The Lost and Found Bin

Last night was Back-to-School night at Ryan’s middle school.  For two hours parents rotate through their child’s class schedule to get the low-down on the upcoming year.  For me, it’s also a chance to see people I haven’t seen in a while.

So there I was, sitting in the gym setting up a carpool for cross country, when the PE teacher began his schpeel.  I happen to be very pleased with the program at the school.  It’s well defined and all kids are exposed to a variety of ways to get phycially fit.  Then he started talking about the lost and found bin.  Twice a year, once at Christmas and once at the end of the year, he fills up five garbage bags of gym clothes and sweatshirts and hauls them to a needy charity.  I think it’s great.  There are probably some really nice clothes in those bags.  What I don’t think is great is that twice a year, once at Christmas and once at the end of the year, he fills up five garbage bags of clothes and sweatshirts.

One of the requirements to the PE clothes code is that all students have their last name written in the designated spot on their PE shirt and their “number” gets written on their shorts.  Like many schools, they have specific PE attire that they purchase, apparently throughout the year…we’ll get back to that.  Ryan has two sets of PE clothes.  One set he wears all week and brings home to be washed on Friday.  The second set he puts in his backpack right after he dumps the smelly ones in the laundry basket.  The second set is for the times I simply do not feel like doing laundry on the weekend. 

I buy both of my boys their first sets of PE clothes.  After that, they’re on their own which means, if they lose a shirt or pair of PE shorts, it’s their responsibility to buy themselves a new one.  And yes, they need to buy a new one.   Not wanting to do laundry on the weekend happens to me a lot.

This is Ryan’s second year in middle school and Nathan is a sophomore in high school.  That means Ryan has been through one complete year of wearing school PE clothes, and Nathan has been through three years.  Not once have either of them lost a pair of shorts or a PE shirt.  We did get a little scare when Nathan was in the eight grade.  He “lost” his PE shoes.  I had him check the lost and found in the boys locker room and they weren’t there.  For grins he had one of his friends who is a girl check the girls locker room.  Sure enough, they were in the girls bin.  Oh happy day because I don’t buy a second pair of shoes, either, unless they’re worn out or outgrown.

So here’s my response to the overflowing lost and found bin.   Apparently kids are “losing” their PE clothes on a regular basis.  And since it is a requirement to come to class dressed appropriately, parents must be purchasing new clothes throughout the year.  And although I’m happy that the “lost” clothes are donated, I’m not sure how excited a kid is going to be to be wearing a shirt with a middle school logo on it and “SMITH” in big, black letters.

First, have your kids check the lost and found.  When they come home from school and say their shirt wasn’t in the bin, tell them that they will need to buy a new one.  Then pat them on the back the following day when they come home with the original shirt, wrinkled and smelly.  (Really, the best way for this to work is to set it up from the beginning.  I buy the first set, anything else is your responsibility.)

Then go through your clothes at home twice a year, once at Christmas and once at the end of the year.  Put them in a large garbage bag and send them to school.

The Mysterious Dollars

Every Monday I pop $5 into a special pocket of both my boys’ backpacks.  The money is to cover two days of eating lunch in the school cafeteria.  They could pick any two days but need to let me know in advance because, yes it’s true, I still pack their bag lunches on non-cafeteria days. 

One Monday I noticed that there were two dollar bills in Ryan’s special pocket.  If there had been two dollars and fifty cents I wouldn’t have thought much about it.  Each lunch costs $2.50 so that would have meant, for whatever reason, he skipped a lunch.  But two dollar bills confused me. 

So I asked him why he had two dollars in his backpack and no quarters.  “Oh,” he replied, “That’s the money I had left over after I paid my library fine.”   He said it pretty matter-of-factly, grabbed the two dollars and left.

My favorite part of this story is the matter-of-factly part.  It’s long been known in our family that we each have responsibilities.  I am responsible for making sure there is a nutritious dinner on the table each night.  I’m also responsible for making their bag lunches on non-cafeteria days!  The boys put away the dishes every night, no reminders…at least not now that they’re trained.  John fights with the sprinklers every weekend in the summer to minimize patchy dry spots.   These are things we just do because we each have a responsibility in running an efficient household.  We all know our roles and there’s no confusion.

It’s the same with kids and money management.  It never once occurred to Ryan that he should ask me for money to pay his library fine.  He was the one who forgot to turn in the book.  Just like we set up rules for completing household chores, we set up rules for who is financially responsible for what.  Obviously as parents we pay for food, shelter, and clothing.  But the extras, like going to the movies, video games, and cell phones…well, that’s up to them.  Oh yeah, and library fines.


I started teaching summer math camps in 2002 for elementary aged kids.  I must admit the reason for teaching them was selfish.  As a former classroom teacher who emphasized hands-on learning I wanted my two boys to be exposed to the activities I taught my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  My boys are older now (13 and 15) but they still come with me when I teach the camps.  The reasons are different.  Working with small groups of kids, Nathan, my oldest earns community service hours and Ryan earns a litte extra cash.  So it was normal for both my boys to be sitting in the back of the room this summer when I started teaching my money management camps.

My husband, John, and I have always talked to our kids about money.  And we designed KidsSave while our kids were watching.  So they already know a lot about saving and spending money and they’re pretty good at it.  I like to pat myself on the back knowing they have savings accounts that are growing and a Vanguard 500 Index Fund that they contribute to when their KidsSave Account reaches a certain balance.  So I was a bit annoyed with myself when, after camp one day, Ryan approached me about the stock market.  That it was Ryan didn’t surprise me.  Nathan approached me after class also, but he was fascinated with putting $100 into an account each month hoping to earn 6% annually and then waiting until he was 65 to pull it out.  Ryan is my little risk taker and he wanted in with the stock market.  The part that annoyed me was that with all this money management stuff I’ve been doing over the years, I never really talked to the kids about owning individual stocks.  How could I miss that one?

So apparently during the talk to my campers about ways to invest and earn passive income the little ears that pricked up were those of my son.   He wanted to invest $500 in Chipotle.  I have always read that kids can be pretty good predictors of how individual stocks will do since they pick companies that appeal to them which means these kids will be buying their products.  And Chipolte, well Ryan LOVES Chipotle.

Before I would let him invest I asked that he read The Motley Fool’s Investment Guide for Teens which he did and we discussed.  Our next step was to open a custodial account at Schwab where he could then be able to buy his shares on line.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for him to talk one-on-one with a financial consultant so we set up an appointment to open the account.  I was proud that when she asked him the ticker symbol and what he thought the shares were trading, he knew the answers.  What he didn’t know was how Chipotle had done over time and that the rating that Schwab had given it was a ‘D’.  His eyes got pretty wide when he saw that big ‘D’.  The consultant tried to assure him that just because it wasn’t rated high didn’t mean it wasn’t a good buy.  But I’m not sure that convinced him.  And although it’s been almost a week since our visit, he still hasn’t asked to buy the shares.

In the car ride home we talked about some of the reasons Chipotle may not be doing well.  It was hard for him to think that maybe others didn’t like it as much as he did so he went with “it’s the economy, stupid” .  And it very well may be.

He’s now considering other areas that may be better at this place in time to invest and I’m not sure where this will go.  The account is ready for him to make his first move.  And I’m pleased that even with his risk-taking tendencies, he is considering his options.  After all, $500 is a lot of hard earned money.