The fourth- and fifth-graders at Hiawatha Community Elementary School in Minneapolis understand the difference between recess and recession. Ask them to define the latter and faces don't light up as they do on the playground. Words such as crisis, banks, jobs and housing come up. With so many financial experts in denial or the courtroom, it was time to hear a simpler message. What does a 10- or 11-year-old know about saving money and cutting back?

Enough to understand economic lessons so basic that many grownups have forgotten them.

In a free-flowing discussion about families saving money and cutting spending in a recession, they offered up wisdom sage enough for Suze Orman or Jim Cramer: Know the difference between wants and needs. If you don't have the money, don't buy something. If you buy something, make it last.

Nearly 70 percent of Hiawatha students are from families at or near the poverty level, receiving free or reduced-price school lunches.

They seem to know the value of green at a young age. And they weren't short of advice on how to save money. While most students easily gave examples of families cutting back, one student wondered aloud if her mom might be making more money at work: Shopping at Target and Wal-Mart has been replaced by J.C. Penney and Herberger's, she said. Until those days return for more of us, here are 15 ways to save, courtesy of fourth- and fifth-graders.

Saving more, spending less

• Spend it on things you really need, such as food and clothes. (Deshawn Althoff and Lisa Maier)

• Make old stuff last longer: "If your furniture is old and dirty, wash it." (Isair Delgado)

• Pay the bills you haven't paid. (Richard Quinde Mora)

• If you don't have the money, don't buy it. (Raul Zavaleta Contrera)

• Save some money for medicine or an operation or cavities. (Ivet Reyes, Brenda Gutierrez-Rosas and Deeno Shamsul-Bahri)

• Save for taxes to pay for schools and teachers. (Danya Werth)

• "I have a spending jar and saving jar. I try to have more in the saving jar." (Sarah Tice)

• Don't buy junk food or cigarettes. (Nick Howard)

• Give the toys or clothes you don't like to friends or charities. (Jhan'e Franklin, Brianna Huntington, Kasey Herrera-Lima and James Lewis)

• Go to Aldi to save money on food. (DeShawn Althoff, Justice Paulsen and Ivet Reyes)

• Take a bike instead of a car: "My family bikes 600 miles a year." (Danya Werth)

• Go to Aéropostale instead of Abercrombie, where a shirt costs $80. (Suban Mohamed)

• Donate old clothes when the Arc truck comes. (Jovanna Lopez Ramales, Danya Werth and Justice Paulsen)

• Think of a new baby in the family as everyone's Christmas present. (Sarah Tice)

• Turn off the lights when you leave the room. (Rachel Perez)

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 •