Teaching Kids About Street Performing

I performed for a small group of three to five year-olds at my daughter’s school today. They were studying about Europe, so I figured I would teach them about Europe’s rich tradition of busking (another term for street performing). I showed them a picture of a busker at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as an example of Europe’s street performing scene.

But I wanted to take the lesson a bit further. I concocted a social experiment that I have never before tried (or heard of anyone doing). I counted out fifteen pennies per child and set the money on each child’s carpet square before they entered the room. When they came in, I told them to count their money (an opportunity to practice math) and that the money is now theirs.

IMG_6951
Each child started with fifteen pennies. It was my job to perform and try to earn some of those pennies in my hat. They could keep and take home what they didn’t spend.

IMG_6954

I then instructed them that I was going to perform for them and lay a hat out in front of me. I explained the tradition of paying street performers if you like their tricks and think they’re funny. I emphasized that they can certainly keep their money if they choose. If they didn’t like my show or thought I wasn’t funny, then there is no need to give me any money. In fact, even if they like my show, they still don’t have to give me money. But I as the street performer will respectfully ask that they put something in the hat if they like the show. It’s all voluntary.

IMG_6955
Some of the equipment I used to try to earn some pennies today.

So I turned on the music, picked up my juggling things, and went to work. I was actually performing for seven little children and two adult teachers just hoping that I would earn some pennies for my hard work. I was surprised at how seriously I took it.

After a few tricks, low and behold, they started coming. The children and the teachers began to trickle up towards my hat and drop pennies in at various times when I would do tricks. It certainly warmed my heart to know that they liked what I was doing.

Some kids held most or all of their money back. And that was totally fine. Enough children were voluntarily showing me their appreciation through pennies that it didn’t bother me. In fact, as a street performer, I should still do my work with excellence whether people throw money or not. As street performers, we are always putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable to the fate of the audience’s appreciation or lack thereof. It is a risk we are willing to take. And if it means no pay, then that’s life and we will go out and try harder the next day.

Thankfully, these kids were generous with their penny throwing and at the end of the day, I counted up exactly one hundred pennies. It was a buck hard earned.

IMG_6957
Here is some of my pay. More pennies came in after I took this shot.

The header image at the top of this post features Kezzie learning to put money in the busker’s basket when she was only one. This gentleman was happily playing his accordion for us in Malaga, Spain while we were on a family vacation.

Teaching Kids About Money

Thanks to Dave Ramsey and other financial teachers, we were inspired to use clear labeled jars to show our daughter how much money she has and how to categorize it. I know that she will grow up in an even more digital world than we did, which means money will become more and more “invisible” as she grows up in the twenty first century. When money is simply an unseen number out there in the cloud of the internet, it is very easy to lose track of how much is there and where it is all going.

So that’s where clear jars come in! It is tangible, real, and visible. She has acquired money through gifts from others as well as through some age-appropriate work. We will let her use the money as she sees fit – and then she will tangibly watch how fast it goes (as well as how it adds up when you save it). She is very much the crafty kid, so we let her take ownership of the process, from the cutting and taping of the labels to the counting out and categorizing of her own money.

IMG_6915

IMG_6916

IMG_6927

IMG_6933

Sarah and I agreed not to dictate to her how much she should put in each jar. We want her to have autonomy and responsibility over those decisions. Of course we will constantly have conversations with her about how we categorize our money and offer suggestions on percentages. In fact, when I let her fill her own jars, she just liked plopping coins wherever she wanted, and her “giving” jar was looking nearly equal to the other three categories. I don’t want to tell her to give 10% when she wants to give 25%! God wants a generous and cheerful giver – and it looks like our daughter is off to a good start. Maybe we should learn something from her!

