>Money doesn’t grow on trees or in the ATM

>Two years ago, I posted a few basic guidelines for going back to school with the three Green Rs; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Buying school supplies is also a good time to teach children about the value of money. Back to School sales employ all kinds of marketing. Does this student really need that Hannah Montana backpack or perfect purple polka-dot gym shoes?

Teaching any good lesson requires a balance of theory and meaningful practice. A good source for money theory is the Moneywi$e eLearning tool developed by Capitol One and Consumer Action, a national consumer advocacy group. Available in English or Spanish, this online course of study has audio and video lessons to help learn how credit works and how to be a smart consumer.

Amigo worked part time for the first time this year. He participated in a six week long employment program at our state school for the blind where he learned about interviewing, taking public transportation, packing his own lunch, and then actually worked several days a week for a real paycheck. He enjoyed working, bonded well with his boss and coworkers, and came home with stories galore to tell his parents. In addition to working, he and his pals stayed in a dorm where they did their own laundry, cooked and cleaned up, and handled themselves independently with the minimal assistance of the adult supervisors and teachers.

One of the most important pieces of this program was the experience of managing his own money. Teens in the program made regular trips to the grocery store, the mall, and more. Some of his purchases included a ladle for his collection of unique kitchen utensils and a case of (are you ready for this?) individual packages of hot and spicy Cheetos. Yikes! He packed one in his lunch each day, snacked on them after work, and then donated the rest to an end-of-program party in the dorm. I’m just happy he didn’t eat them all in one sitting.

Now that he’s had a taste of earning money, we’ll work even harder to teach Amigo the value of those dollars in his wallet. Moneywi$e may be a good way to help him learn that his income is finite, has limits, and needs to balance with his expenses.

If you’d like a shorter course of action, follow @TeachingMoney on Twitter for short snippets of financial wisdom in 140 characters or fewer. For more posts with details on Back to School money management, look to Parent Bloggers Network. ‘Tis the season for the sales, and I’m not alone in posting to this valuable topic.

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