If every good deed your child did was worth one dime, how long would it take them to save up for a trip to Disney? A year? Five years? Never?
I can tell you from experience that it only takes seven months of chores for a child to earn enough dimes to pay for a ticket to Disney!
Seven months was the length of our previous deployment, and during that time my children diligently added their chore money to a 1-liter bottle marked “Dimes for Disney.” By the end of the deployment, they had earned enough for the family trip!
Saving money can be a difficult concept for young children. If you put all their money into the bank or a saving’s account, they can’t see it. If they save all their birthday money and earnings in a piggy bank, it takes a long time to amount to anything. And once it does, it’s tempting to spend it on a cool toy from the store, a stuffed animal, or a neighborhood yard sale.
When my children were very young, we struggled to determine the count of their allowance. At first, we paid them a few dollars per month, based on the age of the child. So, our 5-year-old could earn $5 per month. However, if they were punished, complained about chores, or fought about responsibilities, then that quantity would be reduced. Unfortunately, that meant they were often barely breaking even each month. We needed a system that was more meaningful and rewarding for everyone.
Before my husband’s 7th deployment, I had an idea: what if instead of subtracting their allowance every time they made bad choices, the children were instead rewarded every time they made good choices? I realized it might be more satisfying and meaningful for them to put coins into a jar every time they did something right. Then I could “catch” them doing good things and reward their behavior. (In parenting, this is called positive reinforcement, and it’s often more effective than the negative reinforcement of punishments.)
As we prepared for deployment and started to discuss with our kids that Daddy would be gone for seven months, we also shared some exciting news with the kids: once deployment was over, the whole family would take a trip to Disneyland! We were stationed in Camp Pendleton at the time, just an hour from Disneyland, so this was an easy and inexpensive way to do a daytrip to Disney. Planning a family vacation together gave us all something to look forward to after deployment.
Saving our dimes became a visible way for the children to countdown the deployment, work towards an exciting goal, and celebrate progress as a family. Here’s how our dimes for Disney plan worked:
- I started with a clear, 1-liter water bottle. 1 liter will hold about $350 in dimes. We decorated it with mouse ears, but wanted to be able to see the coins inside.
- The military discount tickets from ITT were about $100 per person, so our goal was for the three kids to collectively earn $300 for their tickets. (We obviously had a separate budget for the adult tickets, food, and souvenirs for the trip.)
- A roll of dimes is 50 dimes, worth $5. Each month, I would get eight rolls ($40) from the bank or Commissary. I kept the dime rolls next to the bottle, so it was something easy they could do throughout the day, without it taking extra time or effort from me.
- Whenever the kids did something kind, helpful, or positive, I would tell them to put a few dimes in the jar. If they helped each other with chores, both children added dimes.
- If we collectively did and rewarded $40 worth of chores—400 dimes—during the month, then we were on track to reach our deployment goal!
400 dimes per month may sound like a lot, but that is an average of 13 dimes per day. With three kids and multiple opportunities for chores (clean up after dinner, put away laundry, help your sibling, do homework) it really added up quickly. Each month, I marked a line on the side of the bottle to measure progress.
At the end of deployment, we had a dime counting and rolling party, and the kids had earned their Disney tickets!!! Ultimately, we paid for the tickets and let them spend their chore money on food and souvenirs, since that was more tangible and exciting for them.
This is a great money-saving strategy any time your military family is preparing for a big event. Sure, it is easy to measure the time—and the savings—during a deployment. But it is also useful if you are counting down to a PCS move, or a trip home to visit family, or even the time before a new baby arrives. Any time the family is anticipating a big event, make it more rewarding by saving together!