When was the last time you saw a sizable pile of cash?  And no, movies involving suitcases stuffed with $100 bills don’t count.

Cash is becoming less visible in our everyday lives.  There are predictions that we will eventually become a completely cashless society.  Money transactions using credit cards, online banking services, and our smartphones are trending higher.  So to see actual piles of cash in person can be a little jarring.

I had this experience recently when assisting with counting money after a fundraiser.  This was a small fundraiser that accepted cash only, although there were a handful of checks as well.  Separating those bills into piles of ones, fives, tens, twenties, and hundreds felt oddly satisfying.  Clean bills, dirty bills, crumpled bills….they all still had their monetary worth.  The amount of trust we place in the value of these pieces of paper can be a bit frightening when you think about it.

The children that stopped by while we were counting all had the same reaction- eyes widened in surprise, mouths open in amazement as real life math was happening right in front of them. For a few glorious minutes, we were even more interesting than an iPad.

Once the sorting was done, it was time to count.  How much cash did we receive?  What about those checks?  Where were the receipts so that we could total the expenses?  After all of the calculations were done, it was clear that all of the hard work had paid off.  The money was neatly tucked away in an envelope, to be delivered and deposited in a bank.  There were tired faces all around, but also expressions of satisfaction and gratitude.  

As we were driving home, I thought this would be a good time to talk to my kids about what they saw today.  I had them think about all of the time and preparation that went into planning the fundraiser.  Did they notice the crew of volunteers, tirelessly giving of their time and energy?  Just for kicks, I threw in some math questions as well: what if each of those volunteers was actually a paid worker?  If they were paid $10 an hour, how would that change the amount of money that was raised?  What if the items being sold were charged differently?  Of course, we then had to delve into the subject of supply and demand.

Yes, these are actual conversations I have with my children.  They are young enough to think that I have marginally interesting things to say.  I have a feeling this will not last long, so I’m trying to impart as much wisdom as I can in this short timeframe.

As a result, my kids now understand the idea of revenue, expenses, and profit.  These concepts make up the bedrock of our own personal finances. Do our expenses (spending) match our revenue (income)?  Do we have enough profit (money left over?).  I hope that I can continue to teach my children the importance of fiscal responsibility, which I’m afraid will become more difficult as our concept of money is becoming more abstract.  

Do you envision a cashless society?  What are some teachable moments that you’ve had recently?  Comment below!

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