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Chef Laura: The 52 Week Money Challenge

When I was little, one of my favorite books was a collection of Aesop’s Fables.  The worn pages were filled with magical stories of animals in relatable – yet outlandish – situations:  a golden egg-laying goose, a greedy grape-famished fox, and the ubiquitous story of The Tortoise and the Hare.

That last tale was my least favorite as a child.  I always rooted for the über-confident rabbit and implored him to “Wake up from your nap!”

As a budding chef, I desired the hare’s characteristics to be fast, impulsive and a bit cocky, so the moral of The Tortoise and the Hare was lost on me.  Behaving like a turtle in a professional kitchen gets you nowhere but fired.

Now, as a mother of two with my Line Cook days behind me and a few gray hairs, I’m beginning to change my perspective.  Although there are several traits I hope to pass onto my daughters, my impatience is not one of them.

So it was quite fortuitous that I stumbled upon the 52 Week Money Challenge buzzing around social media last month. I decided to make like Aesop and turn this “game” into a teaching moment.

The beauty is its simplicity. In week one, you set aside one dollar; in week two, two dollars, and so on.  When you ring in 2015, you’ll have squirreled away $1,378.  Not exactly as valuable as owning a goose that lays golden eggs, but a decent end-of-the-year reward. 

While my girls decorated a shoe box with stickers and glitter, I printed out the spreadsheet.  We sealed the bedazzled box, cut a quarter-sized hole on the side and taped the print-out on top to track our progress.

At our breakfast counter, we talk about what we’ll do with our collected loot.  Mom’s vote is to invest it in their 529 (“Lame!”).  They vote to buy yet another loom kit with a gazillion rubber bands (“Cool!”).

Today, in week six, we have a whole $21 saved.  Woo-hoo!

As the kitty grows, so does their excitement.  Their initial desire to spend it on bracelets is replaced with visions of big ticket items – like a trip to Disney World.
But don’t be fooled, this savings plan isn’t just kids’ play. Create a version for your business, that vacation to Europe, for your grandchildren’s tuition, or for a well-deserved holiday office party.

Who knows if the 52 Week Money Challenge will stand the test of time like Aesop’s Fables?  I’m hoping this journey of delayed gratification will set my daughters on the right path towards fiscal responsibility – slowly and steadily. 

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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