Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Smart Money Smart Kids Book Review

Raising Money Smart Kids

Before we became parents, my husband and I asked a number of seasoned veteran parents a list of questions to gain wisdom in raising our own children someday. We received incredible advice about raising kids to love God and love others. We got advice on schooling, friends and even dating. Much of that wisdom still guides our parenting philosophy today—more than 10 years later! 

There was one question that we asked that continuously stumped parent after parent; “What do you do to teach your kids about money?” We got a lot of blank stares and very few pieces of advice. Why? It seems as though most parents simply didn’t have a clue as to where to even start, let alone how to actually raise money-smart kids.

That was us five years ago. Our kids were 3 and 5 years old and we felt overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to care for our young family on a pastor’s salary while staring at a mountain of college debt.

We knew something needed to change in our financial lives so we decided to take our small group through Financial Peace University. To make a long story short, we paid off $25,000 worth of debt over the next 14 months! During our time in FPU, we were inspired not only to get our own financial life in order, but also to help others along the way and most importantly to change our family tree.

However, we found ourselves frustrated by the lack of kid-specific resources to help us navigate this new world of teaching kids about money. Over time we were able to create something that works well for our kids and our family, but it was done with a lot of trial and error.

I found myself wishing that Dave Ramsey would write something specifically for parents to help us raise our kids to be smart with money so they would never have to know the burden of debt that we felt.

I desperately wanted a manual, a guide, a road-map to follow to help us navigate these uncharted parenting waters of raising money-smart kids. Well, it took a few years for my wish to come true, but alas, IT’S HERE. And it’s way better than I ever could have anticipated!

Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze, co-wrote a book called Smart Money Smart Kids. It is everything I could have hoped for and so much more.

The book is written in a fun conversational style which gives readers both Dave’s and Rachel’s unique perspectives.

My favorite quote of the book is from Rachel, “I like to say that my dad is the emergency surgeon, and I’m the preventative medicine. Nobody gets people out of a financial crisis like Dave Ramsey, but we’d both prefer it if people never got into that kind of mess in the first place. That’s become my crusade.”

As much fun as it was to hear Dave’s perspective on raising money-smart kids (which he obviously knows a great deal about), I found myself dare I say, even more intrigued by Rachel’s perspective than his. This is not to say that I wasn’t captivated by Dave, but Rachel has a voice of her own that I firmly believe is going to resonate with countless parents who will use this resource as a way to change their family tree for good.

I am confident that Rachel will be used to impact the next generation perhaps even more-so than Dave has. That’s the beauty of raising kids, there’s always a chance to leave a legacy, to change your family tree and to leave this world better than you found it. Dave’s greatest impact on this world may very well be through his kids and grandkids. I am hopeful the same will be said of me someday!

Just after the quote mentioned above, Rachel goes on to talk about exactly what you will find in the book. “I’ll walk you through what it means to raise money-smart kids. I’ll explain how I learned the importance of a strong work ethic, and we’ll explore specific ways you can pass that on to your children. I’ll teach you what my parents taught me about spending, saving, and giving. We’ll talk about debt, why it’s so devastating for young people, and how to teach your kids to avoid it—especially when it’s time to head to college or buy a car. We’ll tackle some tougher topics like entitlement, enabling, and contentment so that you can help your kids define what “enough” means for them. We’ll talk about relationships and how money often gets in the way, sometimes actually destroying families and friendships. And finally, we’ll talk about how to raise children who have the emotional, spiritual, and moral backbones to receive the financial legacy you might leave them one day.”  

Rachel (and Dave) cover all of that and so much more in Smart Money Smart Kids. It really is a must read for parents with children of all ages. If I were the begging kind, I really would beg you to please, please, please pick up this book. Read it. Dwell on it. Put it into action. It WILL change your family tree!

