Last year, I wrote about a special project our family started working on at Christmas: The Family Piggy Bank. I bought a piggy bank, wrapped it up, and set it under the Christmas tree, with a label that read, To: Our Family Merry Christmas! From: All of us!
My daughter was really intrigued by this, and I was excited to explain that this would be the best gift we would receive this year, by far.
This is how it works.
All year long, we will all be putting money into our communal piggy bank. We will be creative with ways to make more money available for savings, and plunk in there as much as we can. Each month, we’ll open it, count it up, and record the amount. We’ll put it in a larger jar somewhere we can see it, and see if we can match or exceed that amount in the next month. At the end of the year, this is our special gift to ourselves– a big chunk of cash to use for TRAVEL.
And this is what we did, all year. At first, we were super-motivated, and in the first month we managed to put almost £100 in. We gave up our winter Friday pub nights and put the £10 in the family piggy bank, and played games around the fire at home. Things waxed and waned through the year, and the summertime was particularly expensive.
I put some money I earned through freelance work into the family piggy bank, and Amelia added some lemonade stand earnings. Jeff had some vacation time he didn’t use this year, and put the cash-out money into the family piggy bank.
All year, we put change, an extra bill here or there, etc. into the bank. I tried to be extra-diligent with our grocery money, and managed to squirrel away a few £10 notes most months.
We made some sacrifices. After our spendy summer, with very little going into the bank, we didn’t eat out at all (this is not something we do often anyway, but we have a tradition of having breakfast out on Saturday mornings.) Each week, we put the money we would have spent on those luxuries into the family piggy bank. Most of our entertainment was completely free– walks in the woods, trips to the beach, and picnics at the park.
In terms of saving, some months were not much to be proud of– but we worked to make it up in others. I think this was a really great experience for Amelia. We had a lot of conversations about how money works, and there were lots of opportunities to defer our enjoyment for the sake of something bigger– to collaborate and build something together as a family.
And I am happy to report that we did save an amount that, for us, is pretty significant!
We have come close to £1000. And the last few weeks have found us dreaming quite a bit… We have never had a week-long vacation/ holiday before. We are not the sort– or haven’t been the sort– of family that gets to do that kind of thing. We are thinking of visiting the Canary Islands in February… Or we could wait a bit longer and go to Greece! We also have the option of doing two smaller trips, instead of one big one… This feeling of possibility is so exciting for us, and in this context– NEW! We all worked hard this year to make this possible, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
There is something else that makes this significant for us. Jeff’s job contract recently changed, and we are adjusting to a drastic pay cut. We know that we are very fortunate and taken care of in the grand scheme of things. But this is still hard. Especially at this time of year. Yet what an incredible gift– we had no idea that this cut was coming down the pike, but here we are, having saved all year for something wonderful (and otherwise completely unthinkable on such a tight budget) for our family.
On Christmas morning this year, we will sit down for a final money-counting session, and then we will plan how to use it together. I cannot wait. This has been such a great experience for our family, and we haven’t even used the money yet.
Will your family be saving up for something this year?
Update: We were able to take a trip to Tenerife, and stayed in a really nice little cottage there for a week! It was a total dream come true, and it felt amazing that we made this happen for ourselves.