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What is Money

Money is what you use to buy things. Over time we, as a society, have agreed on how many “dollars” are needed to buy each item. We know it works because we have used it over and over for all kinds of things.

We learn from an early age by watching our parents, brothers, sisters or others that if we give a certain amount of money, we will get in return that toy, snack or candy that we want.

For the inexperienced, “value” is often assigned to the BIG money, the SHINY money or the PRETTY money. Families must teach that sometimes, the small coins have more value than the larger ones and sometimes, you need to hand over several coins to get what you want!

We added paper because it was lighter to carry. Now, we have added plastic cards that allow remote access to “money” we have stored in an “account” of some kind. These are all very abstract concepts.

It is by learning these concepts and gaining experience with making transactions that we begin to learn skills that will support independence in the future.

People with disabilities, like the rest of us, have a right to control their own money and make choices on what to spend it on and save it for. They too, need to understand the responsibilities that come with their right. It is never too early or too late to start learning about money!

How to help someone gain experience with money (from idea to reality)

  • Provide the opportunity to count and handle coins. They can practice counting by fives and tens with pennies, nickels and dimes. Make coin rubbings to get familiar with the size and look of different coins. Also, group quarters to make “dollars” and have a collection of different coins available.
  • Provide props, such as (play or real) money, a cash register or calculator, and items suitable for using to play “store” in a role play. This will give an opportunity to work with money in a non-threatening setting. Start with sales that allow handing over “even” amounts, then change prices to force concepts like: determining what bills/change to hand over, waiting for change, checking your change, and not having enough money.
  • Money Magic is an online arcade game that the individual can play to learn Canadian coin recognition and making change
  • Games like Payday and Monopoly could be useful. Play as a family on a regular basis.
  • Provide the individual with an “allowance”. Discuss the types of items they can purchase in different stores and take them to a store where they can choose and pay for an item. This is a great time to discuss concepts such as the price tag on the item, the specific coins/bills needed to purchase it, how much the individual actually has and what they could purchase “now” compared to what they need to “save” for.
  • Have the individual pay the cashier when shopping for household items, such as bread and milk. It creates the “habit” of paying for items, introduces the concept of handing over “enough” money and introduces getting “change” back. It starts to introduce the concept of how we can pay for things with paper bills and coins.
  • Introduce the idea that television commercials/ store flyers/catalogues are designed to sell products. Have the learner view several commercials or compare flyers and have them determine what would be the best buy for their money. Have them think about the usefulness/healthiness of the product, price and need/want for the product. Use grocery flyers to plan the weekly meals. Introduce the concepts of choosing sale items and working the meal plan around them. Grocery checklists can be used to introduce approaches to making the actual grocery list. Tell them about coupons and how they can save money by using them.
  • Discuss and define money terms. Save, spend, earn, and borrow are all important money terms that individuals can understand and use.
  • When shopping, have the individual seek any information needed from sales staff. Have them complete the transaction by paying. Insist that the sales staff address their customer, not you (the support person).
  • Provide opportunities to earn money. Identify some chores as simply a part of domestic life, and offer an allowance or a chance to earn money for other activities. This way, the individual sees that not all chores carry a money reward with them. Rather the reward is for a job well done. (Don’t forget to praise!)
  • Open a bank account for the individual and have them make regular deposits. If needed, set a limit on how much can be taken out so he or she can learn that just because there is money in the bank, that doesn’t mean it should be spent. This is a good time to introduce the concept of budgets: what expenses does the individual have that are not optional? What income can the individual count on? Are there items/services the individual would like? Do they need to save money for things?
  • Talk about money as a family. People will understand how to use and view money better if they are included in some discussions or decisions. If you buy something on credit, explain that you are still responsible for paying the full price. Let the individual know why you can’t or won’t buy certain items, or that you are saving up for a vacation, car, etc. Talk about paying the monthly bills and how your pay cheque gets divided up.

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