What I Learned about Money from a Velveeta Cheese Box
The irony is not lost on me.
While my real-food adult self wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole, I’m thankful for what I learned about money from a 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.
My parents trained me to divide my weekly allowance—and other amounts of money I received—into three portions: Give, Save, Spend.
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. 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.
The boys’ boxes are a bit of an upgrade from my old Velveeta box, but the cardboard dividers do remind me of that 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?
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