IMG_6938

As for the categories – we have her doing the obvious saving, giving, and spending. I decided to add “business” because we are encouraging her to explore entrepreneurial ventures as a way to earn money if she so desires. I have a hunch her desire will suddenly manifest itself when she sees the “spend” jar empty! She could purchase art supplies to make crafts to sell on Etsy, for example. When I was a young child, my mother made me buy the lemonade powder for my lemonade stand. If I was making my own profit, I needed to purchase my own expenses. I’m so glad she made me do that.
IMG_6937 IMG_6936 IMG_6935 IMG_6934

What are some tips and tricks you use to teach your kids about money?

How Would You React?

man-36570_640My first job was as a waiter at a retirement home. I was 14 years old and waited on 90-100 year-olds for the dinner hour after my school day was over. I earned $4.25 an hour and no tips. There was no tipping since it was an all-inclusive retirement community. But I did gain a “tip” that has lasted me all these years later – the experience of being a waiter.

Later on, I worked as a legitimate waiter ($2.15/hr plus tips!) at a Chinese restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio (The Grand Oriental) as a night job after being an entertainer at the King’s Island theme park by day. I was saving up for seminary. And yes, lots of people asked me why I was a waiter at a Chinese restaurant (I was the only Caucasian on the floor). Hey, I love learning about different cultures!

What I learned in those two jobs was the experience of being a servant to others. And some people in this world are very picky, demanding, and rude – and a server has to respond with a smile.

So I have always tried to remember those experiences whenever Sarah and I go out to eat. I think there should be an ordinance that requires everyone to serve as a waiter at some point in their lives. If we all did, then people would probably tip better, treat servers with respect, and understand when the server forgets that extra straw or takes a minute too long processing your credit card.

So I hope this video brightens your day. It did for Sarah and I last night as we watched it. These guys decided to tip some servers $200 and catch it all on film. Enjoy!

The Easiest Large Group Game Ever

IMG_0368This is probably the easiest large group game ever invented.  If you can think of an easier one, please let me know in the comments.

Heads or Tails!

This game of heads or tails involves EVERYONE in your large group.  It is actually better the larger the group gets.  There is an elimination factor to it, so that you are left with only one winner.  But the eliminating happens so fast that the people waiting to play the next round don’t have to wait long.

What you need: A lot of people and one coin (I like to use a quarter).

How to play: Have everyone stand up.  Tell them that they need to select heads or tails before you flip the coin each time you flip it.  They indicate heads by putting both hands on their head.  They indicate tails by putting both hands on their rear.  Whatever the coin says, those people stay in the game and advance to the next flip.  The eliminated people (their side did NOT flip) must sit down and wait for the next game.  Repeat this over and over until you are left with one final winner.

Tips:

  • Don’t worry, this game moves fast.
  • Before you flip, say “ONE-TWO-THREE-Lock it in!” so that the players all lock in their heads or tails at the same time.
  • No switching selection after you say “lock it in!”  If a player does so, they’re out.
  • Let the winner be the coin flipper for the game after they win.

Kids want to play this game ALL DAY LONG.  You’ll be surprised at how crazy easy it is.

Want more group game ideas for kids and family events? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Want to learn how to juggle? Here are the basics!….

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Risking My Life for Food

Join me this Wednesday night at the Robinson Theater in Richmond, VA (2903 Q St, Richmond, VA 23223) from 7pm to 8pm as I do my first indoor performance of the chainsaw juggling act.  This is a comedy juggling show for all ages.

Admission is one canned or non-perishable food OR $1.  All the food will be donated to FeedMore to help with their winter supply of food for those in need.

Let’s pack the house and bring in tons of food!

God and Money

When I was in college, I remember having a cloud of worry parked over my psyche every single day because I knew that I was taking out a LOT of money for school and I was going to have to pay it back.  And it was during college that I decided my life theme verse from the Bible would be Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”  The “all these things” are the things we tend to worry about in life: money, food, clothes, daily necessities.  If I kept my eyes focused first on Christ in everything, then I could trust that He would provide for all my needs.

By God’s grace, my wife and I were able to work 70-80 hours/week in the summers of graduate school and pay off those loans (and pay for seminary).  And it was during that time that my wife and I first heard about the financial advice from a teacher named Dave Ramsey.  He teaches old fashioned common sense about money based on the Bible: work hard, give a lot, save a lot, and don’t spend more that you earn.