You are reading a series about Raising Money-Smart Kids that I am writing as part of a

Smart Money Smart Kids book launch team. We are often asked what we do to teach our kids about money and good stewardship. In this series I will share our story along with some of our best loved tricks and tips for helping kids win with money in a debt-filled world. Click here to read more posts in this series.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lemon Cupcakes


Some posts simply don’t need many words.

lemon cupcakes

This is one of those posts.


Lemon Cupcakes. Yummmmmmy!


The Nitty Gritty:

I used the lemon buttercream from the Wilton website

I may or may not have used boxed cake mix a secret recipe for the cake itself

The lemon peel garnish is grated lemon peel tossed in sugar

I used a combination of tips #124, #97, 2D, a small star and small round tip to create the different icing techniques you see here. The flower technique can also be found on the Wilton site.

The yellow candy center is none other than lemonheads. Fun, huh?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yellow Cupcake Roses with Red Tips




This bouquet of yellow roses with red tips was created for an Options Pregnancy Resource Center volunteer appreciation banquet. It started out as plain yellow roses, but I decided to try hand painting the tips with a pinkish-red food coloring.

I used a basic buttercream icing and Wilton 1M tip (2D works too!) to create the roses. After I piped the roses I refrigerated the cupcakes to let the icing stiffen enough to paint the tips.

For a rough tutorial on putting a bouquet like this together, see this post.

The embellishments are a combination of tissue paper and fake flowers. I happen to have found all of the necessary supplies to make this bouquet at my local Wal-Mart.

After the fact I found this video tutorial which seems like a much easier way to accomplish a similar look: Live and learn I guess! This video will also show you how to create the rose technique itself. You’ll be amazed at how simple it actually is!

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 ways to help your children SPEND WISELY

Raising Money Smart Kids

In our own personal household budget, every dollar has a name before the month begins. We don’t look back over receipts and accounts to figure out where our money went. Instead, we have a plan and we stick to it. We put a certain amount of cash from each paycheck into envelopes for all of our discretionary spending, and we put a small amount onto our debit card each month to catch the crazy stuff we could not have anticipated at the beginning of the month. In fact, we call it our “crazy” account. Any dollar that comes into our house goes straight to a predetermined specific place. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

If we got an unexpected windfall of money, no matter the amount, I can tell you without question where it would go. We would put it toward our current Financial Peace baby step. For us right now, it’s baby steps #4 (15% toward retirement), #5 (kid’s college) and #6 (paying down our mortgage).  I know… we’re weird. But normal is broke, so we don’t want to be normal! (But, in all fairness, if we suddenly got a large unexpected windfall we might rearrange some choices and priorities to make room for some of the things that just haven’t been in the budget up until this point.) We have a plan and we do our best to stick with it, but we aren’t so rigid with it that we can’t make exceptions.

Let me give you the quick overview of what we do with our money:

We give some, we save some and we spend some.

It’s already awkward sharing our money principles with the world wide web, so I won’t go in to specifics about how much we spend, save and give, but I will give you this:

We spend more than we save and we save more than we give.

If you want to know more of the nitty gritty, take Financial Peace University or read Total Money Makeover. We follow many of those principles but we put our own little spin on a few things that we’ve found work best for our family. Of course, if you are local, we’re always happy to delve into the details a little more for people who are looking for some specific money advice. We are very passionate about helping people win with money because we’ve seen firsthand what a difference it makes in our own lives.

The people that we are most passionate about helping are our kids. The biggest and most lasting impact we will have on anyone is our children. As I mentioned in my article 10 Tips For Raising Hard Working Kids, my husband and I believe that what we teach our kids about work and money will have a bigger impact on their future than almost anything else outside of choosing to trust Jesus and choosing who they are going to marry.

It is important than that we not only teach them how to work hard, but also, how to spend well. After all, they can make a great deal of money by working hard, but if they are a fool in how they spend it, they are likely worse off then someone who makes very little money, but spends it well.

What does it look like to teach kids to spend well?

