Coins of Waste

Last winter, I peeked in as my daughters were taking their shower just to discover an entire bottle of Back to Basics shampoo had been dumped all over.  Sure they were clean as was the tub but this kind of waste had to stop. This wasn’t the first incident of such devious waste.

I stopped leaving the shampoo and conditioner in the shower because of such horrendous events but apparently I forgot.  Oh wait, no I didn’t.  Those stinkers got out of the shower, hence the slip and slide floor, and gathered up their victims on their own.

All of my tactics of “no wasting” clearly wasn’t working.  Perhaps they were too young, 4, to truly understand what waste meant.  Or perhaps I was too naive in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

That evening I decided to try something different.  I didn’t yell, try to explain, rip them out of the shower and send to their rooms.  Nope, I didn’t do anything typical of me.

Instead I said this waste will cost you each five coins.

Five coins.

That was all it took.

Tears welled in their eyes and they began their search.

They have plenty of money, they just didn’t want to part with it.  They weren’t sure why but they didn’t want to let it go.

They don’t truly understand the concept of money.  After all they once gave me about $7 in hopes it would take us all to Disney World.  That broke my heart but I was impressed with their generosity.

Non-the-less they reluctantly brought me five coins each that I later found out was from their sucker of a grandmother.

Since then they have not “wasted” the shampoo and conditioner again.

I’ve moved this tactic onto other toiletries, food and how they treat their toys.

If they ask for something to eat and don’t eat it, they give me coins. This, and they are clear with what they need to eat, does NOT mean they have to shove their faces until they are uncomfortable and sick.  It simply means they need to think about what they ask for and how hungry they truly are.

It’s teaching them to be cognizant of their hunger cues and responsibility if they ask for more than they need.  Trust me I tread very lightly here as I am raising a house full of girls and don’t want to encourage any poor eating habits.

A perfect example of this is they often ask to get a snack on their own. It is usually yogurt for H and applesauce for L.  Before we implemented the coins for waste policy they would fill a large bowl and not finish it.  Now they use that same large bowl but only fill it half way and most of the time they finish it.

If they don’t finish it they owe me nothing because they were acting responsibly and paying attention to their body’s needs. If they finished and were still hungry they could go back for more.

The list below is an example of the most common things they waste and the amount they owe in return.

  • Shampoo/Conditioner———————- 5
  • Toothpaste———————————– 3
  • Food——————————————- 3-10 depending
  • Art Supplies———————————-2
  • Band-Aids————————————2

Toothpaste: they always just squeeze out globs of it.

Art Supplies: just dumping out paint or breaking crayons.

Band-aides: they cover their dolls in them or ask for one with every tiny wince. Now they have to show me blood before they get a band-aide.

So the Coins of Waste project came about from having my kids give me coins to cover their waste.  It’s branched out now to a jar where those coins get deposited and the girls need to then count those coins and buy gifts for kids less fortunate.

It has been a great lesson to them not just about waste but about giving to others.

The jar is not very full which is a good thing is for them so I will contribute when we go to purchase toys for others this December.

Below is our Coins of Waste Vase that usually sits on the sink windowsill but is now appropriately enjoying its home for the holiday next to our Thanksgiving wreath.

Ironically this Waste Vase always sits next to the jars we use to collect all the treasures the girls find and give us.

Coins of Waste Vase


Will you join our quest? Will you help teach our children to stop wasting and respect their “stuff” more?


8 thoughts on “Coins of Waste

  1. What a great idea! I wonder if my son would see it as punishment or not? I adore the idea to use the money for buying gifts for other children in December. I think that really cements the idea of how much we have, that waste doesn’t HAVE to impact us, but other families can’t afford that waste. I may be trying this!

  2. Your heart and soul are like great big shiny-gorgeous, lit-up-with-fairy-lights BEACONS of Getting It Right.

    I love this, and what you’re doing.

    You’re a smart mama, my friend 🙂

  3. And THERE IT IS!!!! I am sooo glad it is working out so well for you!!! I just love how you have put this to practice in your home with your girls!! Love love love it Kerry!!!

    You are teaching them SO many principles now- through this “coins of waste”. From gratitude to generosity to greed… all so critical and significant. Bravo mama!!!

  4. Pingback: Coins of Waste: How to Curb Wastefulness in Kids | Twiniversity

  5. What a unique and wonderful idea! And, oh, how sweet that they offered to pay everybody’s way to Disneyland. That’s adorable. I love what you’re doing here. You are teaching your princesses to respect what they have. Nice, Mom!

  6. Congratulations on the success of your coins for waste policy. My daughter is older now and does not live at home so I cannot join you on this journey. But certainly I will admire you afar and share this tidbit with my readers and family. What a loving way to teach this important skills of not wasting.

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