It’s that simple.  But somehow, we as humans stray from financial common sense (and so do governments!).  And sometimes, all it takes is a little discipline and accountability and we can find financial freedom and hope using God’s principles about money.  For example, I have another favorite verse about money in the Bible that has helped me find incredible financial peace: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

So we are excited to be coordinating a class at our church called Financial Peace University.  It starts tonight and it will go for 9  weeks every Wednesday evening at 7pm with free childcare.  The location is at Trinity Assembly of God in Richmond, VA (233 N Courthouse Rd).  The host church is Commonwealth Chapel.

If you live in the Richmond, VA area, we would love to see you there.  The first night (tonight) is a free preview.  If at that point you want to take the whole class, the cost is $95 and there are scholarships available.

When Is "Energy Efficient" Worth It? – GE Heat Pump Hot Water Heater Review

This might bore some of you, but I’m really excited about the new water heater we got for our 1925 fixer-upper in Church Hill.  When we first bought this place back in June 2009, there was an 8-year old 30-gallon hot water heater in the basement that was off-level and had a water line about a foot from the bottom indicating the basement had flooded at one point (probably Hurricane Gaston in 2004).  Furthermore, the heating elements in this cheap water heater were operating very poorly, as Sarah and I could only enjoy about 7 minutes of hot water (max) before it got luke-warm or cold.  That meant 3-minute hot water showers if we showered back-to-back.  We lived like that for over a year.

So we entered the market as very motivated buyers of a new hot water heater.  We explored the affordable models at the big box stores, such as 30, 40, and 50-gallon electric units for anywhere from $220 to $420.  I remember seeing some fancy stainless steel model for over $1500 and scoffing at it thinking that we would never get some silly Cadillac of Hot Water Heaters.

That’s exactly what we ended up buying.

I had researched online all kinds of water heaters – electric, gas, wood-fired units, and tankless.  I went to the library and read Consumer Reports.  I stumbled upon this fancy type called a “heat pump water heater.”  It is a hybrid unit that uses a mix of traditional electric water heating elements and an electric heat pump. Historically, most water heaters have used heating elements to heat the water (extremely inefficient, but it heats nonetheless).  Engineers at GE, Rheem, and other companies have figured out a way to mix in a very efficient way to heat (heat pump) with this traditional method and use the result to heat water.

Consumer Reports noted that of all the new “energy efficient” products out there, these Hybrid Water Heaters are one of best at paying themselves off in energy savings very rapidly.

Take a Toyota Prius or Solar Cells for your roof.  Those things can take decades to pay for themselves in monetary savings, making them less of an economic purchase and more of a “save the earth” purchase.

I found that the Hybrid Water Heaters can be both an economic purchase and they “save the earth” at the same time.  What a concept.  What really makes this work is all the rebates and incentives that come from the state and federal level to help you pay for a Heat Pump Water Heater.  There was also a sale at Lowe’s when I bought it.  Here is how it worked for us:

Retail Price of Water Heater:           $1599.00
Lowe’s 10% Appliance Discount:    ($159.90)
State of Virginia Rebate:                  ($250.00)
Federal Energy Credit:                     ($453.32)
State Sales Tax                                     $71.96
Net Total Cost to Me:                       $807.74


Annual Average Savings in Energy Costs (vs. a traditional 50-gallon electric hot water heater): $290/yr.  For graphs and an overview of this conclusion, go to http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_pump.pr_savings_benefits





$807 divided by $230 is 2 and three quarters.  So this hot water heater will pay for itself in savings in 2 years and 9 months.  Everything we save after that is gravy.


I just got my electric bill after using the unit for a full month.  Though it’s hard to compare to other months’ bills because we’ve only been in the house 18 months and every month has seen changes in upgrades and energy use, I can say that the bill was definitely lower than I expected it to be.  One reason is probably this killer water heater.

