Yesterday, the children convinced Daddy to take them to the store. They had money, you see (they were convinced they were rolling in it!), and wanted to spend it on toys. My husband thought this was a perfect opportunity to teach them a few things. Man was he right.
Our daughter had about $10.50. Our son had $7.00. Our daughter knew exactly what she wanted to buy, and she even knew the store that carried it. Off we went. We reminded them of their choices: spend all their money, spend some of their money and save a little, spend none of their money and save it all.
The store didn’t carry our daughter’s dream toy after all. She looked at other things, but nothing caught her eye, nothing was the right price… Our son kept rifling through various items, checking the prices. Every single thing he wanted had an “8” in front of the decimal point. “Can’t get it,” (toss back in bin), “Can’t get it,” (toss back in bin), “Can’t get it,” (toss back in bin)… I was really proud of them, of our younger one, especially.
We headed to another store with traditionally lower prices. They studied, examined, and revisited. They tended to gravitate toward the largest toys, all on the lower shelves. The toys they could afford? High up, where few young people can see or reach. Not surprising, but aggravating nonetheless.
After about 15 minutes, our daughter found something that she could barely afford. She was about 25 cents short, because she had a Euro coin in her piggy bank, and had reasonably counted it as a U.S. quarter–all the quarters look so different from one another lately (and we had no idea that she’d found a Euro coin… Daddy must have dropped one). Watching my husband explain to our baffled daughter that she had to use the right currency was pretty cute. Because of the misunderstanding and the clear demonstration of her ability to budget (“I have the right dollars, but now, not the right cents. I can’t get it.”) Daddy offered her a cash advance for the work she would do for him over the weekend (really, really light yard work) to cover the difference.
Meanwhile, our son was in dire straits. Nearly nothing interested him that cost less than $7.00. I reminded him, “you don’t have to get anything, you can save your money, and do some more work, earn some more money, and then get what you really, really want.” But, he’s barely six years old. “I have to get something, Mommy.” He was so troubled. I pointed out the two things that just barely interested him. He pondered, and decided to get one of them, for $2.99. I said brightly, “You’ll have money left over to put back in your piggy bank.”
At the cash register, he held his little toy and his baggie full of money. His sister, behind him holding her much larger toy, said, “Wow, I was able to get so much more. I probably had enough to get what you really wanted, but I wanted this, so….” I told her that wasn’t very nice to say. (My husband reminded me that this was all part of the lesson.)
By the time we made it home, he was dejected. His sister offered, “He’s not very happy with his toy. He wishes he hadn’t gotten it and wants to get something else.” I told them the toy was already opened, the packaging had been thrown away, we couldn’t really return it now.
This morning, before he’d even had his breakfast, he asked if we could go back to the store. I said no… He was so sad. He took his remaining money out of his baggie, and put it back in his piggy bank. Those happy clinks of coins… not sure if they offset his wish to do it all over again. I hope they did. He’s working on a birthday wish list now. And I have a feeling he’ll be angling for more yard work.