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A ledger for peace

I’m not much at finance. I’m good at math, and very organized, so you’d think I’d do OK at bookkeeping. But on the contrary: I hate bookkeeping and it hates me. I do the bare minimum required for my business and force myself monthly to balance our home accounts. When I’m a penny off, I get driven insane trying to figure out where that money went. It’s hard for me to give in and just adjust the register.

My Ledger sheet

My Ledger sheet

So it’s probably understandable that I haven’t done much bookkeeping with my kids. They get their allowance every week, they get paid for various extra tasks they do, and sometimes they get incentive payments for behavioral issues. They’re expected to keep their money in one place, keep track of it, and spend it on things that they want that we don’t want to pay for.

That system, however, had some problems.

First of all, I would shrug when our son mysteriously had another $10 to give me to buy him yet another iTunes gift card. (What did kids of our generation spend their money on? Oh, I guess we were always wanting to go down to the record store, but there was the fact of working out how to get there, so I’m guessing we spent a lot less, or at least a lot less often!)

“Where did that money come from?” my husband will ask. Uh, well…

The kids could also exploit my leaky memory. “You didn’t give me my allowance this week!” my daughter would exclaim, and search me if I did or didn’t.

And then there were the arguments: “She stole my wallet!” “No I didn’t!” “I’m sure I had $20 in here and now I can’t buy that software I’ve been saving for!” Et cetera.

So I got on the warpath, the only time I ever really get much done. I stormed upstairs and looked for a ledger sheet to download. Nothing. Just software, which we have. But software can be much more easily altered than a piece of paper! I wanted them to write down those numbers, add, and subtract so they could actually see where the money went.

I tried printing from Excel, but if you don’t have anything in the fields, the boxes don’t print. I tried buying a ledger book, but they were horribly expensive online, and nonexistent at the office supply store.

Finally, I thought, OK, I am a graphic designer, after all. We bought them report folders that would hold their ledger sheets, and came home. By then, it had occurred to my slow-moving brain that I could probably figure out the Excel thing. So here’s the trick: I did try all the various preferences and options, but really, the easiest way to do it is just to insert a space in each cell so that Excel prints the outlines of all the cells. I made the cells big enough for a 7-year-old’s handwriting. Then I PDF’ed it, and voila!, a perfect kids’ ledger sheet.

You may have it, free of charge (click here).

Will this solve the problem? Well, we still have the problem of my leaky memory. I really have much more important things on my mind than my kids’ money, like what to have for dinner and how to solve all the world’s problems. My fix for that is that they’ve been informed that any money that mysteriously appears in their account will be taken away. Every deposit and withdrawal must be initialed by a parent.

And we still have the problem of wishful thinking, which I guess will just be solved the next time my kids say they want to buy something they can’t afford. It used to be that they’d immediately accuse the other child of taking their money, or me of not giving them allowance, or something like that.

Once you start keeping track of your money, you have to face the cold, hard facts.

Hey, maybe that’s why I don’t like bookkeeping!

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.

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