Making Change


photo by spcbrass via flickr

I was standing in the check-out lane and opened my wallet to see that I had about two handfuls of change. I am headed back overseas in a few weeks, so I want start getting rid of the excess change. As the cashier began to ring up my items I noticed that the there were a few people standing in line behind me waiting patiently.

My heartbeat picked up.

My hands started sweating.

My eyes darted into the wallet trying to make out what kind of change I had, so I could quickly pull out what I would need.

A few seconds later, the cashier told me how much I needed. What? I didn’t hear him. I frantically looked at the register to get a read and asked again for the price. He told me.

I handed the bills and began to dig for the coins I needed. My fingers were not working. The coins kept slipping from them. Finally, what seemed like five minutes, I got the exact change and handed it to him. I know I heard a sigh from the person behind me.

The cashier handed me the receipt. I apologized and quickly made my exit.

I’m in the country I grew up in, yet counting change causes me to stress. What in the world? Here is what I think it is…

1. The money is foreign. As expats, we live outside the country for at least 11 months or longer ~for me it’s been 2.5 years. The money has become foreign. We are used to our RMB, Yen, Euro, or Pounds and have forgotten what “home” country money feels like. If you’re a TCK, it may all feel foreign and familiar at the same time…

2. Identity problems. I’ve lived in Asia for over a decade and there is so much grace when I don’t get it right because I don’t look Asian. As for going to Germany, I look the same, but as soon as I open my mouth the people there understand and have shown me grace. Being in the US, I look and sound “American”, so they are so confused that I can’t count change, don’t understand the debit card scan, or whatever the “new-to-me” procedure is in public places. If you’re a TCK, is this how you feel all the time?

So, how to beat this? I guess I could “play” with the money before I get back to just get a feel for it. Instead, I just keep shopping and using cash OR I skip the cash part and use the debit card. As for the identity problem, I’ve thought about putting on an accent at the checkout, but mine is terrible and I’d probably start laughing at myself and blow it. So, instead I just take a deep breath and remember that it’s okay and normal ~ my friends all have the same problem and we will sit with our tea/coffee at the end of the summer laughing about the “trauma at the grocery stores” and how we “survived the cereal aisle”. 

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KID$: Teaching them about $

The Envelope System

Ever since my TCKs were cuddled into the front pouch and brought to the market or store, they have witnessed how money can give them “stuff”. They understood all too quickly how this system of money or plastic card works.

I’m sure your kids are the same. They don’t just watch us. Toy manufacturers have caught on to this years ago. They sell fake money and plastic cards for pretend shopping. I’m not bashing toy companies, I actually think it is a brilliant way to teach kids about how money works IF taught intentionally.

As kids grow and mature, we need to teach them how to manage their money.

We do give our kids an allowance…sort of. They get paid for certain small jobs around the house like taking out the trash. They get paid for the work they do. If they don’t take out the trash, they don’t get paid. Then there are jobs that they have to do just because they are part of the family, like setting and clearing the table. Those they don’t get paid for.

Our youngest got bright eyes and a huge smile when she got her first paycheck. She was ready to go to 7-11 and buy some gum. It reminded me the first time our oldest got his first paycheck and we made the decision to teach our children about money management. It was time to teach Mei Mei.

We use Dave Ramsey‘s ideas because we like them. I’m sure there are other ways to teach your children, but here is what we do.

Each child has three envelopes.

  1. Saving: this is for large items that they need to save money for like skateboards, iTouch, dolls
  2. Spending: this is for the small fun stuff like gum, drinks, or stickers.
  3. Giving: Because we are a Christian family, we’ve taught our children that they have to give at least 10% to God. This envelope can also be for charity giving, which we’ve told our kids that they can put in more and use it towards that as well.
Our rules are simple. We give them the money and a calculator. We teach them how to figure out how much is 10%. They put that in their Giving envelope. Then they decide how much they want to put into the Savings and the Spending envelopes. We let them choose.
*We do this system all with the monetary bills of whatever country we are living in. If they get money from family in other countries, then we get out a calculator and figure the conversion rate with them, and then we exchange it for them. After that, they figure out what amount goes in each envelope.
**When we travel to other countries, we do allow them to take their Spending envelope (if it’s worth the amount). They can exchange it at the airport for fun.
***We also do this system with Jie Jie, our daughter with special needs. She doesn’t have a “job” yet, so she doesn’t get paid, but she gets money for lost teeth and birthdays. I do believe that we will soon be giving her a “job” that is suitable to her needs in the near future.  This all depends on maturity levels though.
Like I said, there are other ways to teach kids about money and how to manage it. How have you taught your kids? Please comment below.
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