The Math of Savings: Lessons From My Brother

Money Saving Is Easy Once You Do The Math!

Growing up, my parents were really big on saving and so they tried their best to nurture that habit in us. Safe to say my brother grasped it and prospered with it. I, on the other hand, chose to fly with getting a Jumbo Junior account, because I wanted a Red Piggy Bank. Which of course I got (thanks Mum!). I thought all talk of saving would end there at the acquisition of the Red Piggy Bank. And then, I learnt that there was a huge Jumbo Junior event at the end of the year, and being a sucker for parties, I wasn’t going to say no to that. I wondered if I should wear red to the event?
It was fun and everyone at the bank said things that made a lot of sense: saving your money will help you get a better education; how you could buy things that you wouldn’t imagine you could afford. Even houses! I was a kid; how could I think about college?

Even though I heard all that stuff about saving, I couldn’t really save. I could save for a week, maybe two, but every time I had 20 bob, I bought candy. My brother didn’t; he saved and saved. I thought it was silly! Here I was with candy and he didn’t have anything. Imagine my surprise when he bought a brand-new bike, with his own money! What??? A bike??? It suddenly dawned on me. Saving is the REAL DEAL.

Fast forward to 2020. Now I’m supposed to set the example at home and get the kids to focus on putting their shillings away for a “rainy day”. Some of the key strategies I’ve learnt over the years:

Goal Setting

Using my brother as an example, the reason why his saving skills as a young child were better than mine were, was because he always knew what he was saving for before he started to put the money away. Unlike me who just liked to hear the clink of coin-on-coin when it landed in my Red Piggy Bank, he would compile a list of things that he wanted, and then go a step further to find out how much each cost.

It’s All In The Math

After which he would sum up the costs, then do the simple Math of Multiplication and Division to figure out:

If he was saving sh.20 a day every day, how many days would it take for him to be able to buy that pair of sneakers he had been eyeing, if the shoes cost, say, Sh.1000

The Art of Negotiation

Perhaps too long. Right! But that’s where his negotiation skills came in. Saving sh.20 daily would require him to save for up to 50 days, and that’s roughly a month and a half. But to a child 50 days of saving feels like an eternity. So, what he would do to shorten the days would be to strike a deal with my parents. The deal being:

If he was able to come up with half the money in 25 days, they would reward his efforts by topping up the other half.

Genius, right?

Patience Pays

And so, the journey would begin. Slowly but surely, sh.20 would go into his Piggy Bank every day for a month. And at the end of the month, he got that pair of sneakers! The efforts of his sweat and sometimes tears… because imagine not being able to buy chocolates and replace your ‘banos’ because you’re saving for a pair of sneakers? Si Rahisi!

But eventually his efforts paid off. When he got those shoes, he wore them everywhere. And this taught him patience, self-discipline and accountability. All qualities we would love our children to have.

The best part, as soon as he ticked this off his list, the journey to another bigger and better item would begin. So, while he ended up with a whole Sneaker Collection, I just had coins in a Red Piggy Bank that did not amount to much. Which is why I am taking my kids to him this weekend to learn the “Math of Savings”.

How about you? What tips and tricks have you been using to teach your kids the Math of Savings? What’s funny is I’ve been seeing some Jumbo Junior ads on the Akili Kids! TV Channel and it brings back memories for me. So much so, that I’ve also decided to bring them all to open Jumbo Junior accounts. I wonder if they still have the Red Piggy Banks?