When my kids first started school I loved the idea of the prepaid lunch accounts. You filled it up at the beginning of the year or quarter and you didn’t have to worry about it each day. They couldn’t lose it, and you didn’t have to fumble bleary eyed each morning to find the right change.
However, as the years have passed I’ve started the think the prepaid accounts take away a good opportunity for kids to learn to be responsible with money.
For part of this year I switched my kids to change brought each day in their little pockets for their lunch money.
We liked the challenge of finding the right change each morning. Plus it was valuable practice for my 7-year-old in counting out change. It was a challenge for him to keep up with the money, or he end up with a cheese sandwich (what the school gives kids without lunch money).
It also kept him from buying two lunches. You can’t set a daily amount online with this lunch account so my lovely son would purchase two lunches each day. I could provide a heck of a lunch for the $4 he was spending each day. When I would send lunch he would always forget to bring it to the lunch room. I finally took the hint: He wanted to buy lunch. So I gave him exact change.
For the last few weeks of school I’ve put some money back into their accounts because I’ve run out of change. (My change jar is empty!) My experiment is over, but I would do it again next year, and I do think it’s a good exercise for kids in responsibility.
Have prepaid lunch cards taken away an opportunity for kids to be responsible with money? Is the convenience worth losing that lesson? What are other ways to teach little kids responsibility with money?