Sunday, November 15, 2009

A $10 Gift Card? A Coupon Teaching Moment

"Dad, look, here's a $10 gift card to Toys R Us. Can we go?"
"Well, honey, that's not really a $10 coupon. It's $10 off if we spend $75. We would have to spend $75 in order to save $10."
"Ok. Let's go."

The world of children is often described as very black and white (I want this and if I don't get it, I am going to die), but it's the nuances of gray that most often challenge us as parents. Some coupons are good, some coupons are not so good - white and a slightly grayish-black. Our neighbor gave our 6-year-old a coupon organizer filled with various coupons that would seem to both of them to be a very noble gift.

I will say this - it led to a teaching moment. We were able to explain to our daughter that a coupon for something you intended to buy or something you actually needed is an excellent way to save money. Because she now somewhat grasps the basic idea of marketing and advertising - to get people to spend money - we explained to her that the coupon she thought was a gift card, "$10 off if you spend $75 at Toys R Us," was really just an invitation to spend $65 or more dollars. Granted, money spent at Toys R Us would likely yield something she wanted, but we were able to turn the conversation back to her Save jar. Because she's currently saving for a $79 item (one of those folding chair/bed combos), and she was aware of how much time that was taking her, we were able to explain the purpose of that coupon a little easier.

Teaching moments are terrific and the more context you can provide for your child, the more relatable to her experiences, the more valuable it will be. This lesson certainly doesn't mean she wouldn't love to go on a $65 shopping spree at Toys R Us (she would...heck, I would), but it does help her to understand the concept that the money spigot must be turned off regularly in order for it to provide money when it's turned on.

Oh, and we're going to go use a 40% coupon at Aaron Brothers to get some canvases we planned on buying for an art project this afternoon. Teaching moments rule.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just Add Kids

We are really fortunate. Our Money Mammals teaching guide, for kids 1-2, just won the Oregon State Desjardins award for leadership in youth financial literacy, courtesy of Rogue Federal Credit Union and Kerrie Davis. Thanks, Kerrie! I also happened to be using the teaching guide this week in my daughter's K-2 class at Larchmont Charter Schools here in Los Angeles, California. The guide provided a nice framework for a "Share" (charitable giving) lesson tied to the school's Thanksgiving food (and money) drive. I brought in some jars and the kids decorated them with fun Share labels and Goal labels for the amount they planned to save over the two weeks until the Thanksgiving drive ended. I enhanced the lesson with video from my show.

The kids really enjoyed setting the goals and I just know that they will do an incredible job bringing in food and money for the needy. The take-home lesson for me was that, once again, you just need a good framework and just add kids. The kids are ready to learn about many aspects of financial literacy at a young age (five and six in this case) and they make any lesson so much more than you could have imagined prior to going into the classroom.