Financial Literacy Month

cardboard tube salvatore squirrel

April is financial literacy month.  April also happens to have 30 days.  Here are 30 activities to help make it fun.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to do them all!

  1. Read Saving Salvatore
  2. Make banks
  3. Make a Salvatore mask
  4. Sing Miss Jackie’s Furry Squirrel song
  5. Make a super fun Salvatore craft out of a cardboard toilet paper tube.  Take a picture of your Salvatore!
  6. Make acorn doughnuts
  7. Make chocolate and peanut butter acorns
  8. Fun, free activity: read library books to each other
  9. Limit the “gimmes” and be thankful for what you have.  Begin a gratitude list and write one thing you’re thankful for on each acorn.  How many can you fill?
  10. Fun, inexpensive activity: plan an in-house family restaurant
  11. Fun, inexpensive activity: play board games with play money (think Monopoly or Life)
  12. Worksheet: learn about jobs
  13. Worksheet: design your own business
  14. Create an advertisement
  15. Read a book such as “Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday”
  16. Cut coupons
  17. Take a field trip to the grocery store and compare the costs of items
  18. Volunteer
  19. Take a field trip to the food bank
  20. Plan a yard sale
  21. Research and raise funds for a cause
  22. Have an at home family movie night
  23. Figure out how much it will cost to go to college
  24. Identify and count money
  25. Talk about the difference between wants and needs
  26. Look for ways to earn money (dog walking, car washing)
  27. Identify a financial goal and begin working toward it
  28. Fun, inexpensive activity: explore; visit a park
  29. Fun, inexpensive activity: indoor or outdoor picnic
  30. Fun, inexpensive activity: flashlight tag
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5 Fun and inexpensive family activities

Here are some activities that teach thriftiness, encourage family values, and offer a lesson about finances:

  1. Create your own “at home” restaurant.  Do you have a favorite family restaurant or meal?  Try bringing the restaurant setting to your home for a change.  Decorate your dining room according to a theme, and buy all the ingredients you need for your menu. Assign roles to each of your family members to prepare, serve, and clean up after the meal.  Figure out how much money you can save by eating in, and share your findings with the kids.squirrel family dinner
  2. Go on an adventure.  Instead of looking at photos of glorious landscapes, step outside and discover them yourself.  Go to a park or take a hike in the woods with your family.  Bring a camera and do a scavenger hunt.  The fresh air will leave you invigorated, and you’ll realize that an enjoyable family experience can be had at little to no cost.  Beautiful scenery is just outside your door– patiently waiting for you to find it.
  3. Have your own family movie night.  How much money do you normally spend at the movies? Tickets alone are expensive, and you want popcorn and a soda.  And the kids want candy.  There goes $67.48 (or a similar figure).  But “Spy Squirrels 2” comes out next month?  Consider renting movies to watch affordably at home and buying your own snacks.  Make sure the kids understand how much money is saved.  You can make your own concession stand and get extra-cozy.  Write your own movie reviews and share them with other families.squirrel movie night
  4. Volunteer together.  Using your free time to help others can be a real eye-opener. You may meet new people, learn new skills (which could even be marketable), cement a family identity of service to others, learn about issues you may not have been aware of, and have a lot of fun in the process.  Decide as a family how you want to volunteer and go for it.  Afterwards talk about how it felt to help, and decide if it’s something you’d like to do again.
  5. Have a family game night.  Board games can be played again and again for no additional cost, teach values of good sportsmanship, and can be a ton of fun.  Plan ahead and decide which game or games you will play.  (It could even be a game with play money.)  Decide on a prize for the winner.  It could be a homemade trophy or a choice for the weekend’s activities.  Have a big award ceremony when it’s over.squirrel game

These activities are just a few examples of ways to spend time with your family without having to spend a lot of money.  If you have any other thrifty family activities, please share them with us!  We’d love to add more numbers to the list.

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The gift of time

Have you ever wished for one more day?

