Drops of Time in the Bucket

I’m trying to teach them budgeting, these two teenagers of mine. When they were younger we started with the very basic Give, Spend, Save system with three envelopes from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, Jr. set. But through the chaos of the last two years we’ve moved away from carefully dividing their “commission” up properly in percentages. Instead they squirrel away any money they gain, often forgetting where it is and certainly spending it like water every time they go to the store. Then Coronavirus came and made us nervous to even use cash at all. I started a virtual “Bank of Mom” in their budget, writing a big running total on the dry erase board on the fridge, so they could continue to earn money but not have the cash in hand.

Then I got fancy. I decided to make each of them their own virtual budget using our favorite family budgeting tool, YNAB (that’s You Need a Budget). I put the app on their phone and had them make up categories for their money. That’s when the confusion started.

As with any money management software, there are accounts (where the money lives) and categories (how the money is assigned). Easy for us adults (did I mention we LOVE this platform?) Not so easy for my very tangibly minded kids. Turns out having some money in the “Bank of Mom” and some in “In my Wallet” and some in “In the Safe” (these are accounts) and then attempting to assign the SAME money to categories like “New Bike” and “Sister Sister Shopping Day” and “Tithe” and “Summer Camp” is a hard thing to get your brain around when you’re 13 and 15. They kept thinking they had double money, and accused me of “taking it” when I reiterated their actual money remaining. Honey, that money only spends once.

Finally I decided the banked money was the problem. With an abundant slathering of hand sanitizer, I went to the bank and pulled out all the cash I owned them. Then came a Mini Lesson by Mom on the kitchen counter as we re-counted and re-assigned all their money. A series of bowls was set out and labeled with sticky notes – one for each categories they wanted. I instructed them to physically put the cash in the bowls. After that, I helped them line up the YNAB category totals to match. My youngest declared “Oh NOW I get it. The bowls help.” (Yay for tangible lessons about non-tangible concepts!) Wrapping cash in the sticky notes with paper clips, they put it all back in their wallets.

One issue: Coins. My oldest declared those don’t matter – they’re not worth anything. Something in my cringed. Yes they are worth something. They are in fact the very root of the paper money. Without partial dollars, we can’t have whole dollars. Without whole dollars, we can’t have fives and twenties. And without those, we’ll never have those coveted Benjamins. It trickles up. Rolls up. Adds up. Partial dollars are the foundation of the whole system. So I insisted she count the coins and assign them too. (She gained a good $8 doing just that!)

I’ve been in thought about this concept of redeeming the small things. Let’s talk about time for a minute. I often breath a little side prayer that goes like this:

Lord, help me redeem my days…
my minutes and my hours.

Minutes are small. They don’t count, right? I can squander this minute, even this hour. In the end its just a small thing. What I need to worry about is the big budget, the production of the whole day, or even the month, right? But without the redemption of the smaller units, the larger ones will never show progress. They are the drops in the bucket of our lives.

In fact we only have a certain (and unknown) amount of years given to us. The very concept of legacy or accomplishment is based upon how the minutes and the hours are spent and how they add up to those years. The glory of a life well lived is born in the glow of moments well spent.

Spent. Spending time. Notice how we use this “monetary” word to describe the conscious passing of our time. Its as if we dip into our wallets and pull out coins with each passing minute. Don’t despise the coins. And don’t ignore them. Don’t live for the big money moments only. Instead, live in the small ones – the breath of now, and the work of this minute.

If day after day flow past us like water, what will they add up to be? Its a reminder our budgeting lesson brought back to my mind and I’m striving to honor the minutes and the hours – for that is all I really have.

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