You’re never too young to learn fiscal responsibility; and this is especially true for the kids we care for at Door of Hope. We are a local non-profit that helps families and children experiencing homelessness. I’ve been the After-School Program coordinator at Door of Hope for a few years now, and I want to share with you how we are teaching our kids how to manage their money.

Our overarching goal in the After-School Program (ASP) is to try and break the cycle of homelessness to ensure that our kids never return to homelessness as adults. The ASP covers all aspects of child development: education, emotional stability, and physical wellbeing. In addition to those areas, we are building in life skills to our kids that will serve them for a lifetime.

Being a good steward of finances and resources is at the top of that list. We want to ingrain a value of money in our children, as well as provide an understanding of how financial institutions work so they are comfortable with them at a young age.

In 2006, Door of Hope started what at the time was called the “ASP Bucks Program.” This is how it works:
We have a student store full of toys (mostly through donations) and each toy has a price tag. As kids do well in the program, do their homework on time, do their daily reading, participate in activities, and have a good attitude, they earn “Door of Hope Dollars.” Once a month our kids can take those Door of Hope dollars and use them to purchase toys.

This process teaches kids that money is earned and not given to you. It also teaches them the value of saving. If they want to buy the remote controlled car, or the basketball, they may have to save their money and purchase it next month, sacrificing the instant gratification of buying something now to ultimately get what they really want. Today it’s sacrificing a rubber ball for a toy car, but in the future it could be sacrificing a vacation to eventually buy a home.

For years this has been an effective method of teaching our kids how to save and we have seen it work time and time again. As the world has changed, and the way managing money has changed, we have evolved with it. We recently transitioned from handing out green paper currency and pink colored paychecks to online banking. Our children can deposit or withdraw funds, receive automatic salary deposits from their chores, and gain interest on a monthly basis.

“This is so cool; I can check my checking account balance on my smart phone!” - An 8th-grade girl in our program

We not only teach the kids about savings and compound interest, but try to provide real life economic scenarios for them. For example, during a period of inflation last year we inflated our ASP store prices. Yes, the kids were devastated, but we taught them an important lesson on declined purchasing power from their hard earned money. We don’t do this often in our program but when there’s an opportunity to apply real life economic principles we want to educate and inform our kids.

Unfortunately, homelessness has been a vicious cycle that repeats itself through multiple generations. We will not stand for it. We are committed to using every technique and resource at our disposal to make sure with our kids the cycle ends here.