One more day in the weekend to get in a little relaxation time?  One more day of vacation because you were having so much fun?  One more day to complete some of your extra tasks?  One more day to spend just having fun and snuggling?

Suppose, just suppose you were given one more day.  What would you do with it?  Would you go sky-divin’ or rocky mountain climbin’?  Would you catch up on your laundry or paperwork, get your oil changed, or cut the grass?  Or would you spend it doing what you really would love to be doing on all of your days?

Guess what?  This year, you get an extra day!  Why don’t people make a bigger deal out of it?  You get extra time!  How do you want to spend it?  Savor it?

gift for the mail manHere’s just one little idea:

If you’ve been practicing the art of thriftiness, you may find yourself with a little extra money.  A little extra money to save, a little extra money to set aside for the future, a little extra money to give.

Why not make February 29th a day where you are intentional about sharing your savings with others?  A day where you invite children to be part of the act.  Plan with the kids in your life to use a little bit of the giving money you’ve put aside to give kindness to others.  Following the lead of blogs such as MOMumental Savings and What a Ride!, wouldn’t this be a fun way to spend an extra day.

It is appropriate to insert a disclaimer that you should practice acts of kindness every day.  You don’t want to be a person who just does this once every 4 years.  There are many people whose natural reflexes are to practice kindness and generosity every day.

bear eating cookiesThat said, wouldn’t it be fun to have a whole day, or a whole life, purposefully devoted to it?

Here are some ideas:

  • Leave a treat for the mail carrier to find.
  • Send a gift card to your teacher to restock supplies for the class or buy a special treat.
  • Take someone out to lunch– someone who least expects it.
  • Pay for the person behind you in line or at the toll booth.
  • Take bagels to the firehouse.
  • Hide a few dollar bills in the toy aisle at the dollar store.
  • Leave change in a vending machine.
  • Make a charitable contribution in someone’s honor.
  • Get a meal for a homeless person or give them a care package.
  • Drop off some food or supplies at the animal shelter.
  • Anonymously send flowers or visit someone who rarely receives guests at a hospital or nursing home.
  • Make your family’s favorite breakfast or dinner.
  • Write a letter to someone.

For more ideas, visit these sites: Random Acts of Kindness and Life Vest Inside.  Be sure to check out the video on Life Vest Inside’s homepage.

And here’s a little printable kindness card to help you along the way.  It may not be appropriate to use in every instance, but in some situations it can be fun.  The PDF in the link contains 8 small cards you can cut out, but feel free to save the image below and size it however you wish.kindness cardSometimes money doesn’t have anything to do with being kind.  But if you are thrifty with your money, you will have more ways to be kind, and more time to go the extra mile.  You have more to share.  It is easier to be kind, easier to be the way we want to be.  Be intentional about being thrifty and be intentional about being kind, and if you must do a load of laundry on February 29th, so be it.

bear with balloons

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How to be thrifty

glow in the dark sunglasses

Greetings dear readers,

Blue Jason here and today I’d like to talk about being thrifty.  We recently had a post about earning, and while earning money is really important for creating a bright financial future, earning more and more money isn’t always achievable.  I’m sure you’ve heard of celebrity figures and lottery winners who manage to quickly blow through what some earn in a lifetime.  You don’t need a large income to meet your goals if you start early, save regularly, and manage your money wisely.

You can make your hard-earned dollars go farther by being thrifty.

