About a week ago, Maya and I got into the elevator in our building, having just picked up our mail. I opened an envelope and commented to her that it was from our insurance company, telling me they’d found a much lower rate for our car insurance. A woman standing in the elevator with us said “Oh is she in on all the household finances?” and kind of laughed. The door opened and as we stepped off I smiled and replied, “Actually yes, she is.” The doors closed behind us, so I didn’t see her reaction.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this for the last week or so. This woman sounded…surprised isn’t the right word. Maybe incredulous. Yes, incredulous that I would mention something like that to my young daughter. Perhaps even more so at Maya’s response, which was something like, “Wow, that’s good.”
I’m beginning to get the idea that not all parents talk to their kids about finances or budget or where the money comes from or goes to. For us, it’s often just part of the day.
Example: This afternoon we drove up to Costco and joined as members. I’ve been going there for a couple of months with a friend who has a membership, but decided to bite the bullet and get one of our own. Groceries are the one thing that we spend a lot on, and there is no question that Costco cuts my monthly bills by at least $300. That’s a decent chunk of change.
My kids know this. As we went through the store (this was their first trip) I would point out to them how much a comparable item would cost at our local supermarket. For instance “Izze”, which is a drink they love, costs $4.99 for 4 twelve ounce bottles at the store near our house. I bought 24 eight ounce cans for $8.49. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that we saved a lot.
After Costco we went up to Target so that Ben could price some Lego. He now knows how much Lego sets cost in our neighborhood stores, at the Lego store and at Toys R Us. This meant he was holding up sets and telling me whether it was cheaper at Target or not. Some were, and some weren’t. He chose two, added up the total and handed me the cash when we got home.
Seems pretty normal to me.
Of course we talk about the whole gamut of other things too. Money and budgeting is just one of them, because usually we do something during the day that touches on this subject. I talk to my kids about almost everything and for the most part they only zone out when I launch into a long diatribe about a movie they haven’t seen or don’t care to see. Or if I mention something that sounds suspiciously like I am trying to ‘teach’…
What am I saying with this? Not that we are so wonderful for talking to our kids about money and finances; just that as unschoolers, it seems natural to include our kids in all aspects of our lives. Even when we have difficulties, we discuss them as openly as we can. I don’t think we are alone in this in the unschooling community. It’s how kids learn. You don’t need a class in managing your finances if it’s been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. You don’t need a cooking class if you spent years helping out in the kitchen. (Sadly my kids may need a cooking class when they get older because helping out in my kitchen often consists of tearing the wrapper off the Amy’s Macaroni package.)
The point is, you learn what you live. As unschoolers, our kids do not lead a separate existence for the better part of each day. They are integrated into our lives as much as possible, and we into theirs.
As a result, I know more about Lego than I ever thought possible, and my kids know about our car insurance.