My youngest daughter learned a valuable lesson yesterday about money on our trip to Wal-Mart. Both girls took $1 with them on our shopping trip. My oldest decided to buy a package of pencils with her dollar. My youngest didn't see anything she wanted to buy, so she decided to spend her dollar in the little arcade at the front of the store.
There weren't many games in the arcade, but there were a couple of those claw games where you try to pick up a stuffed animal with the claw. Both I and my older daughter warned my youngest that she probably wouldn't win anything, but she was determined to try.
After she spent her dollar and ended up with nothing, we had the expected fussing and grumbling. I told her to quit grumbling because she had been warned that she probably wouldn't win anything. When we got home she immediately went to our chore chart to find chores she could do that would replace her dollar.
My youngest definitely regretted her choice, but she learned that if you make poor decisions with your money, then you have to live with them and work harder to have the same amount. It's a lesson I could have talked to her about for weeks and not been nearly as effective as letting her learn the hard way.
It's important that we give our kids some freedom to make mistakes with their money while they are young. It just may keep them from making poor decisions when they are older. It is much less painful to lose $1 than it is to lose $10,000 in a risky investment.
Choose to use money as a learning tool in your home. Set up an allowance system that gives your kids enough money to make some choices with. Use that allowance to teach good habits in tithing, saving and spending. If your child wants to spend money on something frivolous or something you know is of poor quality, let them. If we never let our kids make mistakes, they won't learn to manage their money. Talk, talk, talk about money. Too often, we shelter our kids from discussions about money, but we should include them. When things are going well and when they aren't, your kids need to see how you deal with money. If your family has decisions to make about how to spend money that will affect your kids, include them in the discussion. Talk about how you choose to spend your money and why. Show your kids the family budget and get them involved in planning it. When you are planning a big family vacation or purchase, get your kids involved in saving for it. Set a jar on the counter and decide as a family how much everyone will put in the jar from their allowances each week to save for the trip. We did this when we went to Disney World and used the money in the jar as our spending money. God wants us to use our money wisely, and He wants us to teach our kids to do the same. But we want to be sure that money is not our main focus in life. We need money to live in our society, but we don't need money to constantly be the focus of our lives. When we place the pursuit of money above God, we make it an idol. Matthew 6:24 says "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Use money as a tool, but don't let either the acquisition of it or the lack of it consume you. Use it wisely and follow God's guidelines for it. Ask for help when you need it.
Lots of great resources exist for getting a grip on money -- resources that keep the focus on God while letting us take control of our money. Here are a couple of my favorites.
Dave Ramsey -- If you're struggling with getting out of debt and setting up a budget, check out Dave Ramsey and his resources. His "Total Money Makeover" will change how you view and handle money. He also has a great set of resources for teaching kids, teens and college-aged young people how to handle money. Crown Financial Ministries -- Crown offers biblical money guidance through Bible studies and resources. They also have a full complement of children's resources that teach your kids about handling money.
Whatever resources you choose to use, start today to control your money rather than letting it control you. God provides all that we need, including money, but He asks us to use it wisely.