By Maria Hill
By all indications, the piggy bank is alive and well, although it may no longer be in the form of a pig.
During last Christmas season, I observed my 46- year-old husband creating a “bank” from a cookie tin.
He had the tin soldered shut with a slot wide enough to admit cash. He is saving, he said, towards shopping during the upcoming summer vacation.
My sister, who is a year older, saves fifty dollar bills in a peanut butter jar, and has accumulated thousands of dollars so far.
Garfield, 37, who lives in Montego Bay, has kept the tradition alive both for himself and his two children – he has a coin jar and a wooden safe.
Mellissa, a 32-year-old mom of North Brookfield, Massachusetts says her six- year-old son has a piggy bank and is saving to buy a farm. His grandmother owns a farm and he wants one too.
Other children target Christmas gifts or short-term desires such as video games. When they feel the time is right, they break the pig or turn it upside down and shake the contents from its stuffed bowels.
Parents the world over have been using the pig – made of plastic or other material as a means of teaching children about financial independence.
The idea is that they are taught the importance of saving towards particular goals. America which has a day for every imaginable activity, has set aside a day in April known as, “Teach Children to Save Day” which is promoted by the banks.
Maybe your parents also had that famous pig with a slit in its back as a means of teaching you the habit of thrift. However, the practice didn’t start with them or their parents before them.
Researchers say the practice began 600 years ago when money was kept in a clay pot, known as a “pygg” or “pigge”. Eventually, manufacturers started making pigs for saving coins.
Early models had no hole in the bottom, so the pig had to be broken to get access to the money. Some say that’s where the expression, “breaking the bank,” comes from. Some academics disagree arguing that breaking the bank originated in gambling when the player won more than the bank (the house) could pay.
Sources say the first piggy banks — of terracotta material and shaped like a pig with a slot in the top — were made in Java in the 14th century. In Great Britain, a 650-year old Majapahit terracotta piggy bank was recently offered for sale at £6,000.00 (just under USD$10,000).
The pig remains a favourite banker among parents. Children who save towards specific goals have a better appreciation of prices, affordability and money management. Financial advisers believe parents should also teach children how to invest and add value to their savings.
Children can also be motivated to find ways to increase the money in their piggy banks by doing chores around the home for which they might be paid or doing projects for neighbors.
Whether the aim is to buy a video game, or a new telephone, the thought of being able to independently reach that goal is liberating. Every parent can recall saving for a project, be it a car, an electrical item, or a home.
Parents not only show the example to their children they teach them about delayed gratification and the dangers of impulse buying in the modern “Buy now pay later” culture aided and abetted by easily-obtained credit.
Long may Mr. Piggy live to teach our children how to be smart about saving.