The Cost of a Penny

There are many rumors out there about congress trying to do away with the penny. Many stories also include the conspiracy that it is the legislature from Illinois that is the biggest hold up, Illinois is after all the land of Lincoln. Depending on the current cost of materials a penny can cost any where from $.013 to $.018 to make. These numbers fluctuate with the commodities markets. Since pennies are made of part zinc and part copper, figuring a standard cost for production is not easy. You have to also figure in the energy and labor costs plus distribution.

Here's the catch: Pennies are priceless. They have no expiration date, and they can be used over and over and over again.

Now take your average credit card. It takes more money to make a credit card than a penny. A credit card can be rejected, and it comes with an expiration date. Credit cards have to be protected from identity theft. And you can't use them in a power outage, or a road side stand. And worst of all, you can't watch them swirl around the vortex in a science museum.

A penny is a powerful coin. There is no limit to what they can buy, especially if they band together.

Teaching kids to use and make change is a powerful step in helping them learn to respect the value of money.

Book of the Week - SMART

Shel Silverstein has a great poem about money on page 35 of his book Where the Sidewalk Ends. The poem is called Smart. You can find it on Amazon, most book stores, or your local library.

Quick Synopsis

A kid gets some money and makes trades with various people each time he thinks he is getting the better deal. But he doesn't understand the value of the coins, he just knows that he has more actual coins than he started out with.

Using this Poem with Kids

This poem is intended for kids who actually understand the value of money. Some kids have this mastered in Kindergarten, while others may not truly understand the humor until third or fourth grade. But even junior high kids will smirk at the silliness of "little Kids."

Use real money as a demonstration while reading the poem through to give kids a visual of what is happening in the poem.

For early and middle school, you could figure out what they should have traded, and how he could have ended up with even more money.

Try to figure out who got the "best deal" out of all the trades.

Use this as a jump start for talking about why we have multiple coins in the first place. Hat would happen if we only had pennies, or dollar bills, how would that change the way we did business, or carried our money around.

The Basics - Pick up that Penny!

I know germaphobes around the country are cringing right now, but really you should be washing your hands more often any way.


If you don't usually, I am curious why not. Is it too much work? Do you not really need it? Are you afraid of the germs?

Because if you see a penny, and don't pick it up, you are teaching your kids something about money. And you may not like what they are learning.

Its okay to "throw" it away

Kids will take you literally when you talk about "disposable" income. Leaving money on the ground is essentially throwing it away. So the next time your kid wants some crazy gizmo, and you tell them "we aren't just going to throw our money away like that." The message is: we don't throw our money away by buying silly things, we throw our money away by literally seeing it on the ground and walking away.

Now you See it, Now you Don't

Once kids get a basic understanding of money, and what it can do, they understand that you might want more of it. What they won't understand is that sometimes you want more and sometimes you don't. You are willing to buy on sale, use coupons, and count the change the cashier gives you, but you won't take free money?

What's the Point?

Sure a penny is just a penny, and you can't buy much all by itself, but did you forget that it all adds up. One of the great bank fraud stories involves people stealing fractions of pennies from many accounts. They became millionaires just from pennies. You may not become rich by picking up a penny, but it all starts somewhere.

Finding Green
When you get in the habit of picking up money, you will soon spot it every where. And not just pennies. Nickles, dimes, quarters and even dollar bills. Once I found a twenty pound note in the airport. People don't usually drop just pennies, so if you keep looking you are bound to find all sorts of change that has been mistakenly dropped.

Don't really need it...

But I bet you could use it. Don't you hate breaking a bill, just for a couple cents. If you had loose change, you wouldn't need to. If you really don't need it, the least you could do is pick it up and donate it. Wishing Well coin drops are all over, or save it for the Santa Bell ringers at Christmas. You may not need the money, but someone out there really does.

Find a penny its yours to keep, give it away, and blessings you will reap.

The Basics - Counting coins

Here's an activity to do with your kids: run around this house and find loose change. Kids from an incredibly young age can sort money. Being able to sort money is the first crucial step in learning how to identify coins and their value.

It is also a very handy skill for older kids to be able to sort, count and fill their own coin wrappers. Why pay a percentage of money at the market to have a machine sort it for you when you have perfectly capable kids at home to do it? You could even offer a percentage to your kids to sort, count and fill for you, if you really want to pay someone to do it.

At our house we have a family jar that loose money goes into. Every once in a while we sort it, count it and fill the wrappers to take to the bank. We use the money to go toward a group gift for our family. . An important lesson here is that kids can see that it all adds up. A little bit here, a little bit there, and pretty soon we have enough for a new game!


Things I love Thursday - Snappis

Things I Love Thursdays


There are so many things I love but this week has to go to Snappis. From a recent yard sale deal of the week, I acquired a large collection of cloth diapers for only three bucks. Always up for a challenge, I decided to try my hand at cloth diapering. After 3 kids, with plans to eventually have a fourth, you would have thought that I would have tried this with the first one, but in my journey to momliness, I wasn't there yet.

Well, I have been clothing it off and on for over two weeks now, and the more I do it, the more I do it. I started with just one cloth diaper a day (times 2 kids). I figured that it was saving about $.25 every time I used a cloth diaper, plus it was one less in the landfill.

They have these great Velcro diapers these days, and soft diaper covers. Unfortunately, they are quite pricey, even used on eBay. But everybody has the prefolded cloth diapers. I can easily pick them up from friends or yard sales for like 10 or 25 cents each. Most people just used them for burp cloths and such.

