A Savings Lesson as Easy as Child’s Play
My oldest son, Xander, is about to be 12. Before the end of this summer, he will probably be taller than me, and I am certain he is far smarter and world-wise than I ever was at his age.
When Xander was 7, he wanted an X-box 360 gaming system. My husband, Mac, and I thought this would be the ideal time to teach him about delayed gratification and saving in order to reach a financial goal. We told him how much the X-Box cost, and we gave him a list of simple chores and behaviors for which he could earn money. However, we decided he was too little to keep track of dollar bills (and, who even has a stash of dollar bills on hand, anyway?) so we created a bunch of tickets that we called X-Box bucks.
For the next few months, Xander helped with dishes and laundry, and kept his room clean to earn X-Box bucks. He had a habit of forgetting his lunch box and coat at school, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince him of the importance of bringing these items home every day. When we told him that he would earn X-Box bucks for each week these things came home on a daily basis for a week, it finally sank in—the coat and lunch box were proudly produced every single day!
After three months of saving, Xander had accumulated $100 in X-Box bucks and was only half-way to achieving his goal. It was at this point that he started to lose interest, he wasn’t as motivated to help with chores, and summer vacation had started so there was no more opportunity to earn bucks for bringing home his lunchbox. We could tell he was feeling like he’d never reach his goal.
Mac and I were so proud of him for the work he had done, and we didn’t want him to feel discouraged. Xander’s birthday was coming up and we decided to get him the X-Box as a gift. Then, Mac, who is a bonafide genius, had a brilliant idea that saved us from making a big mistake and helped to drive our lesson home.
Instead of buying Xander the X-Box for his birthday, we took a stack of the remaining X-Box bucks, put them in a box and wrapped them up. When he unwrapped his present, it was as though we had given him a box full of cash—which, as far as he was concerned, we had! We took him to the store and let him pick out the X-Box and even let him swipe the debit card when it came time to pay. He was so proud of himself and he loved that X-Box so much. As soon as we got in the car he asked us if he could keep doing chores for X-Box bucks so that he could earn money to buy games, and of course we agreed. We reminded him that he was now responsible for taking care of the X-Box; after all, he knew how hard he had worked to earn it.
It was a good lesson on saving for something that he wanted, and he really did take extra care of the X-Box. Every time he played with it, he made sure to tell his little brother that the X-Box was his and his only. “You can only use it if I let you,” he would say, “I paid for it with my own money!”
Mac and I are still trying to figure out how to get our boys to share. But, I guess that’s a lesson for another day.