My grandmother had a hard childhood. She grew up watching her single mother struggle to provide during the Great Depression, when jobs were scarce and it wasn’t socially acceptable for women to work. I assumed this poverty was the reason she kept track of every penny as an adult. I thought her many lessons on financial management were intended to teach me to avoid poverty. I was wrong.
Because my grandmother was poor as a child, she loved giving as an adult—and giving to God most of all. She didn’t want to give God the leftovers or whatever remained after she’d bought the things she wanted. No, she wanted to give to God first, and to do so generously, which meant she had to manage her money well.
Everything she taught me about managing money was for that reason. I just couldn’t see it until I was an adult and had my own money to manage.
My grandmother taught me the “80-10-10” method: live off 80 percent of your earnings, save 10 percent and give 10 percent to God. By following this method I, too, have come to love being generous and giving to God. Teach your children about giving early and they’ll receive the gift of giving, which will give them joy for their entire lives.
The first step in teaching generosity to children is to give them their own money to manage—an allowance. For each paycheck I receive, each of my children gets a dollar for every birthday they’ve had. This may not work if you get paid weekly, but it works well if you get paid semimonthly or monthly. The amounts are small enough that they can’t make a big mistake, but big enough that they have decisions to make.
Next, help your child make three piggy banks: a “spend bank,” a “save bank” and a “God bank.” For ours, we used glass jars wrapped in paper that my children had decorated. Then it’s time to explain to your child that every time they get an allowance, they are to put 10 percent in their God bank, 10 percent in their savings bank, and 80 percent in their spend bank. (You may have to help them with the math and with having correct change.)
They can use their spend bank to buy whatever they like. Have them set a goal for a large item they want to buy with their save bank. They can take their God bank to worship whenever they like and put its contents in the offering plate.
Through these practices my children have learned to love giving to God, just as I do, and just as my grandmother did. They still need monitoring, but they love to give, and that’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever given them.