Budgeting Lessons– the $5 Project





We’re off of school today– our “President’s Break” goes from Saturday to Tuesday every year, so this is the last day of laziness. And it seemed like the perfect time to continue my most important ongoing project– raising these little people to become savvy, productive members of society.



Right after breakfast I got them equipped. I provided:

  • paper
  • pencil
  • calculator
  • my last receipt
  • the current ALDI flyer



I asked each child to create a list of food and/or drink items they would like to purchase at ALDI. The deal? They each had $5 to spend– no more.


We talked about ways to keep track of spending. How some people are very competent at keeping track of prices in their heads as they shop, while others prefer to use a calculator. We problem-solved how to account for items with prices we didn’t know for sure. And then I left them to it.




Tuesday mornings are a great time to hold a budgeting session at ALDI– it was pretty quiet there. And, honestly, once we got there, I just let them do their things.


At the end of the day, here’s what we wound up with:










They all kept to the budget!


[Please remember that this experience was all about BUDGETING, not cooking from scratch or choosing real food or any of that. ;) ]


It was super interesting to watch them. My oldest, who’s also a fantastic mathematician, felt confident keeping track of everything in his head. My dreamy artist, who rather despises math, chose to make a list she could calculate at home before we ever left– that way she wasn’t under time constraints and felt confident that she wouldn’t go over. The remaining child chose to carry a calculator and keep a running total, while calculating how much money was remaining in her head.


I love that they all used different methods, but they all worked equally well. I think that’s such an important take-away– there’s not one “right” way to keep to a budget.


In the end, they were all super happy with their choices and, honestly, very proud of themselves. I fielded lots of questions about budgeting and decision-making on the drive home.


At the store, they were approached over and over again by shoppers and store employees who could see they were following a list and tracking their spending. All were super impressed and thought it was fabulous. When one of my children later asked me why everyone was so pleased about this, I was very blunt– “too many grown ups are no good at budgeting. Other grown ups know this and are happy to see you practicing so young.”


This whole exercise– from the planning to the shopping to the unpacking at home– took less than an hour.


I’m calling it time well spent.




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