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Fun Frugal Finds In Your Neighborhood!

Every summer, I feel the squeeze of my wallet as requests for summer camps, sport clinics and other activities come flooding through my door.  This year, I have sought out some not-so-costly ways to entertain my kids and make their summer just as much fun as that $60 ticket to Sea World.

First of all, start with your local Parks And Recreation Department (PARD).  Many PARDs have low-cost programs for kids during the summer, including swim lessons, craft classes and sport activities.  Our PARD even has free events throughout the summer, including a summer concert series and a movie night once a week.  We also have self-directed hiking activities with maps and explanations of markings along the paths, all available at our PARD office. 

My family LIVES for the Boys of Summer, and anytime we can catch a baseball game, we’re there.  However, paying up to $40 each to attend a major league game isn’t in our budget, so we look for other great games.  We have a minor league team about 30 minutes from our home, and we try to attend on Dollar nights.  Our local high school will play until the middle of June, and those games are usually free and in the evenings when it isn’t so oppressively hot.  We also have a college nearby that offers games at a low cost as well.  Our city Little League will be playing about six blocks from our house for the month of June, so we will catch a few games there as well.  Of course, don’t limit yourself to just baseball!  Look for other sporting events as well, and support your local athletes.

Explore your bigger backyard by looking for free or inexpensive outings just outside of town.  We have a blueberry farm about 10 miles from my in-laws’ house, so during the summer, we will visit and go blueberry picking.  We also have a peach orchard not too far from our house that allows for picnics and pick your own fruit activities.  Nothing tastes better than home grown produce.  Check your local paper for farmer’s markets and other outdoor markets nearby.

Money With The Little Ones

My children, ages 8 and 3, received some of the “green stuff” in their Valentine’s Day cards yesterday from their grandparents.  They each have $12 burning holes in their pockets now.  While I appreciate my parents’ efforts (and those of my in-laws) to not send MORE sugar into our house, the money issues are rearing their ugly heads today.  The good news is that I get to teach my children a bit about the responsibility that comes with money, and it looks like today’s a good day to start.

My 8 year old is already quite proficient at budgeting and spending.  He has been receiving an allowance for a couple of years now, and he is diligent in using the budget we created for him.  10% of everything he gets goes into the offering plate at church each Sunday.  Of the money left, he puts 40% in his piggy bank and 50% in his wallet.  The money in his wallet is his to spend…on toys, balls, a new video game for his system, baseball trading cards, a gift for a friend…whatever he chooses. 

The money he puts away into his piggy bank is not “untouchable”, but it requires a family meeting in order to bring it out.  For almost two years, he never asked about the money he put away, but when he wanted a very expensive toy after Christmas, we sat down with him and made sure he REALLY wanted it (he had been asking for it for almost a year), then we counted his savings.  He very easily covered the cost of the toy all on his own.  What an amazing feeling for him to walk into the store with his own money and purchase something so valuable to him!  And what an amazing feeling for us not to have to pay for it!

With our younger child, though, the process is a bit different.  He doesn’t receive an allowance, but he has accumulated quite a little kitty of money.  We use a similar budget for him, but his “income” is quite sporadic (gifts are pretty much it!).  However, he still puts money in the offering plate, we put a bit of money into a piggy bank for him (it is more like 20-25% of the total amount) and the rest is his to spend – within reason.

Taking him shopping, we have an idea on what he should spend his money.  For instance, this morning we will be visiting our local discount store to look for a new DVD in a series he enjoys.  He will get to choose the title.  I am not going to set my three year old loose in the entire store with money to spend; we have a few items that he has said he would like, and we will go and choose one of those to purchase today.  He enjoys the thrill of independence while shopping, and I still am able to garnish some control as to what he purchases.  He will be the one to put the money on the counter, and he will be the one to take the receipt and the bag out of the store.

While my boys are both on two very different planes of learning when it comes to budgets and spending, I think it is a very valuable lesson for children to spend their own money with guidance from parents.  Children learn by example, by experience and with a little assistance.  Making it a positive experience creates a healthy and smart consumer later on!

Speak Up On Allowances!

The world of money – it is a jungle out there.  And, teaching your children financial responsibility can go a long way to helping them understand saving and spending as an adult.  So, where do you start and what are some strategies to making the allowance gig a teachable moment?

We have a pretty good system at our house.  It isn’t foolproof, nor is it probably the best for every child.  But, it works for us with our eight year-old, and hopefully it will give you some ideas of your own.

First of all, make sure that your child is really ready for an allowance.  Do they understand the importance of money?  Do they see the value in dollars and coins, and do they take care of money when it is given to them?  If you are picking up quarters from under the couch where your child shoved them, your child is probably not quite ready to learn about an allowance.  On the other hand, if your child keeps it in a special place and shows and interest in finding out how to get money, then they are probably ready for an allowance.

Make the amount doable for your family.  Some people follow the dollar-per-age rule, some do a $.50-per-age, but we simply cannot afford that.  So, in our house, our eight year-old gets $2.50 each week.  And, while kids with bigger allowances may have to chip in for things such as birthday presents for friends and such, we don’t do that with ours.  He gets the $2.50 each week, and we provide for other expenses that arise.  But, it isn’t “free” money, that $2.50.  We built in a savings system for him.  Of his $2.50, 10% of it (or $.25) goes to our church offering.  For us, it was important for him to see the value of contributing to our church family.  Then, $1.00 goes directly into a bank on his dresser.  This is his “savings account”, and every quarter, we empty it and add it up.  Then, we (the “bank”) pay him interest for keeping his money there.  While this money isn’t necessarily off limits, he knows that he has to be really careful about spending it, because if there’s nothing in the bank, he doesn’t get any “interest”!  The rest of his allowance goes into his wallet for spending money.  This is HIS money to spend as HE chooses.  He saw early on how important it was to budget and save for things he really wanted.  And, while we don’t tell him what he can and cannot spend his money on, we do offer advice and suggestions to him, which he does carefully consider.

His allowance is his each week, no strings attached.  We don’t pay him for chores or grades or for good behavior.  He has, however, learned the art of negotiation, and he will offer to do “extra” chores around the house if we agree to a payment.  And, sometimes he’s right; for an eight year-old to sweep out the garage is a daunting task, and I am happy to hire him as a bit of ‘contract labor’!  Our thought is that tying an allowance to chores only sets you up for chores not being done when there’s no incentive to spend money at the time. 

It is a good system we have, even though I have a feeling a raise negotiation may be in the works in the next few months.  But, it has been an invaluable lesson in saving, spending and budgeting for our child. 

Let us know what ideas work for you.  Leave a comment and share your thoughts and stories!

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