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Wednesday, April 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

The Full Suburban: Half-baked plans for teaching kids about finances

By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

With six kids, the requests to buy stuff are endless. Dance uniforms. Yearbooks. Football gear. Bigger shoes. Violins. A dozen doughuts. It just never ends.

My husband and I are by no means experts at making or saving money, but we do feel the weight of our responsibility to teach our children some basic money-management skills before they are kicked out into the cold, hard world where the landlord doesn’t care that you just spent your last $25 on bracelets from Etsy.

So while we sometimes just mindlessly hand over the cash when a new request is presented, we also give our kids a modest monthly allowance so they can learn to save, budget and pay for some things themselves.

This is not a payment for chores completed. We want them to understand that chores are not something they should be paid for but rather something they need to do if we are to keep our home from becoming a giant, smoking crater in the middle of picturesque Saltese Flats.

Our oldest son, a 14-year-old with a will of iron, saves every penny he gets, wrapping it up in a roll of bills before slipping it into a glass jar hidden in his room. Our two daughters, 15 and 12, are quite good at saving money, but then they’ll blow it all in one fell swoop on something I consider to be completely random, like 30 rolls of washi tape or a ukulele.

The 9- and 7-year-old boys can’t spend money fast enough. If they have dollar bills in their hands, they will usually pool it together and then beg me to take them to Target so they can roam the toy aisles until they find something – anything – that costs the exact amount they have. Our youngest son is 4 and has yet to show any financial tendencies, although he does like putting quarters into our central vacuum system, so maybe he has some promise in the bank vault department.

All the kids have learned that their allowance will only go so far, so some of them have gotten creative with other ways to earn money. They’ve put on day camps where they’ve led handfuls of children through crafts, outdoor adventures, water games and science experiments.

They’ve babysat, mended fence posts, mowed neighbors’ lawns and sold hand-made creations to people driving by on the street, kind of like a reverse and very disappointing lemonade stand (instead of getting cold, refreshing lemonade, you get warm, scratchy yarn wrapped around some popsicle sticks).

I had to laugh when I recently came across a full-blown business plan my daughter had written in a notebook when she was 7 years old. In case you also are interested in money-making ventures, here it is for your reference:

Making Money!

1. Make a lot of sweets and make hot cocoa

2. Set or make or buy a lot of the stuff you need

3. Choose a day to do it

4. On the day, set up and make a sign

5. And yell that it is how much it is

6. Have a jar to put your money in

7. Get people’s attention

8. Make money!

I mean, it’s a solid plan. Last summer, this same daughter decided to hold a bake sale at one of her dad’s softball games following this money-making template to a T (minus perhaps “Step 5: Yell that it is how much it is,” which is way too embarrassing for a tween to do).

She spent all day making no-bake and sugar cookies, mixed up a cooler full of lemonade and set up shop between two fields full of hungry softball and soccer players. By the end of the night, she’d sold out of inventory and made a ton of money, thus proving that you should never throw away anything your kid has ever written because it might hold the key to their future success.

Come to think of it, I should look through the rest of that notebook to see if she wrote up any plans for “Getting Kids to Do Chores Without Whining.” Now that’s something worth paying good money.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals. Her view of family life is firmly rooted in Spokane Valley. You can reach her at

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