Your thrifty behavior will leave a beneficial impression on your children.  Here are a few tips you can follow to help your kids understand thriftiness:

  1. Use coupons and let your children be a part of it.  Let them help you clip coupons and talk about how online coupons save you money.
  2. Shop with a list and stick to a budget.  Spend your own money carefully and deliberately.  It takes extra time to make plans for your money, but a few minutes of planning can pay off greatly in the long run.  It is okay to say no to items that aren’t on your list.
  3. Use opportunities to discuss money as they arise.  An ice cream from the neighborhood ice cream truck or a specialty drink from a restaurant can be a great treat once in a while, but show your children the cost of such items.  Would you rather have an ice cream or two from the truck or buy a whole box at the market to share with your friends?
  4. Distinguish between wants and needs and prioritize the wants.  Make sure you and your children know your priorities.  Does your family really need that automatic sliding glass door for your house?
  5. Teach children about advertising.  The goal of advertising products is to make you want to buy them.  Teach children this fact so when they see an advertisement they realize the goal of advertising is to make you want to buy the product.  Be creative!  What kind of strange things can you make appealing by advertising?  Design a product of your own and make a print ad or commercial for it for a fun activity.
  6. Reconsider the “convenience items” you purchase.  A busy schedule and other factors can make it seem impossible to forfeit things like bottled water, disposable tableware, and individually wrapped snacks.  If you have the time, you can often save money by opting for the route of less convenience.
  7. Try not to sacrifice quality for the cheapest price.  It’s always good to try to find the best deals, but make sure you aren’t giving up a substantial difference in quality for a few dollars off, especially on things that are important.  We wouldn’t recommend that you skimp on tires, smoke detectors, and other items that if poorly made could pose a threat to your family’s health and safety. The same idea applies to things like cheap trash bags and paper towels that would need to be replaced more often at added expense.
  8. Make a big deal about your savings and use that savings for meaningful things.  Because we saved $5 on ice cream, we have some to put away for the future, some to help someone else, and some for something special.  You can use our blank labels here to design a place to hold your “savings” for special purposes.  Be sure to set some aside for important future goals like college and retirement.  Every little bit can add up to something significant over time.  Add the magic of compound interest to funds set aside for the future and the results can really be meaningful.  (We’ll have more to say about compound interest in our books and you can read about it here, too.)

Start setting aside some of the money saved from being thrifty… in our next post we’ll talk about something fun to do with it!

sal eating ice cream

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Reflections & Resolutions

The New Year is fast approaching. For many of us, this is a sentimental time of reflection on the good times and not so good times, the memories made, and the lessons learned in 2011.

Most of us want to grow and we see areas in our lives that could be improved upon. You will probably have some goals for 2012.

Some of the more popular goals for the New Year include spending more time with family, giving back more, and being better managers of our financial resources. It can be hard to change! A good first step when trying to form new habits is to have a plan. Writing down your goals and keeping them in sight can be helpful, too. Here is a quick activity that you can do with your children if spending more time with your family, giving back more, being better managers of your resources, and/or helping your children develop good financial habits are among your goals for the New Year.

Help your children develop good habits now, so that in adulthood, money issues will not be difficult for them.

  1. Print out the worksheet. It is free. All you need is a printer, ink, and a writing utensil. (See, you are already being a good manager of your financial resources. We’ll have more to say about being thrifty in the New Year.)
  2. Talk with your child/children about their goals for the New Year and think of ways to accomplish them. (Look, you’re spending time with your family!) You can answer the questions provided on our worksheet or develop your own. You could also use this worksheet to remember your favorite things about the last year.
  3. Display your completed worksheet in a place that you’ll see it often and be reminded of your goals.

Wishing you good things in the New Year and always,

your friends at FUNancial Literacy

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Spend-Save-Give Banks

Making banks, building habits

Most experts agree that saving is an important habit to cultivate at an early age. Sure, you can go to the store and find an adorable piggy bank, wait in the checkout line and buy it, or order one online. But it makes more sense (and uses less cents) to instead upcycle materials that would ordinarily be trash. Turn the things you usually throw away into banks that will help teach the kids in your life a valuable lesson about saving (and also about being frugal and crafty). Plus, you’ll get to spend more quality time with your kids, and who wouldn’t want that?

spend save give banksIt’s not enough to just teach your kids to collect money in a jar. They need to know that they’re setting it aside for a purpose. Whether it be for particular things they want to buy, general savings, or for charitable giving, everyone saves for a reason. It might be for a new toy, their first car, an emergency fund, or charity. Their ability to delay gratification—saving (waiting) to get what they want—will become instinctive to kids when there is proof that their money is growing and that through saving they can reach their goals.

