Author Topic: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons  (Read 4314 times)

twinge

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Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« on: February 24, 2012, 01:57:44 PM »
I have an idea for giving my 11 year old son some practice with money that I wanted some feedback on. I'm honestly not sure if it's kooky or not.

First some context:
Allowance, payment for chores etc. hasn't been something we've typically done in our family--it just never really seemed to make sense in our situation.  We've evolved to our 11 year old mainly just doing chores etc. because we ask him and he seems to get plenty of money for wants from relatives at holidays that he often saves up for a big purchase. And our 3 year old isn't old enough to care yet. Once in awhile when I know our 11 year old is saving up for something and doesn't have quite enough I'll think up odd jobs that I would pay him for (e.g., clear up the brush in the yard, build a compost container).   He doesn't really need regular "fun" money because we really don't do all that many things where we're inclined to spend any.  For the odd birthday party or school trip cost we just pay for it and most of our excursions don't involve money (we live in the D.C. area where museums are free and there are a lot of nature areas around for biking/hiking). He doesn't play extra-curricular sports and instrument instruction is provided by our public schools. He tends to amuse himself on his own or with friends on a variety of ambitious projects that involve lots of creative activity and planning (e.g. fort building, various entrepreneurial schemes that don't ever really come to fruition, writing plays etc.) but no extra outlays of cash.  He just hangs out and plays in the summer--no camps and the like.  We go camping as a family.  We have hand me down avenues and gifts from relatives so clothes are not a common purchase.  We do talk about money--like talking him through the thought process on refinancing our house, we have talked about compound growth and how it applies to investments and debt (he likes math so these things are fun to him).  He's vaguely proud of our non-conformist life (we lived without a car for over a decade, we make our own bread, grow organic vegetables in our front yard etc.) though as he enters adolescence in a fairly affluent more conservative neighborhood than he's used to (we moved here for work) I wonder if that will change.

So here's my thinking:
As it stands, I feel he has a conceptual understanding of money, we serve as reasonable models, but not a lot of hands on regular practice with budgeting it.  Introducing allowance just doesn't seem to fit with the flow of our family.  BUT I did get this weird idea, that I can't decide if it's ridiculous. As he's starting to have ravenous pre-adolescent eating/growth, I'm noticing his food choices cost more than ours. For instance, whereas we'll eat oatmeal for breakfast, he prefers a dry cereal and milk.  But he can finish off a large box of cereal and a gallon of milk in 2 breakfasts (he's in the 99th percentile for height and the 25th percentile for weight and eats more than any of his friends).  And this extends to snack choices, what he packs in his lunch etc.  And I hate going out grocery shopping (besides the fact both my husband and I have full-time jobs so it's hard to go so often) and it becomes a lot to carry etc.

One option would be for me to declare that I'm just buying oatmeal, fruit and eggs  and those are the breakfast choices. But I was thinking that I could also designate a budget for him for breakfast and lunch where I have established the cost of the various choices.  His budget would allow him to choose for some days of cereal/milk, but he could also opt for choosing oatmeal more often and pocketing the surplus.   When I first thought of it, it seemed sensible.  But then I started wondering if was kooky and overly complicated... So what do you think?

Danielle

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2012, 02:31:58 PM »
I can't give advice from a parental standpoint, but I put myself in the position of a kid with this situation, and I think it might mess with my head a little bit.  Maybe I'm just territorial about food, or maybe I was spoiled, but I'm leaning more towards the kooky side.

However, I like the idea behind the plan, so it might need some restructuring to work.  Since you have a nice relationship where you can sit down and talk about simple finance/etc, maybe you could discuss how to cut the cost of cereal he's consuming.  Show the math behind the amount of cereal he eats.  Let him know that although it's not causing you financial distress, there is room for improvement which he can benefit from. Offer some alternatives which would save grocery money (which then he could pocket as you suggested).  The usual cereal situation is still an option, but he wouldn't get any extra money.  But then he could choose the alternative where you buy bulk cereal in a huge bag, which nets him 50 cents a week (or whatever you save via that option).  Or he could choose only having one box a week, or eating oatmeal and fruit with the rest of the family, etc.

