Last month, when Hot Hubbie and I realized he may really get the job – in other words, when we were waiting for the offer letter to arrive, and having a hard time believing it was really happening – we were working on our new family spending/saving plan (other wise known as a budget). We realized that we needed to take the opportunity, with this “new start”, to have a little money lesson with the kiddos.
So, Monday night was Family Night, and since Hot Hubbie got his first full paycheck on Friday (YEA!), we decided to play a little game with the kiddos. It is essentially the same game my dad played with us throughout our growing up year. He called it “playing house”. When we were teenagers, he called it, “I-can’t-wait-to-turn-18-so-I-can-move-out-and-don’t-have-to-obey-my-parents’-rules-game”. Dad took great pride in showing us how expensive it would be to move out.
Hubbie and I thought this was a good time to play the game again. The kiddos have been part of our team for the past 3+ years, and they need to know about our family finances as much as us adults need to know. But we did not want to give them actual numbers (they don’t need to know Hot Hubbie’s salary). We decided to pick a random “salary” and adjust all of our expenses in ratio to our real salary. (Does that make any sense?)
If you haven’t already guessed, the “game” is just going through the budget with the kiddos. We give them monopoly, or in our case, money from the Game of Life-we did not have enough monopoly money- and have them pretend that they are responsible for the money in the house. We give them a salary, and then go down the budget, item by item: salary, donations, savings (long-term and short-term), taxes, health insurance, mortgage, groceries, electricity, water/sewer, phone, car insurance, internet, cell phones, gas, lunches, wal-mart fund, date nights, prescriptions, music lessons, etc, etc, etc. We don’t skip anything, and with each item the kids have to “pay” the bill. In the end, they aren’t left with much money.
We started our kids with $1000. At the end of the month they had a whopping $12 in their hands.
It is interesting to see their demeanor change as they realize how far the money needs to spread. “We don’t need to eat lunch”, “we don’t need to eat out once a month”, “why do we need to pay health insurance, we are never that sick”. We address each of these comments when the kids ask them: “dad sometimes needs to go out to lunch when he is at work”, “we need to have one night a month to enjoy ourselves and eat pizza”, and our favorite this year, “say Toad falls off his bike breaking his arm and requiring surgery to have use of it again” then we told them that without insurance we would need to take all of their money to pay for the doctors & hospitals.
It is good for the entire family to see and then agree to the same spending/savings plan. We can all work together to “work” our new financial plan-leaving us with our “$12” at the end of the month.
So, if you never have played the money game with your family, maybe it is time to start. Don’t make it too hard or complicated, but sit down and go over the family finances. (The big bonus, is that as the adults in the family, this forces you to sit down and think of all the expenses you occur throughout the year, creating a budget without having to say the “B” word. And don’t forget those things that happen annually or semi-annually like car registration, taxes, bonuses, etc.