Here are some of our favorite family tips and tricks:

1.) Help your kids create a plan: Since our kids got their first job charts at age 6, they’ve been getting leeann envelopespaid a quarter per job. We pay them once a week or so and 10% goes in their giving envelope, 40% in their car fund and 50% in their spend envelope. They can spend their spend money *almost* any way they want, but the kicker is that they must have a plan. There is a spot on their job chart for them to write what they are planning to spend their money on.

(This picture is of Leeann making her first purchase using her own money. She worked hard to buy her very own Nintendo DSi!)

2.) Help them stick to their plan: We don’t let our kids walk around with money in their pockets looking for a place to spend it. We are trying to help our kids make decisions based on logic instead of feeling. It feels good to get that pretty thing that spins and shines because it’s right in front of their face and they are a human being that craves instant gratification—but making a habit of seeking instant gratification will leave them in a perpetual state of being broke. I don’t expect my children to make anything other than childish decisions (like seeking instant gratification) without adult help, so we “help” them by making them stick to their plan.

3.) Let them be flexible with their plan: “Wait, I thought you just told me to help them stick to their plan?” I did. But really, there will be times where something comes up (recently for us, it was a Book Fair at school), or your kids find something else they’ve also wanted on sale at a really great price. When these things come up, a change in plans must be parent approved. They have to be able to give us a logical reason for why they want to change their plan. But as long as it’s a reasonable, logical request—we’re happy to grant it.

4.) Allow them to make mistakes: This one’s hard for me. So often I want to stop my kids from making foolish purchases. I know full well that they are just about to spend their hard-earned money on something that’s going to end up in a pile of plastic pieces under their bed in 3 days or less. Guaranteed. But most of the time, I *cringe* let them make those purchases anyway. Why? Because it’s a cheap lesson to learn. I would rather let them make small mistakes with small amounts of money now then watch them make big mistakes with large amounts of money down the road.

4.a.) Steer clear of worthless things: I do try really hard, and yes, usually even forbid my kids from spending money on arcade games, quarter candy machines and cheap kiddy rides at the mall. I know it flies in the face of #4, but a mom’s gotta draw the line somewhere!

5.) Talk to your kids about their mistakes: I talk with my kids before they make purchases that I think are going to be foolish and try to help them see the folly in what they are about to do. Then, if they are determined, I let them make foolish purchase in spite of my warnings (see #4). Usually, I end up getting an opportunity to talk with them at a later point and help them connect the dots between my warnings and what actually ended up happening. It’s scary to be right so often *mwahahahah*! Teaching kids how to spend well requires a lot of… well… teaching.    

6.) Don’t EVER let them go into debt: We are extremely passionate about raising our kids to understand the foolishness of debt. It is our sincerest hope that they will take all of these lessons we are trying so hard to teach them while they are young—and use them to become money-smart adults who are wise, hard working, generous members of society. It’s much harder to be those things when you are saddled with debt. We want our kids to always know the financial freedom that comes along with being debt-free. In order to solidify this lesson we have established a policy where won’t purchase something for our kids and let them “work it off”. They either have the money for it or they don’t. We also don’t lend money to our kids and we don’t allow them to borrow money from each other either. The only exception to this is if I know they have the money to cover their purchase in their spend envelope at home when we find ourselves in one of those “flexible” moments (see #3).  

7.) Help your kids find good deals: Your kids will need help navigating this big wide world of coupons, dsisales-cycles, comparison shopping and on-line purchases. Kids learn by example, but not just by watching you do it; bring them alongside of you and let them help in this process. If they can’t do something themselves (like cut coupons or do an on-line search) then make sure you dialogue with them about what you are doing and how much you are helping them save by taking these extra steps.

(We helped Leeann find a screaming deal on her DSi by combining a coupon with a limited time store sale. This was a huge moment for her because she met her goal far sooner than she would have imagined!)

8.) Define what spending well means in your household: Different families have different value dsi2systems. Talk with your kids about why you make the kinds of purchases you make. Are you willing to spend a little more to buy something made in America? Something handmade? Something that supports small local businesses? Something earth friendly? Something organic? Something whose proceeds go to a cause you support? Something high quality? Something with lasting value? Whatever it is, don’t forget to talk regularly with your kids about what you believe and why you believe it. I think this stands true not only for moral beliefs but also for money beliefs. 

