Today I am going to share one story in which I taught my children the value of money. It relates to the first time a child has spendable cash. The story is the same for each of our daughters, but with different “objects” of interest.
The hardest part of being a parent, teaching your children about value, quality, and the use of money is allowing them to make a purchase that you know as a parent is going to flop. Yet, their determination to acquire that piece of “eye candy” is extremely strong, that they are unable to hear nor understand your rationale as to “why” they should not purchase the item.
Our youngest is now 18 ½ and now smiles at the process of this lesson. It was not a happy moment the day she decided she MUST have that fashion doll from the dollar store. This experience occurred when she was around 6 years old.
Because she loved Barbie dolls so much, and knew that the price of them ranged from $4 to $12 or more, she more ecstatic when she saw the plastic simulation of a doll at the dollar store. She had $2 on her, and felt that she was getting deal allowing her to save the other $1.
My efforts were fruitless as I tried to explain to her, that if she saved every dollar she earned, eventually she would have enough for the Barbie she really wanted. I even shared how sometimes when we wait for the things we want in life, until we have the money, that the item could go on sale or clearance, reaping a better value for the desired item as well as keeping funds in her pocket. She was having no part in this rationale.
It pained me to see money being wasted on something we shared would break within the day. I earnestly wanted to say no, but it was a lesson I allowed our other two daughters to learn as well. So, I told her that we would allow her to make this purchase with the understanding that the doll could break within a short period of time, but at least she would have a cute Barbie dress for her other dolls. She accepted this agreement and with a smile went to the cash register.
Please understand, the dollar store has its purpose. But, for me I utilize this store for items that will serve the length of time I need them for. If I am looking for an item as a gift, it is rare that I will find it at one of these stores. I also compare prices on staple items like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc., with other stores in the area. Sometimes you will spend more at the dollar store than you realize, just because of it’s name.
So, as we finished our shopping, after obtaining groceries at Market Basket next door, we proceeded to head home. She was so proud of her purchase, and with our help, we opened the package so that she could play with her new doll that she proudly purchased on her own. Unfortunately, her proud moment changed quickly to a very painful time in her life. Tearful crying came from the back of the van as she shared that her doll was broken. The arms simply fell out of the dolls body! Despite our efforts, there was no way those flimsy plastic arms were going back into that flimsy plastic doll body.
It still pains me to this day to have allowed her heart to be broken, but one is never too young to learn the value of a dollar. I reminded her that at least she had a new dress for her other Barbie dolls. Eventually, and I don’t mean in five minutes either, her pain turned to anger at the manufacturers who produced such junk and claimed that she would NEVER buy another doll that was not of good quality.
A dollar was spent, tears were shed, lesson learned. As time passed, she as well as her sisters have always watched and listened when I shopped. She now goes out on her own for things like earrings, college supplies, etc. She knows the difference between quality and value. She understands that if she waits long enough and shops around, when time allows, she can get exactly what she needs. Sometimes she pays the full price, but she confirms it is what she wants and needs. In addition, one time supplies are always purchased at the lowest price available.
Although the three girls are very aware of their resources and wants, I find it a joy to listen to how they found their bargains and how saving has paid off for them. For our youngest, she currently has two jobs for the summer college break. Her main job pays for all car needs (including her insurance costs), college books and as much of her college expenses as possible. Her other job, where she might make $10-$20 a week helping an elderly neighbor out, goes towards fun stuff such as new earrings, a new/used book, a trip to the amusement park with a friend, etc.
It was never about teaching our daughters about being cheap, to spend as little as possible while sacrificing quality. The goal in our lessons in money management was that it is always okay to have the nice, quality items in life, but one must be patient while saving to acquire them. In the process of saving, there was an appreciation for what they acquired, resulting in more care in maintaining it.
It definitely pained me to not have the resources to buy our three daughters all their wants and desires as they were growing up, but it brings me great joy to see them respect the money that they now make on their own. I’ve seen our older daughters go on trips, purchase amazing items of great value, all because they knew how to save, how to find the best avenues for savings, how to budget and how to decide what they “really” needed vs. the want for immediate gratification.
For us, to allow a child to spend a $1 on junk in order to learn a lesson on the value of money was worth more than the cost of their college education.
Be frugal not cheap,
~ Enjoy ~
Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor