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How My 11-Year Old Taught Me the Value of Saving More Than Money

Toes poking through sock

Every spring brings on the frenzy of cleaning. Tidying up, refreshing those things that will remain in the home, and beginning new habits and springtime traditions. One yearly binge for me is my kids’ room. All the little trinkets and gift bags from parties that my eldest boy has tucked away into the recesses of his closet. The multiple pairs of worn-out socks with holes in the toes (or the lack of a “pair” of socks). The homework papers that I really hope actually made it to school and back (not just tucked under his bed). Not to mention the candy he has hidden from his younger brother in various stashes around his room.

It is really one of those “let’s pretend we’re moving” types of cleans, to make room for the new parts and pieces. The candy, trinkets, and new socks will be stuffed into that small bedroom throughout the year. Out with the old and in with the new right?

Not quite.

He is saving. And while saving money is important, sometimes saving things can be important, too. I have spent a long time teaching my kids how to be smart with their money and to save for something they want (like a blue RC truck). I have tried to instill in them the importance of saving, how to spend wisely, and the joy of sharing. Everything from saving for a goal, such as a new skateboard or buying a new book, to treating a friend to ice cream or helping one of their friends reach their own savings goals.

While that is a wonderful habit I resolve to continue teaching, I did take a step back this year and try to consider my son’s point of view about saving. I keep telling him to save his money and respect the value of a dollar, and though that’s important, it really does extend beyond money as well. Here are some things we considered when deciding what to hold on to that you can extend to your own family:

  • Do the trinkets hold sentimental value?
  • Do they serve an actual purpose?
  • Will they be missed when they’re gone?

Perhaps some of those items hold a memory of a fun party, or event at school. Tasty candy to share with his friends when they visit. The socks … well, no, those are going in the trash and we are going to have a talk about the homework papers. He certainly won’t miss those when they are gone.

I think we can work through this spring cleaning together though. I’m excited to learn more about what things are worth sharing or saving in the mind of an 11-year-old boy. The rest of it, well that we shall consider spent, like the socks with holes.

If you have a child at home who likes to save things, it may be a great talking point to explore the value of what those trinkets mean to them, along with the value of a dollar. After all, the same savings lessons of creating value and prioritizing what’s important are what will help them achieve their financial savings goals down the line.