Financial Lessons in the Dirt

Our family eats a lot of popcorn and as is tradition in my wife’s family, popcorn is made in a pot on the stove. No microwave popcorn here. As we took that tradition into our family, I decided to add a little influence from my side by growing our own popcorn. The garden was already there. We just needed to plant the seeds and let it grow.

We are a little particular about our popcorn, so we did order packets of yellow popcorn seed from one of the catalogs. Two packets cost us a total of $20. I know it sounds like a lot for corn seeds, but it’s what we like. I just finished processing our popcorn crop for this year. All cleaned, dried, and bagged, we ended up with 65 pounds of popcorn. That should be enough for us and my in-laws for the coming year.

As I’ve finished the processing, I realized there are a few financial lessons to be learned from the garden. So, here are my financial lessons from the dirt:

Investment – Our initial investment may have sounded like a lot. We spent $20 on seed. I just checked prices at the grocery store. The really good stuff will cost you about $5.75 for two pounds. I happen to think my popcorn is better than any store-bought popcorn, but I may be a little biased. Perhaps a better comparison, you can get good, name-brand popcorn for $1.50 per pound.

We may have spent $20 on seed, but when you calculate the value popcorn2of our crop at $1.50 per pound, it comes to a total value of $97.50. We profited over $75 in the dirt this year. Financial investments are usually the same way. You may need to set aside some money up front, but by being intentional about it, you can see some pretty amazing results.

Time – We planted our seeds somewhere back in May and I just finished the processing now – mid-November. It took time for our popcorn to grow, ripen, and then dry. There just is no way to rush the process.

Whether it is waiting for savings to grow or repair your credit report, it is the same idea. Time is the only way to really make things happen. Our culture isn’t always great at waiting. We want what we want and we want it now. A little patience and you can see some great results.

Effort – I didn’t just throw some seeds out there and wait for the rain. This gardening business is a lot of work. There is tilling the soil, planting, watering, weeding, picking the popcorn, and cleaning up the garden afterwards. But then we need to husk the corn, dry it, shell it (remove it from the cob), clean and wash it, dry it again, and then bag it. It doesn’t just magically appear in the cupboard.

Financial fitness takes the same, if not more effort. You need to start early, have a plan, set your goals, determine both spending and savings plans, implement the plans, track your efforts, and readjust when life happens. Yes, it can be a lot of work. But most of those who have been financially unhealthy and recovered will tell you it is so worth the effort.

Bring in the Family – I was not alone in my gardening efforts. I had my kids help plant and weed the corn. They even willingly helped with harvest, shelling, and cleaning of the corn. My dad was also involved with the process as the corn was in his garden. He spent time tilling the soil, watering, and some weeding. Not only do many hands make work lighter, but my kids learned something about food and where it comes from.

If your kids can learn about gardening, they can learn about financial fitness as well. You probably don’t want them burdened with the huge and heavy decisions of budget and choices, but they can learn the basics. Help them understand the importance of saving. Let them make small choices with their own money so they understand the consequences of their financial decisions. Kids are amazingly smart if we just give them the opportunity to learn.

Reap the Rewards – We will be enjoying our popcorn for quite a while to come. I think it is entirely possible that we may have enough that we won’t need to grow popcorn for another two years. In the mean time, every week we will sit down with a big buttery bowl of the results of our work.

The aforementioned effort on your finances can allow you to have the same lasting rewards as our popcorn. Budgeting now is simply you establishing a plan for achieving your goals in the future. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? It all starts by planting the seeds now so that your rewards will multiply in the future.

Not sure where to plant your financial seeds or even what financial seeds to plant? There is advice available. The Center for Financial Resources counselors are here to help. They can help you take an objective look at your unique situation and discuss options with you.

Just remember – if you don’t plant the seeds, you will never get to harvest your popcorn.

written by Breck Miller

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