Have you ever heard the following sage financial advice?

Pay yourself first

Live below your means

Save 10% of your income and live off the rest

Don’t spend more than you make

Books like The Richest Man in Babylon and Automatic Millionaire cover the topic right off the bat in detail, but you may have also heard the advice from family or friends.

When I was younger, my dad had me take half of any gift money I received and put it towards a savings bond. We would go to the bank and fill out the paperwork, and I still have a stack of bonds to this day.

My aunt would also tell me to make sure I saved 10% of anything I was given (with instructions to also give 10% to the church).

We’ve been using the envelopes for six months now, and so far I haven’t said much on how J should distribute any new money between them (although I might gently push towards making sure *some* money goes to savings). He hasn’t learned about percentages yet in school (he’s still on multiplication and division). A quick Google search says he might not learn them until 6th grade!? That’s not going to work. I’m going to have to start sooner.

I read up on percentages on The School Run and Math is Fun, then I printed out a few copies of a 100 grid. We talked about how a percentage is a number or ratio expressed as a fraction of 100. On one paper, we colored in one square which meant 1% or 1/100. On another, we colored in 25 squares which meant 25% or 25/100 (or 1/4). We took $1.00 in quarters and put a quarter on each 25-block. On yet another page, we colored in 10 squares to make 10/100 or 10%. We outlined 10 10-blocks on the page and put a dime in each one to show that 10% of $1.00 is 10 cents.

So that’s all well and good if he gets $1 or even $10. But what about when he gets $8.00? How do I explain how to calculate 10%?

I showed him what I called “a trick” where you write out $8.00 with the decimal place, then move the decimal place one position to the left to get 10%. (In his mind, trick meant “hard” and he kept referring to it this way!) To illustrate, $8.00 becomes $.800 or 80 cents. I had $8.00 in quarters and dimes, and we divided them up in 10 piles on the board. This showed us that 10% of $8.00 was 80 cents.

We repeated the activity for $2.00, $4.00, $5.00 and $6.00, writing the questions in his notebook and putting the money on the grid to figure out the answer. We also solved the problem by using the decimal moving trick. He had the idea to do a science notebook, so we took pictures of the grids, printed them and placed them in the notebook. I loved that he was into the activity!

When doing these things, I try to gauge how much he’s understanding. With this, it seemed like he needed more work. I want to print a few more 10-boards and outline the 10-blocks to be a little more clear. We’ll review 10%, then move on to other percentages. We briefly touched on 20% as being 10% twice.

Then, I think I’ll have him calculate the tip on a restaurant bill.

And after that we’ll move on to sale prices! If something is $8.00 and it’s on sale for 20% off, how much is it? I can see us having a lot of fun at the store with this!

As far as savings, though, I’ll stress that this guideline is *at least* 10%. If you’re willing and able to save more, and invest it wisely, your savings will grow. More on that later — for now I’ll just tell him to save at least 10% because I said so!