01 November 2011


So you probably think that because I titled this post "Banks" it's going to be all about Occupy Wall Street and dissing capitalist pigs. Wrong! It is about banking, though, but banking at home, not in an institution.

For some reason, the beginning of third grade seemed to me to be the right time to finally institute an allowance for the girl. We've had lots of discussions about money: we involved her in allocating charitable gifts last winter, we've discussed earning and saving at length because of her burning desire for yet another American Girl doll, we talk about what things cost. Just last weekend, I took her to the mall because she had no jeans that fit. The first store we went in had a pair that didn't fit too well AND cost $34. We ended up at The Children's Place where we got two pairs, for less than $25 for both. She was impressed by that, and understood that we spent less and got more.

Back to the allowance. For the most part, the girl doesn't need any spending money. It's not like she's out and about and in need of pizza money or subway fare. But she does need to learn about it - all aspects. You earn money. You spend money. Ideally, you also save money, and if you're able, you share money. Back in August at the BlogHer conference, I went to a lunch put on by a credit card company touting a card for teens called, flipply, Bill My Parents. Despite the name, it's actually a pretty good concept, though the girl REALLY doesn't need a credit card. But one thing led to another, and I started thinking about the allowance thing again.

A seven year old is dealing with money in a tangible way, not via online banking or Quicken* or old-fashioned green ledger paper. She needs to be able to parcel it out physically, as a way to learn that some money is for now, and some is for later. It seemed to me that the best way to do that would be with the kind of piggy back that lets you split your hard cold cash into several categories.

There are a few options out there - some offer three divisions, others have four. There's the Money Savvy Pig - a plastic piggy bank with four compartments, for Spend, Save, Donate and Invest. But to me, the difference between saving and investing is going to be lost on a seven year old. Invest? Like, for retirement? I don't think so.

moonjarThe Moonjar lets you split your money into three compartments: Spend, Save and Share. Share might better be called Charity, at least that's how I described it to the girl, whereupon she pointed out that Spend, Save and Share all started with "S". Can't argue with alliteration.

We've had her using the Moonjar for the past six weeks or so. We've been giving her a dollar a week, and sometimes she gets to keep the change if we give her a couple of bucks to buy a muffin at the Farmers Market. We've been a little loosey-goosey about the percentages to go into each of the compartments, but she's getting it, conceptually, and accepts the fact that she can only spend out of the Spend box. What happens come the end of the year and it's time to Share, to make gifts to charity? I don't know yet. I do know that it's important to us that she learn that as a concept - hell, I've been working in non-profit organizations for my whole life.

I like the Moonjar. I like that its three compartments can be clumped together, or taken apart. I'm not sure how long the butch rubber-band is going to last - a velcro strap might work better. But it's living on our kitchen table, easily accessible, accepting coins and bills, and - I hope - helping my kid learn more about money.

And, for you? The very kind people at the Moonjar company have offered a Moonjar for one of you fine people. They asked that you go to their Facebook page and “like” it, and/or share below how you are starting the Money Conversation with your kids. If you go over and "like" the FB page, come back and tell me or I won't know. Comments will close at the end of the day on November 6.

*Quicken has become like a Kleenex-like generic to me - all computerized accounting is "Quicken". In fact, I no longer use Quicken because they stopped supporting the Mac. Actually, there's still a product out there, but they dumbed it down like you wouldn't believe - it is now an utter piece of crap. We've switched to Moneydance; it's working pretty well. But if I'd used Moneydance up there in that fourth paragraph, you probably wouldn't have known what I was talking about. 

Disclosure: The same very kind people at the Moonjar company gave my daughter a free Moonjar. No one paid me to write anything, or to host this giveaway. All the opinions are my own.


Life in Eden said...

How in sync are we? I just picked up my Moonjar from the catalog order at our Montessori pre-school! Also going to be using it for the 8 yo allowance. We tried allowance about a year ago, but it just didn't go very well. Going to give it another try now. I do think it is important to keep things simple and tangible.

I'll let you know how it's going!

leanne said...

I've been having random money discussions with my son for a while now (he's in second grade). Partly because he's curious and partly because I want him to understand money, the importance of saving and sharing, not just buying whatever he wants when he grows up and has real money. And yes, spending less and getting more is a good thing to learn, too!

We recently started an allowance -- $5 a month. Today will be his second pay day. I haven't made him divide up the money yet, but I would like to start. Though he also hasn't spent any of his first $5 yet either.

Julia said...

I'm intentionally lame on the allowance front, but unintentionally lame on the what-to-do-with-your-money front. This sounds useful. Though I can't imagine that all three parts would stay in one place for long around here!

Imperatrix said...

Oh, if only moonjars worked for 15 and 17 year olds. My girls have bank accounts, but it always ends up being easier for them if I purchase something and the "pay me back" later. I keep flip-flopping about having them use a credit card -- but that doesn't feel like "real" money, either.

Bibliomama said...

We gave the kids Moon jars a couple of years ago - I love them. They get really excited about giving money - they like choosing charities or having their own money to bring to school for schools in Kenya or community causes. Typically Angus buys something electronic as soon as he has enough, and Eve hoards her money forever.

MARY G said...

Great idea! I want one for my grandkid who is presently using three annoying piggybanks with corks for the same purpose.

MARY G said...

Wups! Off to Facebook now.

susan said...

Sounds like an interesting sort of bank. We've been very inconsistent with allowances, which in theory we started doing last year but we have all of us been very bad at remembering it. We have also been inconsistent about obviously putting money in our "Shabbat Pig" (the downstairs bank that we use for saving up charitable donations--in theory we put $20 in each Friday before Shabbat; that's not the sum total of our charitable giving but it adds up money that we then decide how to alllocate as a family). CG was getting $1.25/week and putting .25 in that bank.

She's not very good with money--which is to say, she doesn't mind if she spends her money on things that she then forgets. She sets savings goals for random things that her friends either have or are saving for (e.g. an ipod or an American Girl doll) but then in the course of saving she gets distracted and stops--or decides to spend $25 on a stuffed animal and then is so far from her savings goal that she gives up. I can't decide whether all this is a useful life lesson or not. Or whether she would be more attentive if we were more routinized about the allowance itself....but in any event, I do like the 3-part division here on the bank.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

What a fabulous idea - I love that it's teaching her to save and give to charity!

Carol Bodensteiner said...

You find the most interesting things. The save/share/spend idea is how I was raised but that I didn't do the best job conveying to my son. I like!