9.) Tame the Grandparents: If you are trying to be intentional about raising money-smart kids, you will eventually find that you need to have a conversation with the grandparents (or Aunts, Uncles, babysitters, etc.) and solicit their buy-in. Ask them to run any intended gift purchases by you to make sure they aren’t just giving your child something they’ve been working hard to purchase themselves.

9.a.) The exception: My tune on whether or not it’s okay for the grandparents to spoil my kids changed a grands 1little when my husband’s mom died all-too young. We now stand by the adage “Grandma’s house, grandma’s rules”. However, it doesn’t mean that we forgo having those tough conversations to do our best to make sure Grandma isn’t sabotaging our efforts to raise money-smart kids.

When we went to Circus Circus in Reno with my mom and step-dad last summer my mom gave them some money to spend. I made my kids budget the amount they were given over the days we were going to be there and gave them strict instructions not to ask for any more. However, they were told that they could graciously accept any additional money with a “thank you”. It was hard to enact #4 and especially #4.a., but again, sometimes rules have exceptions!  

10.) When it’s gone, it’s gone: Please, for the love of all things good and holy, don’t let your child think of you as a glorified ATM. That’s not how the real world works. If kids aren’t able to make the work=money connection, they will find it very easy to spend money on foolish things. Because my kids have learned the cold hard truth of “when it’s gone, it’s gone”, they have become very thoughtful about how to make the best use of their money.


These are some of our family’s favorite tips and tricks for helping our children to spend their money wisely. If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to help you teach your children to become money-smart kids, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to pick up the book Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze. If you pre-order before April 22nd, you also get $50 in cool freebies!


You are reading a series about Raising Money-Smart Kids that I am writing as part of a Smart Money Smart Kids book launch team. We are often asked what we do to teach our kids about money and good stewardship. In this series I will share our story along with some of our best loved tricks and tips for helping kids win with money in a debt-filled world. Click here to read more posts in this series.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

10 Tips For Raising Hard Working Kids

Raising Money Smart Kids

If you work you get paid.

If you don’t work you don’t get paid.

It seems like such a simple truth doesn’t it? But that simple truth seems to get lost in a world where everyone is trying to get something for nothing. It definitely doesn’t sink in to the minds of our kids without intentional effort on the part of the parents.

If we don’t teach them this simple truth while they are children, they may end up not learning it until they’re sitting at the bottom of a huge mountain of debt and despair.

My husband and I believe that what we teach our kids about work and money will have a bigger impact on their future than almost anything else outside of choosing to trust Jesus and choosing who they are going to marry. It is a BIG deal.

We are determined to have hard working kids, but hard working kids aren’t developed on accident. It takes time, intention and effort on our part. 

10 Tips For Raising Hard Working Kids

1.) Teach by example: More is caught than taught. If you already have kids, you know that this truth stands without further explanation.

    • Encourage them to help you with household chores and mundane tasks. Use this time to build your relationship and also to teach them how to do household jobs well.
    • Take your kids along with you to your place of employment and let them work with you for you a little while. 
    • Take your kids with you to help others. Are you helping a family move? Mowing a neighbor’s lawn? Cooking a meal for a new mom? Invite your kids to participate and they will learn the art of working and the joy of giving.


I work as a Standardized Patient at a local Medical University. My daughter has not only been able to come to work with me, but she’s also performed a pediatrics case with me on a number of occasions. She gets paid (rather well, actually) for her hard work and it’s been a great experience. My son is doing his first case in a couple of weeks too. It’s not a typical opportunity for grade-school children, but if you’re willing to think outside of the box you will find that opportunities do exist to help kids gain valuable real-world work experience.