Maybe the only issue I have with your plan is the declaration of "no more cereal" without a consequence.  My little kid brain might start to think that I did something wrong by eating cereal (which I presume was in the cupboard already, either without me asking or having my request for it fulfilled).

Edit:  Or maybe you don't even have to show him how much the cereal costs.  Just start off with something like, "I see you really like eating cereal lately, and I have an opportunity for you to make some money from it" or whatnot.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 02:37:06 PM by Danielle »

AJ

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 02:54:52 PM »
I don't know...it seems like it might come off as accusatory if you sit him down and tell him he is eating too much cereal. Maybe just buy 1 box of dry cereal a week and plenty of oatmeal. When the cereal runs out, just say you're going shopping this weekend (or, whenever you do your grocery shopping) and that he can have oatmeal until then. Maybe provide a couple other low-cost options for variety (pancakes or homemade muffins or something). He sounds like a good kid. I know I would feel terrible if my parents announced that I had to pay for my own breakfast because it was costing too much. I would have been just mortified, and there is a chance it could lead to an eating disorder. I know that sounds extreme (and, admittedly, less common with male children) but that is how they start.

Maybe you could play the health angle: dry cereal isn't a very filling or nutritious breakfast.

twinge

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 03:05:35 PM »
Yeah, the food element is what made me wonder if it's on the kooky side.  It's just the only regular ongoing expense he actively participates in where he could learn to budget.  And I was thinking of it in terms of me giving him x amount to play with to figure it out--not money that he would be taking from his own money.  It would be a way for him to optimize to earn cash. And having his "math-y" bent, I would bet that the cost angle is more interesting than the health angle to him.  (My strategy for health is to provide only reasonably healthy foods --so it's plain Cheerios and the like-- not sugar-y cereals).   Of course, as you mention, what I will probably do is buy a reasonable amount and when it's out, it's out and he has to choose other options like oatmeal or eggs.  I just wondered if the budget game around it would make it more interesting and also start to teach him that food does get bought and you can make decisions that balance cost/health/taste etc.  But I'm sensing that from the responses so far that my kooky worry wasn't off target...
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 03:09:56 PM by twinge »

arebelspy

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2012, 03:37:43 PM »
So many people have food "issues" that it makes me a bit wary about using food as lessons, for fear of messing up their relationship with food permanently.

But do what you think is best for your child, and I won't second guess it. :)
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AJ

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 03:48:47 PM »
If its more for teaching than for cost savings, here are some other things you could try:

- Teach him how to read the electricity bill and ways he can help save electricity. Offer to pay him the difference between what you spent this month last year vs this year, or split the savings with him.

- Give him a budget and have him be responsible for dinner once a month. He can do the planning, shopping, and cooking (with assistance).

- If he is old/mature enough, give him a clothes budget for new school clothes and some guidelines and let him do his own clothes shopping. If he buys 2nd hand, he can pocket the cash.

- Let him budget his school lunch money. Give him what you would have spent on the materials for his lunches and help him do the shopping. If he chooses cheaper items, he pockets the cash.

- Maybe teach him about stocks? It sounds like he is interested in money (from what you say of the business attempts). Maybe open a trading account with him and let him earn money to put in it. He may lose "tons" of money, but losing tons at his age is cheaper than losing tons as an adult. Could be a cheap crash-course.

I've never had an 11 year old, so I'm not sure how much he could handle where he is at.

twinge

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Re: Kooky? Breakfast and money lessons
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2012, 12:58:25 PM »
AJ,
I like the electricity idea.  I bet if we got one of those devices that measured electricity usage around the house he would love to measure it all and figure out things like which items were important to turn off for phantom drain etc. Especially if his measures earned him cash (or something fun like extra family travel money).  I've been meaning to do that myself, but he would probably really get into it, and it would be good for both financial and math learning. 

What I like is that it seems like a "real" problem that could get him thinking about money in daily life that doesn't feel artificial to me like an allowance has any time that we've tried it.  And it avoids the potential emotional minefield around food.