Frequently Asked Questions

If there is anything else you’d like to know, please reach out via the contact us form.
Here’s to early financial education and all that it can accomplish, which is a lot!

1) Why are we free? To be truly accessible.

We believe financial literacy is a basic human right. But we also know it is a pursued interest – and – that our money personality is largely established by adolescence. So we built a tool to give school-aged children some real-life practice, asking and answering questions about typical childhood purchases, before, any money is spent. We chose this approach because thinking before buying naturally reveals that asking questions about money is something anyone can do, to avoid disappointment, reduce waste, improve family harmony and protect the planet.

Once you discover that you can get and use (at first basic) financial information to make your life better, why…would you ever stop? You’d stop if the only way to continue practicing was to cross a paywall. So, we don’t have one. Humans need to try something out at least three times before they can appreciate all its benefits. We want children to be able to use the DIMS SCORE® Calculator on demand, particularly immediately following workshops. Having to register and pay will prevent most 10-14 year old’s from continuing to test-drive what we want to become a new & exciting life skill.

2) How can we be free? We’re very efficient.

Our digital platform allows us to very efficiently deliver wise-spending lessons to children from all economic realities, in various settings (at school, community groups, or home). Our scale model is “teach-the-teacher” so our content can get in front of students we cannot. (And our content has universal appeal. Find a child who doesn’t believe they deserve at least one holiday or birthday gift a year! Who is never tasked with answering the question “What would you like?”)

We don’t have to update or distribute textbooks. We’re able to incorporate valuable user feedback almost as soon as we receive it. The shareable summary of all the math and thinking a child undertakes when using the DIMS – DOES IT MAKE SENSE?® SCORE Calculator is also digitally generated.

All of that said, please don’t conflate the fact that we are free, with the idea that we don’t need help to give as many middle school students as possible, the opportunity to learn about money in a way they find immediately helpful, because we do! If your organization is values-aligned, and you’d like to collaborate (e.g. by listing us as a trusted resource or running workshops as part of broader youth programming), let us know. In the interim, spread the news: Thinking before buying is an incredibly powerful, yet easy-to-teach, and sticky, life skill. We exist solely to help teach it to middle school students everywhere.

3) Why do we focus on spending? Because spending is relevant to most kids.

We focus on helping children develop wise spending habits, because spending is practically speaking what most school-aged children get to do with the little money that comes their way. And financial knowledge needs to be relevant to be helpful. 

Early financial education solves so much! When children get comfortable with basic personal finance terms and ideas, they’re developing the confidence required to seek out the more sophisticated financial information they’ll need later in life, when it’s relevant and can be helpful. But early financial education needs to be engaging and personal to get that job done. Lessons on decisions that children won’t face for fifteen or twenty years (e.g. on interest rates or mortgages) do little to help a 10-14 year old understand why (even basic) financial information is worth pursuing. 

The DIMS SCORE® Calculator lets kids work on a problem that matters to them (“Should I buy or ask for this?), with real-world impact that can be publicly displayed. It lets them experience that they can make a difference in their world when their money personalities are still in development. The timing is key because the habits and beliefs we develop about money when we’re young are incredibly stable. They inform how we think and act with money for the rest of our lives.

4) Who trusts us? Please find just a sample, below. 

    1. The thousands of parents and educators who have already given their kids what has to be one of the best gifts ever: the habit of thinking before buying!
    2. Robin Taub, Author of “The Wisest Investment: Teaching Your Kids to Be Responsible, Independent, and Money-Smart For Life”  
    3. The Money Awareness & Inclusion Awards
    4. Next Gen Personal Finance – the leading financial literacy NGO in the United States.
    5. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (Canadian Financial Literacy Database) 
    6. Walter Cronkite’s “healthy skepticism” foundation.
    7. Seedlyng Financial Education 
    8. We’ve also answered U Chicago’s “Questions to Pose”. These were designed to help parents and community members understand if a financial education program in their school is unbiased and high-quality. 

5) What does a DIMS – DOES IT MAKE SENSE?® SCORE of 8 or greater mean? It means you are ready to have a productive conversation about spending.

A DIMS SCORE® of 8 or greater means that a young person has enough information about a purchase, to have a productive conversation with their parents about spending money to make that purchase a reality. If a young person cannot generate a DIMS  SCORE® of 8 or greater, we suggest they reconsider the purchase. Clicking on the pink “Tell Me Why” button (which is automatically generated when your DIMS SCORE® is less than 8) will reveal the information a child needs to collect, to better discuss whether or not a purchase makes sense, for them, and their family.