2.) Create opportunity: When my daughter was six she wanted a Nintendo DS. We had just done a complete overhaul of our own financial lives and knew that we would be missing a huge opportunity if we didn’t pass our newfound knowledge along to her. We told her she was going to have to work for it, but that we would help her find opportunities to earn money.

Together we made a plan to sell Italian Sodas at a friend’s garage sale <---- think modern day lemonade stand. We invested in syrups and ice but she bought the cups, straws, cream and soda and whip cream with her Birthday money.

italian soda 2italian soda

I emailed all of my local friends and told them about her desire to earn money to purchase a DS. People came from far and wide to help her reach her goals. It turns out people get pretty excited to help a kid work for something they want!

This experience set a foundation for my daughter to learn some basic business lessons like supply and demand, cost of goods, profits margins, etc. Each time she does a little business venture (of which there have been several) she adds to her knowledge and understanding of business and money.

Of course I had to work quite hard myself, but it was more than worth it because she learned one of the most valuable lessons of her life that day—if you want something, you work for it!

3.) Reward their efforts with praise: Liberally praise your kids for their effort. The youngest of children will work diligently and tirelessly to know that you are proud of their effort. Even children only 6 months-old try their best to crawl when they see you delight in their efforts. In my experience, this is predictably true with kids of all ages.

A four year old child’s bed will look messy when they “make it”, but if you praise their efforts, they will keep trying and quickly turn into a 6 year-old kid whose bed is well made.

If you wait to praise them until the job is well done, they may never stick with the job long enough to learn to do it well. Well placed praise is a powerful motivator!

4.) Reward their efforts with money: In our house, my kids have specific jobs that they can do to earn money. We pay $.25 per job. They have four jobs that they can do each day to earn money. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. They also have an opportunity to earn a “bonus pay” at our discretion. We award bonus pays for things like showing initiative, working diligently or doing a job outside of what they normally get paid for that’s above and beyond their household responsibilities.

You can learn more about our job charts and how our kids spend, save and give their income by reading this post.

5.) Let them spend some of their money right away: I know this one might sound a little odd, but the quickest way to motivate a child to become a hard worker is to reward them as quickly as possible after a job well done. The older they get, the longer you can go between the work itself and the reward. But regardless of age, if you’re just starting out on this road of teaching them to be hard working kids, make sure you reward them quickly and let them spend the bulk of their money however they please as soon as possible after they’ve done the work.

Yes, this includes letting them spend money on cringe-worthy things like dollar store toys, silly fads and food that you know isn’t good for them and will be fully consumed within minutes. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in letting them “waste” their money at a young age when the amounts are relatively inconsequential—but that’s fodder for a different post.       

6.) Encourage their strengths: This Fall my son (who was 7 at the time) was raking leaves in our front yard for a little extra cash because he was very close to having enough money for something specific he’d been saving for. A neighbor saw him working hard and offered to pay him to rake their leaves while they were gone for a few days. They had just put their house on the market and wanted to make sure the leaves were raked daily.

My son hesitantly accepted. You see, he’s not naturally a hard-worker. Well, not in the traditional sense. He seems to have little desire to exert physical effort to do something he doesn’t want to do unless he sees some personal benefit from it. He has one of those exceptional minds that analyzes every situation and always tries to come up with a “better” (i.e. less effort) way of doing things.

He asked if he could bribe hire his older siblings to help. At first I was tempted to say no, he had to do it himself. Then I realized that he’s actually very likely to be a manager/boss/diplomat/CEO/world leader/master leavesmanipulator someday. I figured this actually would probably line up well with what he may very well spend his life doing, so I let him sub-contract his job so long as he worked alongside of them too. One day he even hired the girl who carpools with us. I explained that he didn’t know how much he was getting paid for this job so he ran the risk of having to pay them from his own spend envelope if he didn’t make enough.

That was a risk he was willing to take. In fact, because it was getting dark so early and it was so stormy, it ended up being a necessary move since he only had about 20 minutes worth of light after he got done with swim practice. The job was bigger than he could do alone with the time that he had.

