Lessons of an Allowance

Teaching children to manage money is sometimes challenging, but my husband and I have found several methods that have worked for our family.

As each of our children entered first grade, we began paying them an allowance. For each child we also held a special family home evening in which we explained the importance of budgeting the allowance. At the same time, we gave our children different containers marked “Tithing,” “Savings,” and “Spending.” We used a contribution envelope for tithing, a glass bank for savings, and a small cardboard box for personal spending money. We also found that giving allowance in coins for the first few months helped make this budgeting method easier for each child to understand and follow.

When our children had saved the minimum amount required to open a savings account, we made it a special occasion to break their glass banks and take them to our bank to open accounts in their names. Each time a child saved $20, we added it to that child’s saving account.

Allowance in our home is not based on behavior or academic achievement. We have used it strictly as a tool to teach basic budgeting principles rather than as a tool to reward or discipline. To encourage saving, we give our children their allowance on Mondays rather than near or on weekends, when they are more likely to spend it.

When our eldest son neared age 12, we held a budgeting session with him each month to help him learn more about controlling his own finances. We reviewed the coming month with him and then helped him determine his expenses. We gave him a small notebook in which to record his expenses and then helped him budget his funds to cover them. As the other children turned 12, they too received similar help and encouragement.

Of prime importance in teaching our children to manage finances is allowing them to see and even participate in the budgeting sessions my husband and I conduct for family matters. It helps them see that we also have financial decisions and must prioritize and make choices.

My husband and I are by no means perfect in estimating the financial needs of our family, but by working together we can usually find a way to solve the problems we have. We can see that our children, though at different levels of managing their personal finances, are establishing sound lifetime habits.Margo Johnson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Building Unity in Family Reunions

“Hey, look who’s here!” Such words of greeting warm hearts at a family reunion. One of the purposes of a family reunion is to build a sense of belonging among family members. The following ideas will help create family unity at a reunion.

Make everyone feel needed. Everyone, young or old, who attends the family reunion can be given an assignment. In some families all teenage cousins are assigned to head important committees. In one family a 16-year-old daughter completed her Laurel project by helping to plan and organize a three-day reunion. Such leadership opportunities send strong messages to youth that they are needed and valued. Even very young children can be given important assignments such as serving in the kitchen along with a parent to help prepare, run errands, or clean.

Create family spirit. One of the best ways to build family unity is to play together. One family may choose team sports while another may hold checkers, chess, or other board-game competitions. One family recruited everyone in attendance to join teams that competed in a series of fun, if silly, relays. Because everyone participated, even grandparents and toddlers, the activity suddenly took on increased importance and everyone delighted in the high-spirited interaction.

Another way to increase unity is by creating a family banner. Some families claim a family crest; others make their own and display it proudly. Ordering matching T-shirts or caps, having pencils printed up with the family slogan, placing the family crest on a pillowcase or some other object as a craft project can also serve as ongoing reminders long after the reunion that we are part of a great family.

Reach out in love. Design activities that help people become friends with family members they don’t know very well. Ask someone to draw the family ancestral tree or make a chart and place it in a prominent place where everyone can refer to it as they sort out relatives. Plan at least one activity involving introductions. Tell how each family fits into the picture and something about family members, especially noteworthy accomplishments or talents. One fun game is to have everyone write down something they’ve done that they think no one else has ever done. These notes are collected and then selected at random so that all can guess who did what.

Watch for opportunities to help youth and children feel comfortable, included, and loved. One cousin can invite another for a walk or game, the family patriarch might chat privately with a grandson, a caring aunt can listen to and encourage a troubled niece. Perhaps youth can be teamed up with adults from another family to interview each other or participate in activities together. Such moments can have far-reaching benefits for every member of the family.

Family reunions are wonderful opportunities to strengthen and support one another, build bridges of love, and create a sense of family unity.

Put Teens in Charge of:

Planning and preparing a meal.

Teaching craft projects to small children.

Organizing a photo, craft, or art display.

Photographing key events.

Arranging for musical numbers.

Ask Children to:

Bless the food.

Recite a scripture.

Give a thought.

Sing in groups.

Family Home Evening: Tastes and Smells of Learning

We can more easily stimulate our children’s learning during family home evening by allowing them to use more than one or two of their five senses during lesson presentations. When one’s teaching style expands from a verbal format to appeal to children’s sight (by using visual aids, coloring with crayons, or writing things down), children’s interest is increased. If touch is also added to the learning process by passing objects around the room, children will remember even more what is taught.

However, drawing on the sense of smell or taste is a helpful teaching technique that is often overlooked. Appealing to these senses adds a wonderful dimension to family home evening lessons. Following are some concepts that can be effectively taught through taste or smell:

Lesson Topic and Sample Activity

  1. 1.

    Deliverance from Egypt

    Prepare and eat unleavened bread or crackers

  2. 2.

    Creation of the earth

    Put twigs, flowers, and dirt in small containers and ask children to close their eyes and smell the contents. The teacher then asks on which day of the Creation the objects were made.

  3. 3.


    Hand out 10 nuts or raisins and let the children eat nine of them to appreciate what a large percentage of our increase the Lord allows us to keep.

  4. 4.


    Hold a fresh clove or cinnamon stick briefly under each person’s nose while his or her eyes are closed. They know something spicy is there but cannot see or feel it. Faith is also an unseen yet powerful influence, for through it we see the truth or evidence of things that we cannot see.

  5. 5.

    Love thy neighbor as thyself

    Make two identical desserts, one for your family and one for a neighbor.

  6. 6.


    Let half the family members make cookies without using a recipe while the rest make cookies following recipe directions carefully. Point out the better results achieved through obedience to directions by those who know how things should be done.

  7. 7.


    Prepare a typical pioneer trailside dinner.

Giving family home evening an extra twist of fun or flavor by including many of the five senses while teaching lessons will help family members, particularly children, make memories and learn lessons they will not soon forget.Dianne Dibb Forbis, Rexburg, Idaho

[photo] Photo by Jed Call

[illustration] Illustrations and props by Kay Stevenson