About two years ago, my husband and I made the decision to completely change our lifestyle. Tired of living paycheck to paycheck, we swore off credit cards, created a detailed budget, and started really tracking our money and living within our means. Making such life-altering changes came with its own set of challenges, but over time we got the hang of it and are now working toward a life of total financial independence. We wanted to teach our children to live the same way, so we purchased financial expert Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Junior Kit ($22). I knew that it would help me teach my children about money basics, but I didn't know that it would completely change how I parent.
The kit, which was created for children ages 3 to 12, comes with a parent guide, kid's activity book, magnetic chore chart, reward chart, and designated give, save, and spend envelopes. It's remarkably simple: Your children are given a chart with age-appropriate chores to complete each day. For each chore they complete, they earn a "commission." We use the kit for our almost-6-year-old (our twins are only 2 years old, so don't quite understand the concept of earning money yet), and pay her anywhere from $0.05 to $0.10 per chore. Every Saturday morning, we add it all up and pay her what she's earned, which is typically around $3. Then, we divide the money among the kit's three envelopes. She puts some in her giving envelope, and at the end of the year, she can use that money to select and purchase a toy for a child in need. The rest of the money is split between her saving and spending envelopes. Right now, she is choosing to save up spending money for our next trip to Disney. Getting my 5-year-old to do her chores every day doesn't always come without some resistance, but every Saturday morning, she beams with pride over how much money she is earning and saving.
But here's what's been the real game changer: I get to do fewer chores. Raising three kids who are all under age 5 is chaotic, to say the least. And because it seemed easier and faster to do everything myself, I used to waste so much time finding something to keep the kids out of my hair while I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, or whatever other chores needed to be done throughout the day. Well, it turns out, doing it all myself isn't actually that much easier. Mornings were a nightmare, and I felt like I was hanging on by a thread by the time I got my oldest daughter off to school. When dinner rolled around, I was counting the minutes until bedtime. So even though we ordered the kit optimistically, I had no idea where I was going to find the time to use it — let alone find the patience to fork over any control or household duties to my oldest. But I am so glad that I took the time to get her started. In addition to helping me teach my children about money in a way that they can understand, it has also helped me let go of some of my control issues and just be a more pleasant parent in general.
Financial Peace Jr. has inspired me to find new ways to include my children in the running of our home. Now, instead of distracting my kids while I clean, I let them help. I even get my 2-year-old twins in on it. They don't earn money yet, but they clearly enjoy helping Mommy and work hard at whatever tasks I give them. Handing me their plastic dishes from the dishwasher, moving clothes from the washing machine to the dryer, and emptying bags after a trip to the grocery store are some of the simple and mess-free "chores" that they enjoy doing under my supervision. Giving my older daughter ownership of her morning (getting herself dressed, making her bed, and brushing her teeth) and after-school (emptying her backpack and putting away her shoes and coat) routines has made our days so much easier. Now, instead of barking orders and running around every morning stressing about not getting out the door on time, I can actually take the time to let her choose a hairstyle on Pinterest and do my best to execute it.
Our shopping trips have also become easier. Before we started using this kit, walking into a store caused me to brace myself for the inevitable fights. A stroll past the toy aisle turned my daughter into Verruca Salt, which was equal parts frustrating and humiliating. Complete avoidance of the toy aisle resulted in nonstop pleading and crying to go to said toy aisle, which made me want to scream. I was unfair; I was the mean mom with no patience. But that's also changed.
Now, we always visit the toy aisle. When my daughter sees something she wants, there are no tantrums that the entire store gets to enjoy. Instead, we look at how much it costs, and talk about how long it will take to save up for it. She asks what she can do at home to earn bonuses to help her save faster, and, if it's a big-ticket item that she's passionate about, my husband and I have her save up half of what it costs, and we match the other half.
When things are easier at home or when we're out in public, I'm less stressed. When I'm less stressed, I'm a better mom. I'm not short with my kids or counting down the minutes until they go to sleep, or waiting for my husband to get home so that I can get out of the house. Plus, I love the lessons that my kids are learning, or will learn, from Financial Peace Jr. Watching my daughter develop a generous heart fills me with an immeasurable amount of joy. As I see her think about and make financial decisions, I realize just how much she's growing up, and I am so incredibly proud of the person she is becoming. Each time I experience that joy or that sense of pride, I am inspired to keep going, and to keep encouraging her. I think it goes without saying that for our family, this was the best $22 we've ever spent.