By Gabriella Smith
“I have a lot of money!” My 5-year-old brother exclaimed, as he excitedly dumped out his piggy bank earlier today. Turns out he only had about $3.65. It makes me laugh, thinking of how people’s perceptions of money change as they get older.
Back in my early days, money had two purposes: you spent it or you saved it (or tried to save it and usually ended up spending it on something smaller). I remember the time I had the grand idea that my younger sister would get a watch that came in a cereal box while we “jointly” saved to buy me a new watch. I had forgotten about it by the next day, which, I think, was a good thing. Now that I’m not 7 any more, I see the unfairness of such an economic endeavor.
When I was 7 or 8, I would buy small things as soon as I got my hands on any money. Then, as I got older, my interests changed but not my spending philosophy, as you’ll soon see. I started to be a bit smarter with my money around the age of 12, learning about a whole new element of spending.
My parents have always taught me and modeled for me the importance of good money management—things such as being generous, choosing purchases wisely, and saving my money. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I seriously started to manage my money.
When I was in my freshman year of high school, I did a study on what the book of Proverbs says about money (part of Wisdom for Life: A Proverbs Bible Study by Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason). The Bible does have a lot to say about money! Along the same lines, Math-U-See’s Stewardship Instruction Pack also does a really good job of putting the focus on being wise stewards of our resources.
Now, as a homeschool graduate, I’ve realized that money management can be divided into three simple categories: spend, save, and give:
Most of the time this ends up being the biggest category. The most helpful tool that I’ve found is free printable accounting sheets. When I write down exactly what I spend my money on, I’m much less likely to spend a little here and there. Unfortunately, it is true that it all adds up.
I didn’t used to do this, but when I went back a few years later to write down what I had spent, the result was . . . shocking. Back then, my “thing” was plastic model horses. This is what part of my accounting sheet looked like from the year when I was 11:
• March—model horses: $22.00 (There goes most of my birthday money.)
• May—horse statue: $3.00 (There goes the rest of my birthday money.)
• July—two more horses: $6.00
• September—yet another horse: $15.00
That’s nearly fifty dollars! And of course, I didn’t write it down, so I didn’t know.
Another good thing to remember is to avoid buying on impulse. You can think so much more rationally when—well—you think. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this for a long time either. I would get some money and want to spend it right away. Usually, though, the item is still available after waiting a day or two—unless it’s on eBay. But that’s an entirely different story.
This can be done (assuming, of course, that it will be kept up for more than a day) in a couple of different ways. The classic bank account is one method, but it’s not the only one. A “low-tech” approach that I learned about through Math-U-See is the “envelope system.” You take an envelope and simply add money to it as you earn/are given it. One of the good things about money is that saving a little bit very often adds up just as fast as spending a little bit very often (but with much happier results).
It’s really motivating to have a goal to work toward. Pick something you want to save for and try making a commitment to set aside, say, five dollars a month. It will add up!
There’s another aspect to saving—saving money before you spend it. If you like purchasing online (if you’re a younger student, please ask permission before searching the Web), try using a resource such as PriceBlink, which will show you the lowest price and online location of the item you’re interested in. Ebates offers rebates for shopping online. If you’re shopping at a “brick-and-mortar” store, look for coupons. Ten cents saved here and there adds up.
One last thing—“inexpensive” doesn’t always mean “better.” My parents taught me to look for the middle-of-the road option—not too expensive, not too cheap. It’s easy to buy something of lesser quality to save money, but believe me, you’ll regret it later. Plus you’ll lose money in the long run. It’s much better to spend slightly more and get something that won’t leave you frustrated later on. I know from experience.
This is kind of a complicated category. It’s hard to see how many needs there are in the world and want to help—but there’s only so much we can do. I’ve realized, though, that it doesn’t matter how much you give but how much you care. As Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”1
Ten percent (the tithe given in the Bible) might not seem like much, but that’s a good place to start. It’s also easy to calculate: $10.00—$1.00, $20.00—$2.00, and so on.
You can also give without giving cash directly. Here are some other ideas:
• Buy a small gift for someone you know who’s having a hard time.
• Support a company that gives proceeds to charities. (My sisters and I love this company.)
• Buy some food items or necessities, and donate them to a local food bank.
• Buy some baby items, and donate them to a pregnancy center.
Obviously, these tips represent only a few of the many different ways a person can manage his or her money. It’s sometimes difficult, but it’s also a lot of fun!
So here’s the “assignment” for this lesson: Pick three changes you want to make in your money management.
- Give 10 percent (a tithe) of my money each month.
- Save $5 a month toward ________ (fill in the blank).
- Keep track of all my spending for the month.
And then . . . do them!
One last thing: No matter how well we manage our money, there is something much more important. The Bible says that it is far better to be wise than to be rich: “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it” (Proverbs 8:10–11).
1. www.great-quotes.com/quote/1362469, accessed on July 19, 2013.
Gabriella is a 2013 homeschool graduate who’s looking forward to seeing what God’s plans for her will be in her college journey. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her parents and five siblings. She enjoys photography, ice-skating, music, fun with her family, and learning about all kinds of things! She would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.