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What I Learned About Money from a Velveeta Cheese Box

velveeta cheese

Guest post by Kathleen of Yankee Homestead

The irony is not lost on me.

While my real-food adult self wouldn’t touch Velveeta cheese with a ten-foot pole, I’m thankful for what I learned about money from the Velveeta cheese box as a child.

My Velveeta Cheese Bank

Velveeta cheese was a normal part of my family’s diet. So it was natural for my mother to turn an empty Velveeta box into a simple bank for me.

She taped two dividers to the inside of the box to create three separate spaces. On the outside, she painted the cardboard with bright colors and added the words: Church, Saving, Spending.

Voilá! A bank!

I was about five years old then, and my parents trained me to divide my weekly allowance (and other amounts of money I received) into three portions: Give, Save, Spend.

velveeta-bank

What-I-Learned-about-Money-from-a-Velveeta-Cheese-Bank-2

My First Budget

When I turned 13, my dad took my financial training a step further. He instructed me to make a list of all the clothing I would need in one year. Next, I listed the estimated price of each item. This gave us the approximate amount of money required to clothe me for one year.

Then my dad divided that amount by 12 to arrive at a monthly clothing allowance. My first budget was born! It was my job to manage that monthly allowance in order to fund a year’s worth of wardrobe purchases.

I’m pretty sure this is what started my love affair with thrifting and bargain-hunting! It was completely unfathomable to buy a piece of clothing at brand-new retail prices, when I could find perfectly suitable items on clearance racks or at thrift stores!

All Grown Up

This financial training followed me into life as a young adult. I didn’t make a ton of money as a public school teacher, but I knew what to do with the money I earned: give, save, spend.

When I got married three years after graduating from college, the only debt I carried was about $9K from an interest-free tuition loan from my dad. I didn’t live in a posh apartment and my car wasn’t very fancy, but I paid for everything with cash.

In contrast, my husband-to-be owed over $70K in credit card bills, student loans, and a car payment on a brand new truck. It’s interesting to note that while he had received somewhat similar budget training as a child, that training had been less intentional and was not modeled consistently.

Together we worked out a plan to pay off all the debt, and with God’s provision, we did so in three years — just in time to welcome our first son to the world!

Training the Next Generation

Today our family includes three sons ages 9, 6, and 2. Recently, we started the two older boys on a weekly allowance. Each boy has a box-bank with three sections: God, Save, Spend.

  • Our six-year-old received his box as a gift — it bears our last name and matches the colors of the boys’ shared bedroom.
  • Our nine-year-old picked out his box on a mommy-and-me date — he’s a proud Texan (like his daddy) and was excited to find a box with the Lonestar flag.

bank-boxes

The boys’ boxes are a bit of an upgrade from my old Velveeta cheese box, but the cardboard dividers do remind me of my first “bank”.

My husband and I are not perfect money-managers by any means, but we pray our boys will learn the habits of giving, saving and spending from the training they receive in our home.

We pray they will carry those habits into adulthood and then pass them on to their own children… just like my parents did for me decades ago, with a humble Velveeta cheese box.

Are you training your children to give, save, and spend?  Which methods work best at your house?

Kathleen Henderson lives on a few acres in Northern Virginia, where she keeps up with Mr. Native Texan, three busy boys, an assortment of chickens and an organic garden. She blogs about healthy living at Yankee Homestead, providing time-saving resources for naturally-minded mamas.

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12 Comments

  • Jessica says:

    My kids each have a Thrivent piggy bank with the same save, spend, share areas. We don’t belong to a church, so my kids get to pick what charitable organization they share with. My 9 year old has chosen the local no-kill animal shelter a few times. She has also donated her share to “pennies for patients”, a cancer fund to help families through her school. A few years ago, the school helped send meals to a student’s family as the student was in treatment for cancer.

    • Kelly S says:

      Did you have to pay for the Thrivent bank? We have insurance through Thrivent and I am wondering if they give these for free? 🙂 Thanks!

      • Jessica says:

        My in-laws got it for us for free a few years ago, but it was before we had our 3 year old daughter, so she has a different piggy. My husband does have a small policy through them, as does our 9 year old daughter.

    • Kathleen says:

      Awesome, Jessica! Our oldest started with a similar bank–the My Giving Bank. It was so helpful!

  • Aimee says:

    What a great idea – thanks for sharing!! I need to do this with my five-year-old. I’ve started “paying” him for extra jobs (like a penny for each stick he picks up out of the yard). This is such a good visual.

    • Kathleen says:

      Aimee, We pay for extra jobs, too! Such a great way to teach them to contribute to the family workload, and to enjoy the satisfaction of earning a wage for their work. 🙂

  • Kelly S says:

    How sweet that you still have (or at least have a photo) of your childhood bank? We just started our 3 year old with allowance this year, and she gets a quarter for each category each week. I just stapled three Dixie cups together into a little ring and it’s worked fine for now (and wrote the categories on each one).

    One question. How do you decide how long to “save” for? Is this a “save for college” kind of a category? Or just saving up for a special toy or purchase that is more long-term?

    She usually spends her “spend” category every month once she’s gotten enough to buy a $1 purchase from Target or the dollar store. And giving happens most weeks with a quarter in the offering plate at church, but right now “save” is just piling up. Not a bad thing – just curious how you handle this.

    Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      For my kids, save is like for a new bike 🙂

    • Kathleen says:

      Hi Kelly, We’re currently treating the “save” category as long term savings for a big purchase. They (with our input) get to decide on the item to save up for, and then we figure out how much they’ll need. Our kids haven’t had a huge need for a big item yet; I’d like to work more with them on identifying something big to save for. As they get older, yes, that category will transform into a savings account to be used for a car, college, etc.

  • Katie Pell says:

    Just wondering what percentage they put in each category? I am trying to have my kids do 25/25/50. 25 Spend, 25 give/ and 50 save.

  • Kirsten says:

    Something I have started doing once my boys turned 8 is opened savings accounts for them. They each have to prepare their deposit, interact with the teller while depositing the money, and then balance their account adding interest. I think it has helped them see how money can grows and how interest adds up while also interacting with adults in a professional manner.

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