Friday, August 26, 2016


I wrote a while back about some of the money-related topics we've been covering this summer for our personal finance/economics discussion. You can read the initial post here

One topic we've introduced is the idea of budgeting. Budgeting is something that adults use both in their homes as well as in various career fields. It's not just adults that need to know this, though, it is applicable for pretty much any kid who is old enough to go shopping.

Let me share with you what budgeting means to my 13 year-old:
  *Number One Answer: Budgeting is useful "so you can have money". (This is interesting, because it shows a positive attitude toward budgeting, versus something that's a dreadful chore.)
  *Budgeting is a plan for "knowing what to spend and what not to spend".
  *It includes "keeping things in reserve".
  *You need to "spend less than you bring in".
  *"If you don't budget you have negative money." (Debt)

As today's title suggests, we had a real-life experiment with budgeting a few weeks ago, when we took a six-day field trip. Two days of driving were followed by two days of touring and another two days of driving.

The logistics, discussed the week before the trip:
  *Each child had a certain amount of money that they were given to spend.
  *Each could add some of their own money to that amount if they wished.
  *They planned out how much money they would want to have for driving days as well as days at the actual destination (six days total).
  *They added up the amounts and found that they either would go over their amount or they could actually add more money to their budgets on some days.
  *They took this information and made their final plans for how much money they could spend per day.
  *Each time they spent some of their money on the trip, it would be logged so they knew how much money they had left for that day as well as whether they were running over- or under-budget.
  *Each child came in under-budget. Since the money was theirs to spend, they kept it for something that they might want in the future.

This planning only took about ten minutes before the trip, and about a minute each time someone spent money. 

One great thing about this method is that it really prevents arguments about money during the course of what is supposed to be a nice trip. We all know what we have and we can make decisions along the way about the things that are really important to us, versus things that are less important. Another positive thing is that knowing how to set limits for ourselves is not just for kids. If they can determine needs versus wants now when the stakes are small, maybe it will help them make decisions when they are adults and the stakes are a little bigger.

We have also explored ways to introduce the concept of budgeting (planning, making choices, evaluating along the way) with non-money opportunities. The kids have explained that you can budget tickets at a carnival, the number of hours you have on your day off, and the set amount of electronics time you're given. It's also similar to making plans to finish a book by a certain date, choosing x number of your favorite hot lunches for the month ahead of time, and making those cookies last all week. I love the idea that budgeting can be a positive experience. It doesn't have to be about restrictions and disappointment. Instead, it's about figuring out what's really important to you both for today and tomorrow.

Is budgeting part of your personal finance discussions with your children? What has worked and what has been less succesful for you? This is one area that sharing ideas can really be useful to others!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Top 10 Quotes to Spark Discussion: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

 Discussing books can truly be one of the great joys of time spent with others! Sometimes, though, it's difficult to know where to begin. The following quotes from Jane Eyre are not only some of the "gold nuggets" of the book, still applicable today. They also provide a window into the plot and characters.  For instance, after reading the quote you can discuss the circumstances surrounding the encounter, as well as how the quote backs up or contradicts the character's usual manner. This can be an extremely enlightening exercise in delving into the literature.

#1 In Chapter 4, Mr. Brocklehurst visits the house. Mrs. Reed says some pretty negative things about Jane. Jane feels that Mrs. Reed is "sowing aversion and unkindness along her future path".

#2 In Chapter 10, the typhus outbreak has shed light on the harsh conditions at the school. The author encourages a balance in extremes: "combine reason with strictness, comfort with economy, compassion with uprightness".

#3, #4, #5 In Chapter 14, Mr. Rochester alludes to the fact that he made some wrong turns in life when he was about Jane's age. Mr. Rochester warns Jane against such folly, saying that "Remorse is the poison of life." Jane counters by reminding him that "Repentance is said to be the cure." He argues that "It is not..." though "Reformation may be..." (Note: these three quotes really say more when considered separately, and have been divided for this reason.)

#6 Chapter 21 includes this quote, upon Jane's return to visit the ailing Mrs. Reed: "Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition." Who said this quote and what does it show about their character? (And what is "deglutition"?)

#7 Chapter 23 includes a purposeful scene between Jane and Mr. Rochester in which he states, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you...especially when you are near me, as now. It is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous (English) Channel, and 200 miles or so of land came broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion would be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly..."

#8 Chapter 24 continues on a similar subject when Jane says, "I am not an angel...Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me-for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you; which I do not at all anticipate." 

#9 Chapter 27 includes something of  a climactic moment in which Jane must reason with herself in order to decide her next move. "Who in the world cares for you?" (Jane asks herself). "Or who will be injured by what you do?"..."I care for myself" (she decides) "Law and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour..."

#10 In Chapter 34 Jane contemplates a very different offer of marriage from a very different man. She realizes, "He asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband's heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge." 

Bonus: So much is said at the end of the book between Jane and Mr. Rochester, a conclusion of so many belated thoughts and words. Each reader might find that they have a favorite quote from the final chapters which would be really great to share.