My mom always used to tell me that money burned a hole in my pocket. It was true. As a kid I loved to spend, spend, spend! I stood before the candy bins for hours, picking out different types. I threw away money on trinkets. But when I was a teen-ager and started babysitting regularly (for $1.25 an hour!!!), I started putting my earnings away and each year bought myself a plane ticket to visit my best friends back East. What it took to change my habits was a real goal to reach for.
My 6-year-old Cash seems to have matured faster than I did. When Cash declared that he wanted the Bugville Butterfly Treehouse, in which you watch larvae grow into butterflies, I told him that I did not have the money for it but that he could save up for it. After haggling a little over why I couldn’t use my credit card or just go to the bank and get money from the ATM to get some cash (man, this kid is savvy!), he agreed that it was a good idea to put his money away to buy the butterfly garden, instead of throwing his quarters into every gumball machine we passed.
There has been some waffling. Whenever we pass the local pharmacy and he sees the little plastic Pooh bears nestled in their adorable costumes, he lunges. I remind him that it will likely get lost or end up among the piles of useless junk in his room. When that doesn’t work, I pull out a very un-PC ammunition — China. “It’s from China. Lead!” I say in an alarmed voice. He's still so angry about the recall of his beloved Thomas the Train Ice Cream Factory that the reminder jolts him back to his goal. Even though I'm stereotyping an entire country and culture, it has worked well to stop fights cold in the toy aisle.
We put out three jars, one for spending, one for saving and one for charity. I told him that I expected him to put some money into all three. I said that it was reasonable to occasionally spend a little on a gumball or the like but that most of the money should should go into the savings jar. He's still not so keen on the charity jar but I’m working on him.
It took about two months to raise the $25 he needed. He hit the jackpot when he lost two teeth in one day. He’s been collecting quarters here and there for helping around the house. He scored a dollar in a bet with his dad over the basketball finals. And Grandma Sharon sent him $5.
In the past, he would have thrown all that money away immediately on trash. But he stood strong and today was the big day. He packed up his savings jar and we headed to the Academy of Sciences.
There was only one glitch. On the way, I warned him that of course the caterpillars were not going to be in the box, that he would have to send away for them. He was devastated. Two months of waiting and it meant nothing.
With tears flowing, my stubborn child declared that he wouldn’t get the Bugville Butterfly Treehouse. I was worried that he would go into the store and buy a bunch of junk. But instead he spent a good half hour surveying everything in the museum store before making his choice.
He ended up using $14.99 for a Soda Can Robug, a robot that he has to build that “emits sound and moves across the floor”. I could endorse that. He used another $4.99 for one of those “Hatch ‘em” dinosaur eggs that breaks open in water to reveal a mini dinosaur that grows to a half a foot or so. He’s been dying for one so it was a good secondary choice. And then he got a Tumble “Bug with Leaf Launcher,” which for $3.97 may otherwise qualify as junk. But it looked so cool that even I wanted to try it. With our 10 percent member discount, the total was $23.60. He put the change back in his jar and said that maybe he'd try again for Bugville now that he knows he'll be waiting for the bugs and won't be so disappointed.
How have you taught your kids about money?