate want for a toy, or do I tuck money away for our camp? Our five-year-old always chooses a toy, yet our six-year-old most often chooses to save. It is fun to see their personalities develop.
It isn’t a perfect system, but it works for us. Can we afford to do these vacations? Yes, we already had these planned and in our budget, but this turned into a unique way to teach our kids about money.
Andrew Epp is a stewardship consultant in the St. Catharines, Ont., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.
--Posted Feb. 26, 2014