Monday, September 5, 2016

Cracker Box

Last year was when I first started reading Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.  I have reread many part of this book several times.  I highly recommend it!  After deciding to start our own debt free journey two years or so ago now, it seemed logical to want to learn how to raise our kids up to never get stuck in the debt trap.
Last school year was when I ran in to a problem with school lunches.  The school has this nice little system where I put money in to the accounts for the kids and they just give their name or number and their food gets charged to their account.  We have always had a rule in this house of having just one hot lunch per week, per child.  I make sure we have something here at home to bring a lunch every day . . . well, sometimes it's a throw-some-cereal-in-a-bag-and-go deal, but there is always something ;)
Anyway, last year our system was getting abused.  There was one of my children in particular that was having several hot lunches a week because she wanted to sit by her friends who were in the hot lunch line.  All this extra money and it had nothing to do with food at all!!!
First we implemented a new rule that anything charged for lunch beyond what was allowed, would be paid back.  In hindsight, that rule had good intentions, but missed the mark of teaching handling money well.  All that rule did was encourage the child to start charging more lunches.  Then she'd get to the end of the week, and not have enough chore money to cover her expenses.  I'd assign more chores to make up the difference, but that was still just not addressing the problem.  It was kind of saying charging things when you don't have the money is ok; because you can work and pay for it later.  Which is, the premise of all debt that sucks a person in and has them paying for years to come.  So, when this reality hit me, it was time for an immediate change.
I contacted the school lunch director and said that from now on, all my children were allowed to use their lunch account for milk only - milk I'm ok with funding, I'm not heartless!!  Anything beyond milk was to be paid for with cash.  I pinned envelopes with weekly hot lunch money to the bulletin board and the kids could take the money and keep it in their backpacks or just take it the day they were going to use it.  That was up to them.  We had a few kinks, but that system worked pretty well.  And when the kids had to think at the beginning of the day what they were doing, they were able to look at their own cash and decide if they really wanted to spend their hard earned money on food, when we had food here.  Those were decisions that meant something.  Holding their own cash in their hands and staring at cupboards of food here at home put a lot more thought in to it!
This year I didn't want to use the bulletin board because we lost a few pins last year.  I still don't have a clue where they went.  But at least they never showed up in any one's foot!
This year we also have a boy going to some school sport events where he will leave from school and not return home until late at night.  As long as things are the same as they were when I was in school, they will be stopping at a fast food place so the kids can get dinner.  So this child has more money in his lunch money envelope clipped with a note for "Meet dinners" only.  And I told him I expect any and all change to be returned to me.
Tonight I am thankful for a cut up cracker box, some colored paper, and shiny duct tape for our new lunch money envelope holder!  I didn't get this done for the first week of school.  But we have it now.  And we'll be working on good money decisions and money management at home and at school again this year!

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