The heater has a digital dashboard to select the exact heat of the water (up to 125, I think).  We keep it at 113 and that’s plenty hot enough for us.  I should note here that the water feels just as hot as an electric-only water heater.  You can also select the energy modes (hybrid, traditional, energy efficient, etc.).  You can even select “vacation mode” at the push of a button.  My father-in-law and I installed the thing and the installation was very simple and not any different than a traditional water heater (hot/cold lines and wiring for 220).  There is also an air filter that is simple to remove and wash under water (haven’t had to clean it yet).  A light will turn on for you when it is time to clean the air filter.

I’ve heard and read that some people are concerned about the noise of the appliance.  Since it is a heat pump, it has a motor that runs and it is certainly audible.  We have the unit in our basement laundry area, so the noise doesn’t bother us.  We can sometimes hear it from the first floor when everything else is quiet, but it’s definitely not bothersome.  If anything, it is the sound of extra money in the pocket 🙂

What are some purchases that you think are worth the up-front cost in order to gain the long-term energy savings?



4 Benefits to Being a One Car Family

I once read a book about living happily without a car. But Sarah and I like having at least one around.

We own a 2001 Toyota Corolla with 176,000 miles on it. Sarah brought it into the marriage fully paid for and it currently shows no signs of dying soon. We change the oil and try to keep up with all the maintenance that comes with a car.

We just had a baby, and there has been the temptation to get a second car so that we can both have the freedom to get up and go whenever we like.

Here are four benefits we have discovered while being a one car family:

1. Money – two cars means twice the property taxes, more fuel purchases, more maintenance bills, and many other costs to owning vehicles

2. Health – we have 2 bikes, and since we live in an urban setting, we are just a bike ride away (or city bus) from ANYTHING (from the grocery store to the post office to the places where we work); biking is a fun way to get that cardio workout

3. Time Together – a result of living with one car means more trips together and planning out days and trips so that our car rides meet both of our needs; that means we do a lot of errands together and thus spend lots of time together in transit

4. Environment – we’re not green freaks, but I guess it’s nice to think that we’re only emitting fumes from one car rather than two

So, for now, I guess we’ll keep driving our Corolla ’till it dies without getting anything else.

What works for your family?

Save Money on a Computer Upgrade

I’m sure this offer has been out for a while, but I just found out about Apple’s computer recycling program. As some of you out there know, I’ve been a Mac user my entire life (since my Dad bought one of the first ones in 1984). I’m not one of those crazy Apple fanatics who lives and breathes for Apple products, but I do feel they have a good product and good service.

I noticed on their website that if I ever want to buy a new computer, I can recycle my current computer (by mailing it in to Apple) and receive an Apple gift card in the amount of the value of my used computer. I checked the value of my current machine (an iMac I bought in 2007) and found it to be right around $250 in value.

If I ever purchase a new Mac, that $250 will sure come in handy. It looks like they will recycle and give out gift cards for both Mac and PC products.

Check out the value of your computer and read more about the program at http://www.apple.com/recycling/computer/

The "Instant Equity!" Scam

I’m sorry, but as I look through the real estate market, there is something that really irks me about the misleading things sellers like to say about their homes. Let’s take a home that is on the market for $150,000. The seller says that the recent assessment of the home’s value was $180,000, so if you buy it, then you will have $30,000 “instant equity”!

Now, think about this: A home is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. If I am willing to fork out $150,000 and nobody else is willing to fork out more than that, then guess what? The home is only worth $150,000 and there is NO “instant equity.” I could turn around and immediately try to re-sell the house, but I will probably only get that same amount or less for it – unless I fix it up, wait several years (and hope the neighborhood appreciates), or try the same stupid misleading tactics of telling potential buyers that they will have instant equity.

A home is NOT worth what your municipality tells you it is worth. That might be an educated guess (some more educated than others, I’m sure) based on the recent sales of comparable homes in the area. But ultimately, a home is only worth what the buyer actually pays for it.