Counting and Giving Change – The Life Skill of Money


The other day, I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through and my total came to $11.52.  I took out a $20.00 bill and handed it to the teenager working at the window.  She looked at the computer screen, looked down at the open cashier drawer, put her hand in every coin slot appearing to pick up coins, and then turned to me and said, “I have your eight dollars but I can’t make your change so you can go to the next window.”  Maybe 48 cents change wouldn’t be a big deal to some, but I wanted all of my change. 

I said to the worker, I will give you 52 cents and you can give me another dollar.  She said, “can’t you just pay with a credit card.”  At this point, I took a very deep breath and offered to assist her with counting change.  She looked at me confused and stated, “you still want the change?”  I said yes.

Money skills are so essential for life.  Understanding money skills goes back to understanding math with a decimal point.  These skills are learned in the elementary years and developed more in the middle and high school years.

When reflecting on this post, I thought about my own children and how I could help them learn money skills for adulthood.  The topic of allowance came to mind.

Allowance can be beneficial as it can

  • Show kids how money transaction work
  • Teach kids what it takes to save and budget money
  • Gives kids a sense of responsibility and independence
  • Lets kids experience buyer’s remorse on a small scale

However, if allowance isn’t set up correctly it can be detrimental.  Check out this article 9 Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Kids an Allowance

At my house, we are not giving an allowance currently.  We have developed the philosophy of “being part of the family” and being part of “the team.” 

On weekends, each child is given five chores to complete.  These chores range from watering the plants, putting the shoes away to making their bed, etc…. Check out this article for age-appropriate chores

After their assigned chores they have the option to do extra chores to earn small amounts of money.  Each additional chore is assigned a monetary amount ranging from twenty-five cents to a dollar. 

The money each child earns from chores is theirs.  They get so happy when we count out the money they earn.  Their faces are so bright and their smiles so big.  They start talking about what they want to spend their newfound wealth on.  We have them research the item they want to spend money on and once they reach the needed amount (plus tax) then we take them to the store.  They pick it out and pay the cashier. 

The first time we took them to the store, they were so upset about taxes because the tax took more of their “hard-earned money.” I’m sure we can all relate to this.

Not only do we need to teach our children how to make change and how to earn money but we also need to teach them all about money.

Check out this article titled 13 Things All Financially Savvy Teens Should Know For Financially Literacy. 

At Occupational Therapy Family Services, LLC we specialize in social and life skills. Check out our services for classes that will meet your child’s needs.


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