In February, my friend Alida gave a great presentation on finances at a women's retreat I attended. That very day, I vowed once again to make a BUDGET. Yes, I am a 32-year-old mother of three and have never had a budget. Creating and following a budget, like successfully using coupons, seems like rocket science to me. It just plain baffles the old kidneys. After tracking my expenses for several months, I have been slowly, carefully working out a system that I think I can follow. I plan to launch the new BUDGET on September 1. August is my month of following an unofficial, practice budget, to see how I do.
As part of the new BUDGET, I will be implementing a new system for teaching the boys about money. In the past, we told them that we would give them a dollar a week. We essentially never do this, and every once in a while the boys remember and say something that sounds a lot like Napoleon Dynamite complaining that we've ruined his life. Dan gets paid twice a month, on the 15th and the 31st (or 30th, or 29th, or 28th). So starting with yesterday's pay day, the boys will now receive $5 each per pay period. With their $5 they will be expected to put 10% into tithing (50 cents), 40% into savings (2 dollars), and they can spend the rest ($2.50) as their hearts desire. I started telling the boys about this new system yesterday, and that is all they talked about this morning. Adam especially kept asking me how much certain things that he wants cost, and how many pay periods it would take for him to get those things. The main thing he wanted this morning was to go see Ratatouille at Quality 16. I explained that if we went on a Tuesday, that movie would cost him $3, which he won't be able to afford until a second pay period has come. If we went on any other day of the week, the movie would cost $5.75, and he'd have to wait for two more pay periods before he would have enough money. Not to mention the popcorn and drink that he wants. On the other hand, if he waits for the movie to get to the dollar theater, he would already have enough to pay for it.
In the end, the boys decided to spend their very first dollar to see Open Season this morning for 1 dollar each. They really lucked out, because I had already purchased a popcorn bucket with free refills several weeks ago that is good for 6 months, so they got all the popcorn they could stand to eat. Then they double lucked out because we had enough holes in our punch card for two free drinks, so they got a never-ending supply of soda pop as well. Later in the day we went to the bank, where I withdrew $5 for each of them, and helped them open two little savings accounts, into which they each put 2 dollars. We went straight from there to Target, where Eli bought a rubber sea turtle that can expand to 600% its original size if you keep it in a large enough container of water, and Adam bought 12 capsules that, when soaked in hot water, dissolve into sea creature-shaped sponges. Each item cost $1.06, and they each participated in their very own transaction with a kind, smiling clerk who thought they were cute (thank goodness) and not obnoxious. Now their change (44 cents each) is safely stowed in a labeled ziploc bag in my underwear drawer, along with their tithing money, and they are already making plans for how to use their next installment of cash.
I, personally, am feeling like a very good mother. Suddenly, in one short day, I've gone from the mean person who always says no to their requests for candy, McDonald's, toys when it's not Christmas, to the sympathetic, helpful figure who knows what everything costs and how long it will take to save up for it.
Now I'm not the only person in the family counting the days until the next pay check.