6) I’m a teacher, can I conduct my own GIFTING SENSE® workshop? Y‑E‑S!

Please visit the Teacher Tab, where you’ll find the resources we ourselves use to deliver workshops. If you are worried that you don’t have enough class time, ask your students to use the DIMS SCORE® Calculator in preparation for class, and use your time together for reflective conversation. Did they recognize some of the questions asked? (They always do!) Did they generate the shareable summary and text or email it to a parent? The goal of a workshop is merely to introduce young people to the awesome power of spending, with a plan. A plan that is easy to make, when you have a tool that lets you quickly, but not arbitrarily, think about whether or not a possible “spend” makes sense for you and your family at a moment in time. 

If you want to turn thinking before buying into an after-school club or series of classes, we give you suggestions as to how you can spend more than one class with our content in this blog post. Don’t forget to order a class set of pencils for your students with the mnemonic device “What’s the DIMS SCORE®?” written right on the side!

7) I’m a parent, can I introduce my kids to the DIMS SCORE® Calculator all on my own? Y‑E‑S!

Parents are welcome to introduce their family to the DIMS SCORE® Calculator. We liken thinking before buying to toothbrushing, another powerful but easy-to-teach habit. And not only Dentists teach their kids to brush their teeth! 

We’ve heard of parents who ask their children to calculate the DIMS SCORE® for every item on a back-to-school, holiday or birthday wish list. We’ve heard of kids force-ranking their entries, from highest to lowest score, to help them decide where best to allocate precious dollars. And in our workshops, we compare using the DIMS SCORE® Calculator for items versus experiences, or vice versa. The more you ask questions about possible purchases, the more you understand how a potential spend is likely to improve your life, or not!

The icing on the cake? Families who adopt the policy “in this house, we think before we buy” tell us they receive fewer, better quality, requests to spend. Sounds like a win-win doesn’t it? A free and safe way to let your children experience first-hand how a quick “pause before purchase” doesn’t eliminate fun, but does help you avoid disappointment and waste! 

8) I’m a kid. I calculated a DIMS SCORE® of 8 or greater but my parents still said “no”. Now what? Trust your parents, and know that time is on your side!

Remember, a DIMS SCORE® of 8 or greater only means that you’ve gathered enough information to have a conversation with your parents. In our experience, if you gathered the necessary information, and politely presented it to your parents, but they don’t believe the purchase makes sense, it is usually for two reasons:

  1. You’re asking to have an experience they do not believe is age-appropriate, such as using public transportation without an adult chaperone.
  2. You’re asking for an item or experience that is so costly, and your family needs time to put a plan in place to save up for it.

The good news is that both of these “no’s” could move to a “yes” with enough time and work. Ask your parents what you can do to change their mind. Their answers might surprise you! And don’t forget that with your parent’s permission, you can use the shareable summary to crowd-fund the purchase of a larger, more meaningful gift, amongst extended family members (like grandparents, aunts and uncles). No one likes to waste their money on earrings you won’t wear, books you won’t read, or gift certificates you don’t use.

9) We’d like to schedule a workshop; how can we do that? There are several ways.

Reach out via the Contact Us Form. We’ve only said, “we’re sorry we can’t make it work” three times in over 8 years. If we can’t visit your school, we can Zoom with a class, or even conduct an expository workshop for a teaching team. Write to us and we’ll send you the Explainer Deck we share with Educators looking to schedule workshops.

We do offer workshops on Outschool. Outschool charges a fee for use of their safe and secure platform, so we cannot offer these workshops for free. Every cent that has been paid to us from Outschool has been spent on the production and shipping of Gifting Sense pencils to teachers conducting their own workshops. (Recall how efficient we are!) We are investigating the production of pre-recorded, self-paced workshop modules that individual students or families could watch on their own. 

10) You’ve been doing this for almost a decade. What are your top observations?

