Adding It Up

I have a complicated relationship with math. I won’t say that I’m not good at math per se, but I don’t really like it. I know it’s important but it makes me nervous. Sure, I know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Just don’t make me do it in front of you. I panic and freeze, immediately forgetting the basics and then I get flustered and just guess. I’m really self-conscious about it too. This weekend, my daughter’s Girl Scout troop ran a cookie booth and I was often in charge of making change. I tried to do the math while the customer and my fellow parents were distracted so no one would see me counting it out on my fingers.  (Look over there! Is that Elvis!?…aaand here’s your change.)  When it’s time to figure out the tip at restaurants, I always hand the check over to my husband. Not because I want him to pay, but because I need him to do the math so our poor waitress doesn’t get stiffed. He always says I could never hit the black jack tables in Vegas. I could never add my cards up fast enough to keep up! (I hear they frown on number lines in Vegas.)

And that’s how I feel about math. I dislike it intensely. I wish it came more naturally to me, but it makes me uncomfortable. Therefore, I avoid most things having to do with numbers like the plague. What I’m about to confess to you in light of that may surprise you. I am in charge of our finances in my family. Yep, me– the math-phobic, addition-challenged one is responsible for making sure that our checkbook balances and the bills are paid. For the most part, at least for the past 6 months or so, I’ve had a decent handle on things. By that I mean, bills are paid on time and if they can’t be paid on time I at least know why and how quickly I’ll be able to catch up. Trust me, this is progress.

I need to get over my fear of math because it would help with so many things. Take budgeting for example. Because I avoid numbers, I don’t really pay attention to how much things cost and their impact on our finances. If I want something, I buy it and deal with the consequences later. (What do you mean I can’t afford that new wardrobe for Spring? I have money in the account right now!!) Grocery shopping would be easier if I were at ease with math because I wouldn’t over spend and I’d be better at comparing values. I also would like to learn to budget so that I can actually have some money saved. Not just for the proverbial “rainy day,” but so that I can start to show my daughter the value of saving. My fear of numbers is getting in the way of me being in control of my current financial situation, which could mess up her financial future.

Earning some bank! Photo: K. Stevenson
Earning some bank!
Photo: K. Stevenson

Being financially savvy isn’t something that comes naturally to many people; it’s something that is learned, starting when you’re a kid. It scares me to think that I’m the one that my daughter is learning this from. Zoey is a 5-year old sponge who still hangs on most of every word I say. Now is as good a time to start teaching her about saving, spending and giving, even if I have to start learning how to do it myself.

That’s why the financial education starts tonight. At our Girl Scout meeting, we’re learning about money. The troop worked really hard on selling cookies, which earned them some money for their troop to spend however they decide. My co-leader and I are going to play some fun games to teach them about money and what it can do for you. We’re also going to teach them about what it can do for others. We’re hoping the lessons will give them some exposure to how much things cost and that you can do nice things for other people and still have fun!

The lesson is going to continue at home too. I want to get a piggy bank that separates her coins into categories of saving, spending and giving. I like that it will give her a visual so she can easily see her progress towards these three simple goals. I’m going to keep the goals small for now, maybe summer ice cream truck money to spend or buying diapers for a food pantry for giving. I want her to make the connection between the coins and the reward. This is just the beginning and I hope to find ways to continue teaching her about money.

Anyone ever try this?  Photo:
Anyone ever try this?

This might be one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” moments, but if I play my cards right we can all learn from this experience. Just thinking about doing this with her has inspired me to get my books in order and contact a financial planner for some help. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even start my own “saving, spending, giving” piggy bank and treat us all to something nice. Or no, I should save the money, yes, saving is good. You know, for like, college…I have a long way to go.

6 thoughts on “Adding It Up

  1. Truth! I feel like I was reading my life story. I pay the bills, but I cant budget at all. I just spend what I have. I’m worried about my daughter and money. Mainly I’m worried about helping her with college, her first apartment, or even her wedding.

    1. Thanks Jenae; It’s really hard, but I think we have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t do it all by ourselves-this budgeting, planning, saving, digging out of the hole. We don’t live in a vacuum. That’s why I’m trying to reach out to someone, anyone for help figuring this out. It’s going to stink, but I have to take a long, hard look at how much I spend, what I’m spending on, and why am I spending it. I am trying to do it for myself but more importantly, for my daughter so she doesn’t get herself into this situation. Good luck to you!

    1. Thanks Michelle! It’s so embarrassing especially when I’m with my husband who is a math whiz! Thank goodness for my tip calculator app on my phone when I’m by myself. Gotta use my resources!

  2. Good for you for being proactive! I just LOVE the idea of that box and want to remember this when lills is old enough to learn about money. We all have our areas of insecurity and I think it’s brave of you to talk about and it’s totally rad that you’re going to do something with your girls out troop! You rock!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I’m trying to think of a creative way to make a bank like this myself. I’ll keep you posted if I come up with something.

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