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    The Money Jar

    September 25, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    I use my credit card for just about everything. I confessed this a couple years ago. I use it in order to accumulate points that I can then exchange for gift cards to my favorite stores. In the past, I have bought gift cards to Target to use for necessities like toiletries, to Home Depot for pseudo-necessities like supplies for making small home repairs, and to Pottery Barn for luxuries like a king-sized quilt set with three matching shams. This made all of these things {the fun stuff and the necessary stuff} free to us.

    It was free to us because we have never, ever paid interest on this credit card.

    I know that this wouldn’t work for everyone. For some folks, credit cards aren’t “real.” Some people need cold, hard cash for their purchases to be concrete enough for them to keep track of their finances properly. However, Si and I have never found this to be a problem. It probably works because we don’t call him Depression-Era Dad for nothing, and I don’t enjoy shopping all that much.

    Recently, though, I started wondering how all of this was impacting the children. They are still small enough that I’m not sure what their spending tendencies are going to be. E. seems to be disciplined enough in general, and he has saved up and paid cash for toys in the past, so I find that encouraging. But the other children are a complete mystery.

    Even though we have never paid interest on our credit cards, our children are watching and they don’t know those details. All they know is that Mom needs something, pulls out a card, and poof! the deal is done.

    This is not the healthiest view of finances to cultivate.

    So I started trying to think of a solution that would give them a concrete example, without my having to give up my precious points.

    Enter The Money Jar.

    I put a number of items on Craig’s List when we moved. They weren’t going to bring in a whole lot–around twenty dollars here and there. But we saw it as an opportunity. After all, we have the backyard microhomestead project making its way into our lives. What a great chance for the children to learn to save and pay cash

    One evening, we sold one of our items. Si brought out a Mason jar and put it on the dining table during dinner. He asked the children if they could guess what we would use it for. And then he explained our family project. The children already knew that there were plans in the works for an orchard of around fifteen trees. Si told them that the jar was going to contain our tree money. Each time we sold an item or came across extra cash, we would put it into the jar. When we were ready {we still need irrigation before we can plant}, we would take that cash and buy whatever trees we could afford. We would keep saving what we could until we had purchased all the trees for the orchard.

    A benefit of making trees the goal is that it doesn’t take all that long to save for one. The average sapling costs between twenty and twenty-five dollars.

    The children got excited when we put money in the jar and explained that we already had enough to buy one apple tree. Within a couple days, we saved for two more trees {Craig’s List has been good to us}. Our oldest got excited, went to his room, and donated nine cents to the project. We had told the children that they could put their own money in the jar if they liked, but they are little and the focus of the project is really for them to witness Si and I saving for something.

    They say that the lessons children learn are often caught rather than taught. What I am hoping is that as we use the Money Jar {we plan to have new goals once the orchard is in}, the children catch the concepts that make up proper financial management. In time, maybe they will have their own money jars where they separate out some of their own money to save for something extra-special.

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  • Reply Lift Up Your Hearts September 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Oh, that is so smart! You and Si are very wise parents.

  • Reply Kimbrah September 26, 2008 at 1:39 am

    There is also a non-credit card option for earning points towards gift cards. sends out emails and if you click on them you earn a certain amount of points. Also, if you refer your friends, you get points, but I have never done that because I don’t like pestering people. I know they have their own credit card for earning points, but just by clicking on emails they send my I have already earned a $10 gift card to Old Navy and if I wanted to spend the points instead of saving them up for something bigger, I could already get another $10 gift card. I have been doing it the easiest, free way, but you can earn points faster by using MyPoints to search for things you need and buying from vendors through their website. Oh, and you can get gift cards to anywhere, they have a really big selection. I just happen to love Old Navy. πŸ™‚

    I have been pleased with it so far. Just a tip. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy September 25, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Yes, it is awesome! We shopped around and found a card that had a rewards program we could actually use. We don’t really spend enough or travel enough to benefit from the cards that give you air miles or free hotel stays. CitiCards is one of the few cards that has a point system. I don’t remember how much you have to spend to earn a point. It might be a dollar per point or something. They have a rewards website where you can shop for giftcards using your points. You can also shop for goods, but it is so overpriced it is ridiculous and I’m not in the market for a fancy espresso machine! πŸ˜‰ Anyhow, cash in those points and a few weeks later the giftcard we “bought” with them shows up in the mail, no questions asked.

    I usually purchase cards that are for stores, but there is also an entertainment/restaurant section. I do think that once we bought ourselves some meals at Chili’s or something.

    FUN! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jennifer September 25, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    (trying not to miss the point of the post)…How do you get gift cards? That is awesome!

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