  1. Kids are interested in money. They soak up normalization of the fact that money is scarce for many families, and finite for all. Being good with money is a pursued interest. So let’s employ children’s natural curiosity to convince them that money-smarts are worth pursuing! Thinking before buying is an engaging and age-appropriate way to get that job done.
  2. Early financial education solves so much. When kids acquire comfort with basic personal finance terms and ideas (e.g. cost-per-use, or the full cost of an experience, versus just the “ticket” price) they’re also developing the confidence required to seek out the more sophisticated financial information they’ll need later in life when it’s relevant, and can be helpful.
  3. We don’t begin any other subject “in the middle”, so why wait until high school or beyond to teach personal finance? Mastery of any subject usually begins – at the beginning. And spending a little bit of allowance, birthday, holiday gift, grocery or lunch money is the first time most kids get to make a “financial decision”. So compare thinking before buying to the A-B-C’s or 1-2-3’s of personal finance, the necessary foundation. When done right (i.e. via a relevant experience), early financial education primes the demand pump for later-in-life learning, like full-semester personal finance courses in high school and college. Those courses are the next necessary step to fully prepare today’s youth for the earning, spending, saving, sharing and investing decisions that lie in their futures. But you need to believe a course of study will help you, to partake, and then get the most out of it. 
  4. Purpose led learning works best. As Ted Dintersmith says in his book What School Could Be, “When students work on problems that are important to them…with real-world impact that can be publicly displayed…they gain conviction that they can make a difference in their world.” This is what families tell us occurs when their children use the DIMS SCORE® Calculator to quickly, but not arbitrarily, consider a possible purchase:
     ✅  they research answers to simple questions,
     ✅  they generate a summary of all the math & thinking they’ve done, and then
     ✅  they can decide whether or not they want to move forward with the purchase, sometimes involving their parents in the ultimate decision.
  5. Kids are fully capable of making terrific consumer decisions, when we give them a tool that lets them quickly, but thoughtfully, do so. They are relieved to experience first-hand that thinking before buying does NOT mean that you never get to do or buy anything fun. They quickly embrace planning their spending, when it takes minutes, but spares them hours, weeks, and sometimes even years of disappointment and waste.
  6. Kids are very aware of their family’s money situation and rarely use the DIMS SCORE® Calculator to justify purchases that don’t make sense for their family. Once all the facts of a purchase are laid bare, they stop themselves from asking for…Super Bowl Tickets, and $1200 phones when a $400 one gets the job done. The shareable summary of all the math & thinking they have done, does, however, give them a tool that can be used to crowd-fund the purchase of one larger, more meaningful gift, amongst extended family members. (Scroll to the end of the “How It Works”)
  7. There’s no financial literacy gender gap among 10-14-year-olds. Boys and girls ask the same sorts of questions in our workshops. They have the same misunderstandings about money. E.g. many of them confuse digital payment methods (credit cards, debit cards, ApplePay, Venmo or Interac) with how they are funded (someone working at a job to earn wages). This tells us that if we do nothing other than raise the FIRST generation of young adults, where young women continue to ask questions about money before making personal financial decisions, with the same frequency as young men (because historically, they have not), we can significantly narrow the money gender gap.
  8. Too many of today’s adults lament they were never taught about money. We can’t tell you how many parents and educators have said “I wish this had been available when I was a kid!”. Re-engineering previously unsuccessful approaches to earning, spending, sharing, saving, and investing, is painful and challenging.  Let’s eliminate avoidable financial stress (e.g. stress caused by impulse spending), and reduce other sources to the extent possible, by building a world where financial literacy is seen in the same light as reading and writing: a fundamental human right.

Hear us discuss the above-noted observations and more, on the below-noted podcasts!

  1. So Money with Farnoosh Tarobi (New York, March 2024) How does the DIMS SCORE® Calculator serve as a “speed bump” in today’s frictionless spending environment, helping kids avoid both FOMO and buyer’s remorse? How does thinking before buying help a child develop a healthy adult relationship with money? How do we raise the first generation of young adults where young women continue to ask the same questions about money as young men?
  2. Sophia Money Makers with Tanya Rolfe (Singapore, November 2023) Can children learn about money before they have some to spend? What are we missing when it comes to kids and money? How do early-made money habits affect the rest of our lives?
  3. Moo La La with Bruce Sellery (Toronto, March 2023) What does spending virtual currency (e.g. “Robux”) allowance on in-app purchases teach children about money? Why is spending in real life (versus the metaverse) a better way to let kids practice real-life spending trade-offs?
  4. Banking on Girls with Marina Batliwalla (California, February 2023) What in Karen’s childhood led to the Gifting Sense project? Why is thinking before buying such a powerful present for your child’s future?
  5. The Most Hated F-Word with Shawn Maslyk (Edmonton, March 2022) Today’s children will be digital spending natives. What infrastructure can replace the physical and visual cues spending fiat currency gave their parents? How do we raise conscious spenders? Hear about the most unique purchase ever put through the DIMS SCORE® Calculator (Greenland!) and why it was an appropriate use of the tool.