Dividing Up the Paycheck

“Dividing Up the Paycheck,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 60

Dividing Up the Paycheck

One of my most memorable family home evening lessons as a youth was when my dad taught our family the importance of budgeting money. One night he brought home a month’s wages in cash and stacked the bills in the center of the kitchen table. Eyes wide, my brothers and sisters and I listened as he explained that the money belonged to the family and asked what each of us would spend it on if we had sole control of it. Our answers ranged from a new bicycle to a collection of doll clothes.

After he had listed all the things we wanted, Dad calmly reached over and counted out some of the bills, then set them aside. “These are for tithing,” he explained. Once tithing money was set aside, Dad explained that we had some expenses we were required by law to pay and others we had promised to pay. He then began counting out other stacks of bills, which, he explained, would be used for taxes, the house mortgage, car payment, and utilities. As we watched, we began to understand that we needed to provide for the family’s obligations and needs first, not individual wants. Finally, with only a small pile of bills left on the table, Dad asked us again what we would do with the money. This time our answers reflected less-selfish purchases, and we made suggestions such as repairing the torn screen door and purchasing a pump for our bicycle tires. Mom wrote all of our suggestions down, and we spent time that evening discussing our priorities and making decisions together on how the remaining money should be used. We talked about the benefits of a savings program for future needs such as college and missions, and we discussed the benefits of adhering to a budget.

That lesson had such an impact on my life that my husband and I tried it with our own family. To my amazement, the effect of that lesson on our children was similar to the effect it had had on me. After that lesson, our children were more understanding of our financial responsibilities and goals and became less selfish and more concerned with the needs of our family.—Margo Johnson, Salt Lake City, Utah

Photography by Welden C. Andersen

Illustrated by Beth Maryon Whittaker