Bottles and cans, just clap your hands.

When teaching our kids about money and how the world works and preparing them for the future it’s important to remember the little things. Especially when our kids are young. We want to ensure they are prepared for whatever the world throws at them. While we want them to thrive by giving them the skills they need to excel we need to make sure we give them a solid foundation.

Which is why I want to share a story about our most recent trip to the bottle depot. About once a month we take all the bottles and cans that we, and our downstairs roommate, have used back to the bottle depot. The boys love it and look forward to getting a little bit of spending money. We usually get between 15 to 20 dollars. I split the money between the 2 of them (when my younger one is old enough they’ll have to split it 3 ways.) For them the simple rule applies, 50% goes to Daddy Bank and 50% for spending money.

This most recent trip was different. We had a neighbor who was having a large birthday BBQ party at his place and needed to clean-up his yard in preparation for the event. He asked us if he could park his trailer at our place and explained that the contents of the trailer was all trash destined for the city dump. Being neighborly I agreed thinking nothing of it. Of course, the boys decided that playing in the junk trailer was a good idea. While they were there they discovered a large black garbage bag full of cans and became excited. After further investigation, we discovered 13 full large garbage bags full of bottles and cans. Before taking these during our regular run to the bottle depot we checked with our neighbor who had no desire to sort through them at the bottle depot. His intention was to take them to the dump with the rest of his trash.

Now first off I love how my kids responded. They understood that an opportunity presented itself and the payoff was going to be greater than the usual payoff from a bottle and can run. In addition, there is much to teach my kids from this event. However, I think my next thought would be to explain the difference in how people think. Changing how we think can change our lives. My neighbor was looking at a way to clean up his yard, my kids saw a way to make money. I also believe we need to start with the little things, especially with our kids. On our monthly run to the bottle depot we may only bring home $20 but add that to $10 saved by shopping at the thrift shop, additional funds saved by refusing to buy things that we would likely through away anyways and look over a few years and we are talking about the difference between student loans and being debt free after college or university.

I am not saying we forget that there are bigger prizes than a few dollars in bottle money but for our kids at an age when we need to target what makes sense in their heads, money is money. And a little over time can mean a lot in the future. And that can mean a mindset of saving rather than spending.