The problem is the dumb diaper pins. I was always leaving them open on the floor, they were hard to push in, and I couldn't get a snug fit. Then I found the snappi.

I love that it is such a simple design, keeps the diapers snug, is easy to use and quite cheap. But how does it help me teach my kids about money?

I want my kids to see that disposable things almost always end up costing more money. That convenience is not cheaper. However, ingenuity can take a classic product, like diaper pins, and make a modern counterpart, like the Snappis, and this is what moves our economy.

I have not been paid for this, I just say it like it is.
Do you have any tips for me, a newto-the-cloth-diapering-world mom?


Book of the Week - The Stolen Smell

The Stolen Smell

(Story Cove: a World of Stories) (Paperback)by Martha Hamilton (Author)

This story was recently featured on Between the Lions, a learning show on PBS. This is a great story for teaching kids about money.

Quick Synopsis: a boy enjoys the smells from a treat shop, but doesn't buy anything. The storekeeper feels ripped off, so takes the boy to court. The judge grants in the shopkeepers favor, but the damages end up being quite fair. The boy may enjoy the smells as much as he wants, but each time he has to pay the shopkeeper with the sound of money!
Here are some questions to get a discussion about money going:
Wouldn't it be funny if we had to pay for things we smelled?
Was that a fair decision that the judge made?
How do you feel about paying for things you don't get to keep?
What about musicians, or artists, how can they make money?
Are there other times that we pay money to see things, or hear things, or feel things that we don't get to keep?
Depending on their age you could go in a different direction:
What if somebody made a smell you didn't like? Would they pay you?
How much would you charge for something that you made, but didn't have to give up?
Which do you think has more value, something you get to hold, or something you see, hear or smell?
Reading books with kids is a great way to bring in those teachable moments. You can check out this book from your local library, or watch it on YouTube.

Shopping with a Calculator, Part II

Besides just being a good example for your kids, there are some practical things that they can do with a calculator while shopping. I sorted them by age, but you may find some ideas work well for any age.

3 and under

1. Calculators make great play phones (I know they aren't learning about money this way, but sometimes surviving a shopping trip with a toddler is more important.)

2. Kids can learn numbers or just exploring what they can do on a calculator. Trust me, their teachers will thank you later.

4 and up

1. Teach them the symbols for adding or subtracting to help them do some simple math.

2. Have them figure out how many items are needed for your family.

3. Have them figure out which price is cheaper, and how much cheaper.

10 and up

1. figure out cost plus coupon

2. Price comparing on sale items or store brand

3. figuring cost per item in a package.

4. discovering if bulk packaging is cheaper

5. estimating total bill

Habits and Skills

If your kids learn these skills at a young age, and use them regularly, not only will they have a more discerning eye as they shop and grow, but they will also have a leg up on their peers who will struggle to learn how to do this from a book in school. Nothing compares to the real world application of math in the market place.

As your kids get older and more experienced, you will see that they depend on the calculator less and less, and that they start doing it faster in their head. If you want your kids to do it the hard way, feel free to have them bring paper and pencil, but I am giving ideas on quick ways to teach about money, not math processes.

If you have multiple children, they can compete in finding out who can solve the answer fastest, or who come s closest to the total bill at the end.

Shopping with kids can be fun and ALWAYS educational.

Do you have more ideas that you can do with a calculator in the store.


Shopping with a Calculator, Part I

The next time you go shopping, especially to the market, take a calculator with you. This is an easy idea that can be adapted for many ages. Even if you never use it, it can be fun for your kids to play with while you shop. But here are some ideas that you can try that will get kids involved in the learning process:

They Can Watch You

This is always a great way for kids to learn. Here are some things that they can see you do:

1. figuring out the best price (some stores have this on their tag, but not always)

2. figuring out how much you need

3. figuring out the sale price

4. figuring the serving size or how many are in a package

Here are some examples:

1. The Yoplait yogurt is on sale for $.50 cents each, but the Dannon is also on sale for 10 for $5.00 which is the better price?

2. You have a family of four, you each eat 2 hot dogs how many buns will you need?

3. The applesauce is 30% off of $1.89- what is the actual cost?

4. You have to buy cookies for your class of 20, there are 15 cookies in each package, how many packages do you need so everyone can have 2 cookies?

5. Is there are a value pack?

Many of these things you could probably do the simple math in your head, but talking it through as you do it on the calculator helps kids of all ages understand the process, even if they can't do the math.

The idea is to take the normal things that you do every day (or week) and turn them into learning or teachable moments. Because the truth is, Kids are ALWAYS learning. This way you are being conscience of what it is you are teaching them.

Stay tuned next time for more shopping ideas with a calculator.


Welcome to my blog about teaching money to kids. I hope that the information that you find here helps you with your own kids or at least kids that you care about. Some ideas may even help you.

Let me tell you a bit a bout me. I have an AS degree in Early Childhood Education, a BS degree in Elementary Education, and working towards a Masters degree in School Administration. I am currently a stay at home Mom with three kids: Miss Love (4 yrs), My frog Prince (soon to be 3), and Big G (just turned 1).

I have learned about money from great parents, small business management/accounting classes, an awesome husband, listening to Dave Ramsey, our own money experiments, and reading everything related.

I want to share with you tips and strategies that you can use with your kids at any age, books and resources to guide your way, and open up a dialogue that will bring you and your family to a comfortable place with regards to money.

Please feel free to ask me any questions, and I will do my best to answer them. Thanks for your time.