People don’t normally think about Girl Scouts and financial planning together. Common thoughts are more along the lines of cute little girls in green, camping, and of course cookies. But a lot goes on to make those camping trips happen. And cookie sales are really an owner-run small business. Like any family or business, a troop has chores to do, conflicts to overcome, projects to plan (that might require buying insurance in case anything goes wrong,) and a budget to balance.
As a Girl Scout leader for twelve years, I most enjoyed watching the girls learn financial planning, Girl Scout Style. I knew they’d apply these financial skills in their personal lives in the future. Here are the key lessons learned by Girl Scouts.
- The girls learned that it’s ok to dream about fun adventures. We started each year determining what the troop wanted to do.
- Financial planning starts with a desire to buy or experience something.
- Write down your goals and dreams, short term and long term.
- What are your daily/weekly/monthly expenses? Girl Scouts pay for snacks, meeting supplies, field trips, badges. Families have food, shelter, clothes, medical expenses, and transportation. These are actually just short term goals.
- What are your required long term expenses? In Girl Scouts, there are handbooks & badge books to buy at each level, replacing/repairing tents for camping, and ceremonies. In a family you have cars and appliances to replace, a roof to replace/repair, college education, retirement. These areas need to fit in the budget too.
- Most people, whether Girl Scouts or not, want to help their community or a charity by donating money, time, or talent.
- After making sure the basics are covered, it’s nice to have a reward to look forward to. Both Girl Scouts and families dream about going trips, making big purchases, and having money for extras/luxuries. It easier to get through the day to day expenses if there’s a fun dream to look forward to.
- Look at what your income sources are. Are you able to make more money? Do you want to?
- Girl Scouts income sources include dues, fall product sales (nuts, magazines, and/or calendars), cookies sales, money earning projects (babysitting nights, carwashes, etc). Family income sources include jobs, investments, pensions, and inheritance.
- The girls and their chaperones can work harder at the Girl Scout fundraisers or do more money earning projects to increase their income. Families can choose to work longer hours to get more income, invest in more education to get a better job, or save money to buy investmentsthat provide more money in the future.
- The fun part of money is obviously spending it. Really, the main reason we work, Girl Scouts or family members, is to make money to spend.
- When choosing how to spend money, have a plan based on your goals. All stakeholders need to be involved, including Girl Scouts, Leaders, and parents in a . Involve all members in the family, including kids, in family financial decisions.
- It’s easier to make choices and sacrifices if everyone is involved. You may have to cut back on eating out to buy the clothes you want. You may want to cut back on the short term goals to get to your long term goals faster.
- Set realistic goals based on realistic income – you can’t spend more than you make in the long run.
- Don’t waste money because you don’t have goals. It’s easy to mindlessly buy things. With a goal, you can ask “do I want this or do I want more money in the Dream fund?”
- Understand the value of money when you make purchases. With your goals in mind, you can determine if a purchase is appropriate. Is the item you want to buy worth more than progress towards your Dream?
- Monitor, Celebrate, Reflect, and Plan your next Dream
- Monitor your progress and adjust income and/or expenses to stay on track.
- Periodically revisit the dream goal to ensure it’s still what you really want. Is it worth the sacrifices you may have to make?
- After you realize your dream goal, celebrate successfully reaching your goal.
- Reflect on what went right, wrong, how you could do better next time.
- Once a goal has been completed (short or long term goal), it’s time tolook forward to what’s next.
Remember: to safely navigate your life without emergencies, plan instead of react. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Guarantee success with a plan in place and track your progress.
Whether you’re a Girl Scout troop, a family, or an individual, setting goals, making a plan, and monitoring progress will help you get what you want out of life. Goals sometimes change and plans shift, but you’re still further ahead than wandering around in the dark. The more focused you are on your goals, the easier it will be to reach them.