Any fan of the Pixar “Toy Story” movie franchise will remember the wisecracking animated piggy bank, Hamm. Along with the cast of other nostalgic toys, he steps out on life-changing adventures.
Hamm is in a long line of little pigs who change lives. Since introduced in the 1920s, piggy banks have been responsible for life-changing adventures. Together, families would drop change into these affable depositories and teach children about fiscal responsibility, tithing, preparing for the future, saving for a rainy day, understanding the difference between wants and needs, and more. These were the sound financial principles that families passed from generation to generation.
Then America changed its attitude toward savings as the 1970s ushered in the credit card age. And our friend, the loyal piggy bank, was sent off to a farm.
But he’s back — and he reclaimed his place among the family. After the recession, Americans realized the cataclysmic error in allowing savings to be an afterthought. Now, many families are tackling saving and investing together, and there is no better way than to get back to the simple, yet proven, principles of piggy bank savings.
Most children learn money management skills from a parent, and develop the self-satisfaction that occurs from watching savings grow and determining how to use their money. But savings isn’t just for children. Do you remember the thrill of depositing a shiny quarter into your very own piggy bank? Why should kids have all of the fun? It’s time for adults to rekindle that feeling. As we teach children about the importance of savings, we can recall why it felt so good to feed that pig as a kid.
Here are five ways that piggy bank savings can be a family-bonding experience as well as a fun way for children to form positive financial habits that will last a lifetime.
Teach Kids the Value of Money. To children (and even some adults), the concept of money is vague. To help them take it seriously, engage them in family budgeting if they are old enough to understand. Or let them shop with their own money, learning what things costs. Some parents take this concept as far as requiring their children to pay them back when the child loses something.
Define Wants Versus Needs. Every day, hundreds — if not thousands — of marketing messages assault our senses, urging consumerism. Spend, spend, spend! Some of these products are true needs, such as fuel for your vehicle, food to nourish your family or rainy day gear. Other ads push items that fall into the category of “wants.” You want the new smartphone that others are lining up at midnight to purchase. You want a car that signals you earned a raise. You want that overly expensive pair of shoes because you had a bad day at work. By denying these wants until you’ve made space in your budget for them, you’re showing your children the difference between a want and a need.
Saving Is Fun. Children will look to their parents and other family members to determine their attitudes toward savings. They will mirror your behavior. This is a perfect opportunity to help your child develop a savings habit. Have dinnertime conversations about the percentage of your paycheck you’re investing into a savings account. Set a family goal to save up for a treat everyone will appreciate; you could even use a separate piggy bank for this activity to make it special. And when your child receives money as a gift, talk about saving a portion of it in the piggy bank.
Teach Giving First. Here again, children will adopt what their families do. When talking about financial subjects, speak enthusiastically about the importance of sharing the abundance of what you have as a pillar of a Biblically based financial plan. One way to get children involved in donating a portion of their savings is to encourage them to begin tithing as their first responsibility of earning money.
They Can’t Keep It All. Just as families need to re-learn the art of piggy bank savings, they also need to rekindle their relationships with spending wisely. You can involve your children in family conversations about how you allocate family income. You can apply this lesson to your littlest one’s piggy bank savings, too. Let your kids know it’s acceptable to donate some, save some and even spend some for fun.
And ECCU Start Young Accounts are a great place to begin as they learn to manage their money in these new ways.