How to make banks:

  • Step 1: Find some containers. You can make your banks out of whatever containers you have around the house. (Just make sure whatever trash you’re using is properly cleaned.) We used Starbucks frappuccino® bottles, mainly because we don’t mind drinking them, but we also found that the sticky residue left over when you peel off the label eliminates the need for any glue!
  • Step 2: Label your containers. If you’ve read Saving Salvatore, you’re already familiar with the three categories “Eat, Save, Give” into which Sal divides his acorns. “Spend, Save, Give” is the same principle adapted to money, and the labels we recommend you use. If you want, you can find our  Spend, Save, Give bank labels in the Downloads section. All you have to do is print them and cut them out.  We even have some blank labels in case you’re saving for a particular thing you’d like to write in, and some BIGGER labels in case you’re working with a container larger than a bottle. (No, we won’t be offended if you choose to make your own labels.)
  • Step 3: Decorate your containers. Feel free to embellish your containers with glitter glue and ribbons and anything you please. Make them as adorable as you want.  You just need the banks to be functional (and not too aesthetically appalling).bank decoration
  • Step 4: Start putting money in them! If you want to get your child started with some of your spare change, that’s fine, and very generous, but we recommend you make your kids earn their own money. If you need some ideas, our last post was all about earning.


Giving to others is just as important as saving for yourself. There are so many people, plants, animals, and great causes that can use your help, and donating to them will make you rich in ways money can’t. The kids pictured above put aside dimes for a little Guatemalan girl named Nancy who can really use clean water, food, and clothing. This bank is not our original idea, but it’s a great one. The container used is a Nabisco Go Pak® with a slit cut into the lid.

Wishing you true wealth,
Your friends at FUNancial Literacy

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Learnin’ ’bout Earnin’

Salutations, dear readers!  Blue Jason here.

Have you had a chance to read and share the coloring book about our friend Salvatore?

If not, you can print your own copy for free right here.

Salvatore instinctively knows how to manage acorns, my favorite food. Like Salvatore, you can learn to manage money by following his example. Acorns grow on trees, but they require a little work on Sal’s part to acquire them. It will likely require some work on your part and your children’s part to acquire money.

Before you can grow money, you need to have some.

There are three main ways to acquire money:

  1. Have someone give it to you.
  2. Have someone leave it to you as an inheritance.
  3. Earn it.

Number one is nice, but not guaranteed to happen or likely to happen at a scale that will provide for all of your needs. Number two is generally a result of a painful loss that outweighs the benefit of the money. Number three is our favorite choice, and the one over which you have the most control.squirrel cutting the grass

Make sure the children you know understand where money comes from, and give them opportunities to earn it themselves and understand the sacrifice involved.

Here are some ideas and action steps:

    • Do your children know how to make money? Talk to them about your job. Is it difficult? Is it dangerous? Is it fun?
    • Does your child have an interest that could translate into a profession? Learn about your child’s current dream career, its responsibilities, requirements, and potential pay. (Note: Please do not make any judgments about the career choice. No dream squashing!)

squirrel face paint owl

  • Give your children the chance to make money or start a business. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few things to consider:
  • dog walking
  • car washing
  • yard work (grass cutting, weeding)
  • making/selling crafts
  • selling baked goods
  • helping at birthday parties
  • washing windows
  • polishing shoes
  • babysitting
  • face painting
  • fence painting
  • wrapping presents

Depending on the laws in your community, you could even consider a lemonade stand, a vegetable stand to sell home-grown food from your garden, or a booth to sell other items.

squirrel walking dog
With very best wishes on your endeavors—money making or otherwise—I am

Your feathered friend,blue jason
Blue Jason

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