You don’t have to be religious to observe Lent, the run-up to Easter in the Christian calendar that begins on 17 February this year and ends on 1 April. Plenty of people who don’t regularly make it into a church observe this fast by giving something up for that stretch of time, such as meat, chocolate or even TV! That might not sound like a lot of fun, but there are good life lessons to be learned during Lent, especially when it comes to money.
Usually, you have to give something up to save up money
Some people are lucky enough to always have enough money for the things they want, but most of us have to make choices, and that often means giving something up in order to save for something in the future.
The amount people saved rose in the UK, US & India during the first stage of the Covid lockdowns, as people found they had fewer opportunities to go on holiday or spend money on restaurants. It might feel hard to give something up, but it’s also nice to watch your savings grow, especially if you can earn a little interest.
Ask the kids:
Do you know that, if you save a bit of money, the bank sometimes adds a bit too? Work out how long it would take to save up for a big-ticket item. It might be worth skipping smaller things, and look forward to pulling the trigger on that larger purchase.
We weren’t always this rich
No one is really sure how Lent came about, but it might have something to do with where it falls in the year. In some farming communities, early spring is the time when food supplies are lowest; the big harvest was brought in before winter, and many of the new plants and animals aren’t ready to eat yet.
Of course, today most of us can get good, cheap food all year around. However, by giving something up during Lent might help kids remember that we haven’t always been this rich. Even grandparents might be able to remember a time when things like meat or chocolate were much more expensive, or even rationed.
Ask the kids:
Imagine things such as sweets, video games or even burgers being much more expensive. What would you prioritise? What could you skip? Take a look at this picture of a weekly ration for two people in Great Britain during World War II. That’s all you could get! And that’s not much chocolate!
THE WEEKLY RATION FOR TWO PEOPLE, UK, 1943 © IWM (D 14667)
Self control might help you lead a more successful life
You may have heard of this famous Marshmallow Test, first staged in 1970, by the Stanford University professor Walter Mischel. He offered primary-school aged children the choice between a small immediate reward – in the form of a marshmallow, or other tasty snack – and a larger reward, if they waited waited for fifteen minutes or so. Mischel followed the children through later life, and found correlations between an early ability to hold back from munching the snack immediately, and higher achievements at school and better health too.
Mischel’s results have been questioned by other experts, but most who’ve tried to replicate the study have reached similar conclusions.
Ask the kids:
Could they resist eating a tasty snack for a quarter of an hour or so, if there was a bigger treat waiting? Would having a toy or game handy help? In the original experiment, the scientists found playful distractions helped stave off wants. And how about the findings: do they believe an ability to hold off as a kid means you’ll be a more successful adult?
Money might not buy happiness
You might think you’d be super happy if you were able to download every game you want, or clear Amazon out whenever you like. However, some studies, such as this one from Princeton University from 2010, have indicated that, while money does make people happy initially, the effect tails off after a while, and getting super rich doesn’t mean you’ll become super happy. Perhaps giving up something you like might not make you as unhappy as you thought.
Ask the kids:
When was the last time you were really happy? Did money play a role in that happiness? Were there other things involved? Have you ever bought something that you’d think would make you happy, only to find out that spending the money didn’t make you feel that much better? Have you ever bought something that really did make you smile a lot?
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