Lessons From a Toddler and a Plastic Piggy Bank

coins and piggy bankThis past weekend I was in New Orleans enjoying the FinCon conference.  This conference is a gathering of financial bloggers, planners, and media companies who all have the same goal.  Talk about money!  It was a productive conference to say the least, but the best lesson came when I got back home.  If you have never been to a conference, then you should know there are usually free gifts (swag).  You can usually get some cool stuff depending on the booth you go to.  I picked up some nice things, but most of them were for my young son.  He is not even two yet, but getting there.  Who wouldn’t love a bunch of trinkets more than a toddler?

When walking about the expo hall, I noticed a piggy bank.  It was plastic and small enough to fit in my carry on.  I picked one up in hopes to give it to my son. He already has a piggy bank, but it is really nice and metal.  Since he likes to throw things, a plastic one is better for him to learn with.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want a metal piggy bank going through my wall.

When we got home on Sunday, I unpacked my bag and gave him a few of the free gifts.  He wasn’t impressed by any of them, except for the piggy bank.  It feels good as a financial blogger when my son smiles seeing a piggy bank.  I know he doesn’t understand what it really is, but we can all have dreams.  Hopefully he wasn’t smiling and saying “Oh, MONEY!!!”

Watching My Son Interact with a Piggy Bank

What fun is an empty piggy bank?  I mean really?  Who would want a plastic bank with nothing in it?  I know I don’t.  When I gave it to him at first, he smiled and picked it up.  Then we wondered what it was for.  I had some change in my pocket, so I put it on the floor.  He has never messed with coins, so this was an all around experience for him.  I showed him how to put the coins through the slot and he tried to imitate.  It took some time to understand the point of this exercise, but he got it.  It was fun to watch him put the money in the bank.  While it was fun, it also showed me a few important lessons.

Saving Money Can Be SLOW!

I can see now why so many people give up on saving money.  It is a slow process. When you don’t see your money growing, you might give up. My son would get frustrated when he couldn’t get the money in the bank.  He would then get mad when he struggled to put more than one coin in at a time.  He obviously didn’t see the reward of putting the money inside the piggy bank and he wanted to do it faster.

He had more fun and laughed when he could just put the coins through the bottom of the bank.  I would take off the cap and let him play with it.  Putting money in faster kept him more engaged.  I can see this in real life. We all love to put a lot of money into savings.  It feels better and makes us keep going. It is motivating seeing that money grow much faster.  Who doesn’t want to save more money?  I know I do.

Key Lesson: While saving money can be slow, figure out ways to make a game of it.  Try to learn new ways to save and create savings milestones. Don’t get discouraged when you can’t save as much as you want.

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It’s More Fun Taking Money Out

scrooge mcduckI might have to work on this part, because my son is showing some signs of consumerism!  Just kidding, he is not even two years old. I will let him play this little game for a little longer, then teach him what this really means.  Anyway, after he would put the  money in the bank, he wanted to get it right back out.  He tried to shake the bank to get the money to fall out of the slot, but that is hard to do.  He would hand me the bank and ask me to open the cap on the bottom. I would hand him the bank and he would pour the money on top of himself.  He was like Scrooge McDuck throwing money all over himself.  After I got that image out of  my head and realizing we didn’t have a pool full of coins, I realized he was having more fun taking the money out and playing with it.

Think of it for a minute.  Who doesn’t like spending money on things?  Yes, I know many of us personal finance bloggers love saving money, but there are times we like spending it too.  Everyone does.  Our culture is built on spending.  Most Americans don’t save money and I have shown that before.  There are temptations all around us to spend money, but very little incentive to save.  The average big bank savings account rate is around 0.10%.  That is $0.10 for every $100 saved.  Ouch!

Key Lesson:  While it is always fun to spend our money, make sure you are still saving enough.  We all have many goals for our money, but most of us want to retire and travel.  Saving money is imperative to reaching those goals.  Yes, I understand the YOLO concept, but don’t catch yourself saving “Damn YOLO, now I have no money to retire on!”  That would sting years down the road.

My son showed me even early on you have more excitement taking the money out of the piggy bank. Maybe this is why piggy banks aren’t as popular.  It only takes one good whack with a hammer to enjoy your riches.  Temptation can be great and our instant gratification can be appeased quickly with our savings.  Many of us, including myself, sometimes let consumerism get the best of our intentions.  Hopefully we can continue holding onto today’s dollar to enable to to use that dollar when we really need to.  Saving money is awesome and I love it, but there too many with little to no savings.  Let’s hope my son will evolve to love the idea of keeping those coins in the bank and not opening it up when he wants a good laugh!

