Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Make a No-Sew Personalized Girl Scout Binder... AND How to Run a Girl Scout Troop Budget Meeting

I knew that our Girl Scout troop's budget meeting would be pretty intense. I planned to walk nine 9-13-year-olds (most of them closer to 9 than 13...) through last year's troop spending, and guide them through creating this year's troop budget. I had LOTS of pie charts and calculation worksheets and columns of addition and subtraction to go through with them. I had NO idea how well it would go.

To sweeten the experience, then, and to sneakily make sure that all of my several pages of information stayed in the exact order that I wanted it to, for every single girl, I made each girl in my troop her own personalized binder. Early this year I bought myself several yards of Girl Scout-themed fabric to use as I saw fit, and at some point, long ago (before our last move, perhaps!), I found binders sold by the case at a Container Store somewhere and bought a whole case.

I now have a whole case-sized space free in the garage, and I still have enough Girl Scout fabric left to make each girl in my troop a pencil case, IF I piece the backs from more stash fabric. It's a craft hoarder's win!

Personalizing a binder is super easy, and even though this project uses fabric, you don't have to sew a stitch.

You will need:
  • binders, any size. I had exactly nine binders on hand, but the ones that I used are similar to these binders.
  • cardstock, 8.5x11". This won't be visible, so you could also use thin cardboard. I'd suggest something acid-free, though!
  • fabric of your choice. I'm using Girl Scout fabric from Joann's.
  • Stencils and fabric paint. My fabric paint of choice for several years now is Jacquard Neopaque. Their Lumiere line has gotten expensive lately, but it's their line of metallic colors, and is just as good. I custom cut stencils from my original model Cricut, which is still hanging in there (even though I have to tell the software program that works with it to pretend that it's running in a version of Windows about five years outdated...)!
  • hot glue gun and hot glue.

1. Iron your fabric, then cut it a half-inch wider on all sides than a piece of 8.5x11" cardstock.

2. Place the cardstock centered on the fabric, then fold each side over against the cardstock and iron it again to crease it. Be mindful to hold the fabric steady when you do this; cardstock is slippery, and the fabric is easy to shift.

3.  Hot glue each fold against the cardstock:

4. Stencil the front of the fabric-covered cardstock to personalize it.

I don't have a lot of pictures of the process, because I didn't want to show you any other girl's name, but as you read through it, I think you can see that it's easy-peasy!

Before I handed the binders out to the girls, I made sure that all of the papers in them were in exactly the order that I wanted them, and I added several pages of blank notebook paper so they could take notes. And then I took a deep breath, and we did the budget!

The first page of the binder was our troop's budget for the 2017-2018 Girl Scout year. I made a pie chart that showed how the girls had voted to set aside all of their money--some to pay re-registrations, some to pay for badges and uniform components, some set aside as savings for troop travel and other Girl Scout experiences, some to pay for running meetings and badge-earning opportunities, some to pay for fun adventures for the girls to have together, and some to be used for various service projects and other charitable activities.

The next page was another pie chart, this time showing how the troop actually spent their money this year. Some of it was VERY different! 

Barely anything was spent on meetings and badge-earning, for instance, although this is primarily because we run everything co-op style, and parents who ran meetings and badge-earning opportunities have been neglecting to submit their receipts for reimbursement. This is a good thing for the troop finances, I guess, but I want our troop's budget to be a model for how a girl can create her own budget when she's an adult,so I explained to the girls why they want to be self-supporting with their own money, and that we should try harder this year.

On the other hand, the girls spent a LOT more on "Troop Fun" than they'd budgeted for. Our troop has started traveling, and had a trip last summer and one planned for this summer, both from this 2017-2018 budget. A couple of the girls felt really anxious about going over the budget for this category, and I had to show them a few times that even though they went over that particular category's budget, overall they were under budget by more than $500. 

So of course the next item on the agenda was for a couple of the girls to present proposals for spending that money! Our 2017-2018 finances are now nicely accounted for.

The next page in the binder was a calculator--you can see a girl's work on it below--

--for creating the troop's working budget for the 2018-2019 year. First, they had to vote on paying girl registrations, so we could set that money aside. Next, they had to agree upon how much the troop wanted to spend on badge and uniform supplies. This took quite a bit of active discussion, as I'd told them that everyone needed to come to a consensus on every decision--the rule is that you should never spend your money in a way that makes you  uncomfortable, so everyone has to be comfortable with how the money is spent.

Even if that means that you debate for 20 minutes over $25.

Finally, they had to decide how much they wanted to set aside for girls to use for individual Girl Scout programs and travel. There was more debate on that, but when they'd finished, and after subtracting all those totals from their cookie profits, they had arrived at their working budget for the 2018-2019 year!

Time for more debate! On the next page, I ran them through some quick calculations so that they could write down what 10%, 25%, 40%, etc. of their working budget was, to help them visualize the amounts they'd be working with. I also, on separate pages, provided a breakdown of exactly what we'd spent, and on what, in each budget category last year, and I gave them a page of beginning brainstorming ideas for each category:

I did have to give the girls a lot more guidance on this part, because the ideas were pretty abstract--they mostly wanted to talk about more ideas for how to spend the money, and not so much how much to set aside--but using the pie chart of how we'd spent last year's money, and a few ideas of what they wanted to accomplish this year, they finally got all of the money allocated.

Don't get me wrong--the experience was just as intense as I'd thought it would be, and when we were done all I wanted to do was go home to lie down in the dark with a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead. But I was thrilled at how much interest the girls took in the process, and how valuable of an activity it turned out to be. The girls had the experience of dividing their budget between wants and needs, necessities and luxuries, fun activities and operational expenses. They had to disagree with other girls and then compromise with them, stick up for their own ideas and change their minds, choose between different but equally enticing opportunities, and make plans for the future. It's a real-life, real-world skill, the ability to make a budget, and these girls are well on their way to being able to do it.

And if that wasn't awesome enough, since then, two different girls in my troop have shared with me pretend pie charts that they've made for fun, and each time, that girl said it was "because I know how much you love pie charts."

Children, I DO!!!

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