By Jolene Rohlkepartain

If you asked your kids what you spend money on and what you don’t, what would they say? Our kids are learning a lot about what we value and how we use our money to promote our values.

In our family, both of our kids know that we invest in education. We’ve told both of our kids that we’ll do everything we can to help pay for their college education and that we’ve been saving for that since they were born. (Of course, we were surprised at how much a college education costs once our first child started college.)

Our kids also know we’re big savers. My husband, who grew up in Tanzania and Kenya, wanted to take our family to East Africa to walk through the house he grew up in, to see his elementary school and high school, to meet his African friends who still lived there, and to experience what it was like for him to grow up overseas.

We saved for more than a decade for that trip. In the meantime, we did short, inexpensive family getaways, such as staying overnight for a few nights at a hotel with an indoor water park and driving to a nearby cabin and cooking all of our own meals.

Our family was thrilled when we finally saved enough to take this trip. My oldest son, however, quickly remarked that this was no vacation when we got to East Africa. Once he viewed it as an adventure instead of a vacation, he went with it. (Traveling in a developing country of another culture is more about expanding your experience than it is about relaxing.)

Our kids have also seen us deal with tight times. For a few years, one of us got pay cuts (instead of a layoff). Since I’m self-employed, my kids have watched how drastically my income can change. I’ve had lucrative years and also barely-making-it-by years. They’ve learned the trade offs of being self-employed and also working for a company. There are pros and cons to both.

Recently, we got hit with a lot of unexpected expenses. My husband’s dad got stage 4 cancer. Since he lived in another state that wasn’t close enough to drive to, there suddenly were a lot of unexpected trips and eventually we all had to go to a funeral. Six months later, my husband’s uncle died, and off my husband flew, out of state, for that funeral as well. As a family, we talked about these unexpected expenses. We talked about how we value family and that unexpected things can happen, which is why we have an emergency savings account (that is now completely empty).

All this is to say that the way we use our money says a lot about our values. What do you value most? Does the way you use money reflect those values? If not, what are you really saying about what you value by the way you use money?