He used his brains more than his muscles for this job, but I really I think his brains are going to be his hardest working money-making muscle anyway, so I’m grateful that I had the insight to let him work within his strengths. You’ll be happy to know that he had plenty to pay his employees and still have enough left over to help him meet his goal!

While my son is extrinsically motivated, my 10 year-old daughter is intrinsically motivated. She will work tirelessly all day long to serve people simply because she loves to help. Our 17 year-old foster daughter is a whole different ball of wax. She’s motivated to work by logic in that her wants are more on the spendy side, like wanting to earn enough money to go out with friends or buy a formal dress for a dance. We have to approach our parenting techniques from different angles to account for our kids’ individual personalities. This is true in every area of parenting—and raising money-smart kids is no exception.  

7.) Help them set reachable goals: Confidence and self-esteem are built through setting goals and reaching them. Help your kids develop age-appropriate goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound.

When they set a goal and reach it, they develop internal motivation that will spur them on to working hard to reach their next goal, then their next one, then another one after that. In time, they will become hard working kids.

8.) Help them reach their goals: Once your child has set a SMART goal, become their biggest cheerleader. Be careful not to to reach their goals for them, but do work with them to help them accomplish what they’ve set out to do. They’re not miniature adults. They need adults to walk alongside of them and work with them to teach them how to work for what they want.

Even though teenagers look like adults, they still need our guidance too. They still need a cheerleader and coach to help them reach the goals they set.

9.) Strike a balance between work and family: I am a firm believer that kids need to have regular on-going opportunities to earn money if you want them to learn about money and how it works. Practice makes perfect! However, I’m also a big believer of kids doing jobs around the house just because they are part of the family.

In our house we have a set number of jobs that each of the kids get paid for (4 each) and the rest of the things they do just because it takes effort from all of us to keep our household running smoothly. We choose to pay them for setting the table, clearing the table, washing the table, emptying the dishwasher, switching loads, taking out the recycling and checking the mail. These jobs get switched up and rearranged from time-to-time, but the principle remains. They are welcome to work to their hearts content and we’re always happy to find extra jobs for them if they’re looking for extra work, but everything else they do just because they’re part of the family. 

10.) Provide for their needs and provide opportunity for them to work for their wants: I am not a magic genie. I don’t ever want my kids to think of me as one either. I am a parent and I’m determined to be the very best parent I can be. Therefore, I will provide for their needs to the best of my ability and I will provide them with an abundance of opportunities to work for what they want.

We take a certain amount of money out of each paycheck that we put aside to pay our kids for their jobs. We WANT them to be hard workers so we give them lots of opportunity to work for what they want. The only way they’ll learn to be motivated to work for what they want, however, is if they are responsible to purchase the things they want with their own money.

Think about this. Your child wants a $10 Lego set. You want them to have this Lego set. You could either 1.) Go out and buy the set and give it to them yourself. Or 2.) You could could help them reach their goal by providing them with opportunities around the house to work for the money to buy it themselves.

Either way they get the Lego set, but if you make them work for it you are helping them build life long survival skills and you get cheap labor. I’d say that’s a win/win… and a no brainer!  

BONUS: Read the book Smart Money Smart Kids: Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze have recently written a book that puts all of the Ramsey family wisdom on raising money-smart kids in one place. Most of the ideas we’ve put into practice in our own family have come from being students of Dave Ramsey’s materials for the last five years. I recently received an early-release copy of this book and I assure you that it is well worth your time and money.

You don’t have to take my word for it—you can read the first two chapters yourself by going to the Smart Money Smart Kids webpage and entering your email address at the bottom. If you choose to pre-order the book before April 22nd, you can also get $50 worth of cool “freebies”.


You are reading a series about Raising Money-Smart Kids that I am writing as part of a

Smart Money Smart Kids book launch team. We are often asked what we do to teach our kids about money and good stewardship. In this series I will share our story along with some of our best loved tricks and tips for helping kids win with money in a debt-filled world. Click here to read more posts in this series.