 

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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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14 comments
debt debs says September 23

I’m sure you’ll teach him awesome lessons, Grayson. I can visualize him throwing the money around like scrooge McDuck – so cute! I got a piggy bank last week at a training session for CPA’s to do volunteer talks in the community. I was going to use it as part of my presentation and now I wish I had picked up another one for my grandson! Of course, he’s only 11 months old and coins would be inserted directly into mouth at this point. When I was a baby I swallowed a nickel and deposited it into my diaper a few days later!

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Holly@ClubThrifty says September 23

My kids each got the Chase piggy bank too! They have already put some money in them but it came directly out of their existing piggy banks =) They are still pretty good at saving though!

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Shannon @ Financially Blonde says September 23

I didn’t have room for the piggy bank, but wish that I did because I love the clear design which means you can actually watch your money grow. I did something similar with my son and used a piggy bank. It’s amazing how much more powerful the savings efforts become when you can see it right before your eyes.

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Kassandra @ More Than Just Money says September 23

I have no doubt you’ll successful teach your son the art of saving money. Nice way to draw the parallel of your son’s experience with the piggy bank to how adults mostly view saving and spending money.

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Kim says September 23

We got a similar one of those last year and it was loads of fun. We also have a pony bank that is a pink pony instead of a pig. It’s incredibly hard to get money out of it, so I think that’s a great type to have. It’s never too early to start saving, but at two, it is more fun just to play with the money.

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Kayla @ Red Debted Stepchild says September 23

Great story! I love the comparisons you used here with your son’s reaction to the piggy bank and how most of us adults feel about spending vs saving money.

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Erin @ Journey to Saving says September 23

I love the lessons you took away from watching your son play with the piggy bank! It’s really interesting to see how kids interact with some things. I’m sure he’ll be a great saver as he has a great role model!

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Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says September 24

I remember the time when I was a kid and received my first ever coin bank from my mom. The moment I got it, I quickly sat down and got my coins in my pocket. That’s the defining moment that I would save money and be the richest kid in the world. Wow, that’s what I call courage I had back then!

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Travis @Debtchronicles says September 24

It’s also fun to watch the piggy bank get more full. I had a piggy bank when I was little – well, it was a rabbit. I like to put coins in it because I was in awe of how heavy it felt. I wasn’t allowed to open it until it was full…but I LOVED to pick it up, fell how heavy it was and wonder how much was in it. I put any extra coin I could find or save into it just to try to get it full faster!

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John @ Wise Dollar says September 24

We got a few of them last year and I think your son is on a better track than my kids…they just turned into weapons for our kiddos, lol. That said, it is always fun to watch them interact with the money and piggy banks especially as you get to start rolling in some teaching into it.

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Laurie says September 24

Saving money has always been hard for us because of the reasons you mentioned above. But, by following the above tips, we are indeed growing a handy little nest egg. Making a game out of it really works for us. Mostly what I do is when the kids want to buy stuff (with their money, of course 🙂 ), I pay for it out of our checking account and then when they pay me back, I throw that cash into savings. I also throw any excess cash I have into savings since I don’t use cash much. These little tricks really add up to big savings quickly.

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Jon @ Money Smart Guides says September 24

It’s all about making it fun. When I was little, I had a piggy bank in the form of a vault. I had to spin the dial to put in the code to open the door. Inside were chambers for coins (if you put a coin in the top, it would go into the correct slot for a quarter/dime/penny/nickel. Then under that was a drawer you could open to stash your paper money. It made saving money a lot of fun.

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Sassy Mamaw says September 28

This is an awesome lesson. It seems that some things never change! As adults we decided she l with the same feelings. I am going to use this example with my grandkids. They are 5 – 14, and I think they will enjoy th e story and see the lesson, too.

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Kimmy Burgess says September 30

I have also got a similar one for my kid. While many child experts are advising parents that piggy banks are a good way to teach a child to save, the lessons in money management have to go further than how to drop coins into that little slot every week. But one thing is for sure, your child’s first piggy bank can be used as a ‘stepping stone’ to higher savings and investment goals.

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