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Change Agent


Published April 1, 2014 at 4:00 a.m.
Updated April 4, 2022 at 7:52 p.m.

My husband, Daniel, is the consummate frugal New Englander. He prefers to travel only when it's absolutely necessary. When he shops for groceries, he returns with enough cans of beans to get us through a nuclear winter. Just a couple years out of college, he had paid off his student loans.

This past summer, when a friend's teenage daughter accidentally backed into his 2000 Volvo station wagon, denting the door, Daniel refused to let her pay for the repair. Instead, he asked her to buy a rubber mallet — then enlisted her help pounding out the dent.

Daniel and I have separate bank accounts, in part because of our very different spending styles. It's not that I'm reckless; I'm just impulsive. If the timing is right and I want to fly off to South America for a month — and spend the next year paying off the bill — I'll do it. You can't put a price on experience.

Still, we're good together. Daniel keeps me in check, and I convince him it's OK to indulge every once in a while. Without me, he might never travel or go out to dinner. He might still be toughing it out wearing a vest over a hoodie sweatshirt in the dead of winter because he can't stomach buying a real coat.

I'm thankful our daughter will grow up under the influence of our push and pull: Daniel's responsibility, my spontaneity.

Last July, appalled at the interest mounting on my credit card bill, Daniel talked me into sitting down with him to create an Excel spreadsheet. He wanted to show me how much money I was hemorrhaging over time by paying off my debt incrementally. I begrudgingly agreed — and was horrified by what I saw.

That's when we decided to start our first ever joint savings account. Since then, we've contributed a portion of our paychecks to it each month. It's thrilling. Never before have I seen money in my account actually grow. It may not be enough to buy a house, or to put our daughter through college, but it's a start.

In this month's Kids VT, we're talking about money — how kids can learn to earn it, save it and spend it wisely. In "Play to Pay" (p. 18), Mary Ann Lickteig talks to Vermonters about their first paying jobs and the lessons they learned from them. In "Go Ask Dad" (p. 16), we find out how some local fathers respond when their kids ask for that fancy new pair of shoes their friends just got.

In the "Art Of" (p. 17), Alison Novak catches up with some South Burlington high school students who have turned trash into treasure in an art class on creative reuse. And in "Tax Talk" (p. 27), Nancy Stearns Bercaw gives her tax-obsessed 10-year-old son a lesson in why we pay.

Want to set your child up with his or her own bank account? Several Vermont financial institutions offer special programs and incentives for kids. Learn more in this month's "Project" (p. 57). It's never too early to start saving; just ask my husband.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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