Thrifty DIY Banks for Teaching Kids about Money

As L&L are getting a little older, I feel they’re ready to start learning about money.  They often get small amounts of money sent to them in holiday and birthday cards, which usually ends up in my cabinet where I hold onto it for them. 

They’ve also gotten to the point that they like to put money into the plate at church, so instead of just handing them some money on Sunday morning to which they have no attachment, I thought it’d be good for their giving/tithing to come from their own money, so that it has more meaning.  Additionally, I think we’ll be able to do a lot of informal math and life lessons using their money — learning about coins and paper money, learning to count money, learning money management, and so on.

When I first began my search for a way to help young children organize and store money a few months ago, I found the 3 jar bank system all over Pinterest and really liked it.  I pinned several of the ones I saw on my Math Activities for Kids board.  There are lots of variations of the banks people have made — some are glass, some are plastic, some are homemade, some are commercially available.  It has been difficult to figure out where the idea started because it seems to be so widespread.  It seems that Dave Ramsey’s Junior Program promotes the concept.  Here’s the commercially available Junior’s Adventures Bank from for reference, though I’m not sure if the idea originated here.

After deciding to make the 3 jar bank system, I spent months searching for the perfect containers to create our own DIY banks.  Finally, I came across these little Glad LockWare jars while looking for something else at Target.  

They weren’t what I had in mind at all, but in the end I really like them because:

  • They are made of sturdy plastic, so they won’t break if dropped — and yes, I’ve already tested that statement at least once, trying to carry them upstairs to the kids’ rooms.  
  • They are clear, so the kids can easily see if there’s money in them and get an idea for how much.  
  • They have twist on lids, so they’re secure, but the sides have grippy edges so even small children can open them as long as they aren’t screwed on too tight.  It makes for great fine motor practice!!
  • They stack, so the footprint they take up is small.  They’ll easily fit on a child’s dresser without taking up much space at all.
  • And they’re cheap; three jars cost $2.49, so for under $5 I was able to make a set of banks for both L&L.  This is by far the cheapest option I considered!

I used my label maker to create a label for each jar.  I used the “white plastic” insert in my label maker.  You can choose whatever words you want to use for labeling the banks.  I went with “Saving,” “Spending,” and “Sharing.”  Instead of “Sharing”, you might choose: “Giving” or “Tithing.”  

After I stuck the labels on, I added a few stickers to the ends of the labels to round them off a bit and give them a little personalization without blocking too much of the open viewing of the contents.  Lilah’s jars have hearts and Luke’s jars have soccer balls.  I also color coded each jar because since L&L aren’t reading yet, I wanted to have a way for them to tell their jars apart.  Luke is in the beginning stages of learning to read, and I think he’ll be able to tell the difference in his jars by looking carefully at the letters.  Now when I talk to Lilah about her jars, I can use the jar label as well as the color to ensure she knows which one I’m talking about: “Get some money for church out of your PINK sharing jar!”

I think sometime soon I may start an allowance for L&L.  I want to do a little more research on some good ways to do it, but right now I’m thinking of a very small amount of money given to them in coins, so that they can break it up between their three banks.  I’ll be sure to follow-up this post with any tips or tricks related to the banks that I find helpful as we begin to use them.

For now, whenever L&L receive any money, I plan to let them divide it up between their containers however they see fit, guiding them to know what each jar means.  I plan to let them use their “spending” money to purchase things they want (I’m sure Luke will be buying Lego kits with his!), their “sharing” money to give at church or for things like buying gifts at Christmas time for organizations that collect them for children who may not get gifts, and their “saving” money for long-term savings like buying a car and saving for college.  I think once their “saving” jar gets really full, we may open them a kid-friendly bank account; I know our bank–the State Employees’ Credit Union–offers several different savings accounts for children.

Do your children have banks?  
Any tips for teaching littles about money?

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Thanks for sharing our pringles to banks containers! Your jars looks great… sturdy too!

  • I’ve been wanting to do the three bank system for a while as well, and looking for containers. As I was reading this, It was like you were reading my mind. I will be looking for these containers! Thanks for the idea (Found you via a math linky!)


  • Anisley says:

    This site is so different than anything I’ve ever seen.Loved it as you made it short and simple.Good work.

  • Shellsea says:

    Came here via pinterest. I love this idea. Right now my son as a bank savings account where birthday money goes and a piggy bank next to his bed where he put any coins found. I like this though as kids start to grasp the meaning of money.

  • This a great idea…for my my 3 year old son!! Going to try this. I have a 13 year old daughter, who was an only child for 10 years before her brother came along. I never even attempted anything like this with her…she was just given everything. Very bad…I know. Any ideas on how I can start teaching her the value of money, maybe something like this but more age appropriate, or is it too late??

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  • *There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as well

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