A life lesson for just a dollar

Among the required skills that we have in life, I am convinced that one of those needs to be the ability to manage money – budgeting, saving, spending, and hopefully one day investing. And I believe that the earlier we can teach our children the foundations of money, the better they will be as adults in managing their personal finances.

At this time of year, there is a lot of focus on spending money for gifts, and often the focus is on the gift, not the giving. So I have used the holidays to teach my children and nieces, in the past, and now my nine year old granddaughter, some important lessons around fiscal responsibility.

My granddaughter has been saving some of her small allowance over the past two months, and we sat down to talk about who was on her holiday list (good news – I made the cut!). I asked her to just put names down and not to worry about a specific gift – because it is the thought that counts more than the gift. So on a Saturday in early December, we headed out with her list of names and the money she had saved. Our destination was a store where everything costs a dollar, as this is something that children can easily understand. One name, one gift, one dollar.

Armed with her cart, she took off down the aisle while I stayed at the front of the store and out of her way. I could see her periodically marking her list and adding items to her cart, and she was done in about 30 minutes. She went through the checkout by herself, and (another lesson) had kept $2 back for sales tax. As soon as we arrived home, she wrapped everything and her gifts were the first under the tree.

She learned so many things through this process. How to save in advance to buy things; the grace that comes with giving gifts to others; budgeting; making buying choices; and the empowerment of accomplishing this on her own. I can’t think of many other things that we can do with our children that teach so many life lessons in one activity.

I have no idea what she bought that day, and I am sure she doesn’t realize all the significance of what she was doing. But knowing that one day she will is the best gift ever.

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