Entrepreneurship rewarded and the value of money

When you’re three, four, or six years old and you have something you don’t want, what do you do with it? Sell it to a plumber!

Open a store. The same week that we had plumbing repairs done in our laundry room, our young daughters set up a candy store on the kitchen counter, hoping to sell their leftover Halloween candy to their dad and me. The little girls carefully sorted the candy into categories, displayed it neatly, and labeled everything with handwritten price tags. Repairmen were so impressed by our daughters’ entrepreneurship, they bought the entire display of candy and paid the girls a very hefty price.

Trade candy for cash. During the years to come, my husband and I offered a trade-in plan for the vast quantity of candy our daughters accumulated from school parties, friends’ birthdays, and holidays. We’d give them 25 cents per ounce for any candy they wanted to cash in. They decided how much candy they would trade, if any, and learned that they can make choices about money. It honestly cut down on how much candy they ate. And no, I did’t eat all the candy we bought from them. Sometimes my husband took a bowlful to give away at work, and if it was close to Halloween we might add the best quality, non-expired candy to our trick-or-treat bowl.

Sell handmade art. Every once in awhile I’d have a yard sale, and the girls were eager to help. They attracted the attention of people driving by, and they displayed and sold their handmade crafts, including permanent sand sculptures, stress-relief balls, origami, and framed drawings. They set their own prices, developed great negotiation and persuasive skills, and were usually able to make a pretty good profit.

The year all three daughters were Girl Scouts, their enthusiasm and perseverance helped them sell a combined 1001 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. They earned credit at the Girl Scout store and were able to select their own merchandise as a reward for their diligence.

Do your own work. Through all the years of school fundraisers, our daughters knew that they would have to do their own work to make sales. We would support their efforts, chaperone booths, or take them to make deliveries, but the girls did their own sales pitch. I still don’t buy fundraiser products from other parents.

It doesn’t need to be new to have value. Not only did we hold our own garage sales, but we often shopped at them, finding some fun treasures like the giant bear that sits in the corner of my office. By searching yard sales and thrift stores with an eye for upcycling and alterations, I was able to provide over 200 costumes and numerous props for my daughters’ school plays and musicals. The girls noticed that because of careful spending and an investment of labor, we could donate far more than if we had bought new.

Budget for souvenirs. We provided cash envelopes for each of our children when we went on family vacations. They could spend their allotted money on souvenirs, but if they spent it all at the beginning of the trip, they wouldn’t have any more. Each child could keep any cash she had left at the end of the vacation. I wrote an updated balance on the outside of each envelope so the girls could see how much they had left to spend or save. This was an early lesson in living within a budget, and they spent carefully, only buying things they really wanted.

Handmade gifts can be the best kind. Whether it was making appreciation gifts for teachers, Christmas presents for siblings, or going away mementos for friends, there was much joy in both the giving and the receiving.

Earn interest on savings. As an incentive to save, we gave our daughters 10% interest on their bank balance at the end of each year and added that to their accounts. We taught them how to calculate their own interest and they learned how savings and investments can grow.

Here are a few other things we taught our children about money:

  • We will provide everything you need but not everything you want.
  • We all set priorities about spending. Would you rather we pay for college some day or fund that high school trip now?
  • Not every opportunity is worth the cost. That leadership trip you were offered– for the third year in a row? Congratulations, but it costs more than a family vacation for five. We aren’t sending you to that.
  • It’s important to take care of your things. If you lose or damage something, you don’t automatically get another one.
  • Sometimes you have to wait. Read https://msmarcia.com/2018/12/30/on-your-list/

Be transparent about expenses. For many years my husband and I kept detailed records of every penny we spent and we reviewed those numbers together each month. We talked about how much we had spent on categories such as gas, clothes, entertainment, or gifts and then we looked at how we might be able to add luxuries or cut costs. These discussions happened openly in the living room, and the girls were free to listen and ask questions or add their ideas.

Demonstrate frugality. When our children were young, our family lived on one income so I could stay home, and we made financial choices that allowed us to live within our means. We rarely went out to restaurants or movies, didn’t subscribe to cable, and never bought on credit. We saved wherever we could, but we spent quality time together and placed a high value on education. We showed our children how to be innovative and creative. We played, imagined, loved, and learned to be content. I’d say we were pretty rich.

Never spend your money before you have it.


Thomas Jefferson

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