dollars and sense

25 Feb dollars and sense

B and Miles have been looking for ways to earn money. We don’t offer an allowance. The kids have several jobs they are expected to do as part of our family (like picking up their toys, clearing dishes, putting laundry away, feeding the pets, keeping their bathroom tidy).

They don’t get paid for those tasks, but we give them the option of doing extra work to earn money for their piggy banks. Chores to earn money might include wiping down the baseboards, vacuuming, sweeping the patio, or cleaning up after the pets (my favorite!)…basically anything that’s above and beyond what’s expected, that genuinely helps me and Kris, we’re happy to pay for.

This week, B was lamenting that she doesn’t have $10 in her piggy bank. There’s a toy she has been wanting that costs $10, and it’s taking too long to earn the money.

So, in a flash of brilliance, I thought I’d help her out. Every Wednesday, her school offers the kids the option of having pizza and/or Jamba Juice during lunch. I’m not a fan of kids eating pizza or drinking a smoothie every week, but I usually let B get the smoothie because she loves it and some of the money goes toward extracurricular activities for the school. (I pack her a sandwich and veggies to go with the smoothie–feels more balanced that way.)

This week I gave her a choice. She could have the $4 for her piggy bank or use it for Jamba Juice.

I thought I was giving her the opportunity of a lifetime — a $4 windfall! Spend it or save it! You choose! I was already patting myself on the back for all the great life lessons I was teaching her when she burst into tears.

“You mean I can’t have both?!”

Um, what?

“I want Jamba Juice AND the toy,” she sobbed. She’d not only missed the point, but she was now overwhelmed by this life-changing decision.

Jamba Juice happens every week, I told her. You could skip it this week, buy the toy and have Jamba Juice next week. No biggie!

“But I LOVE Jamba Juice!” tears tears tears tears

Okay, so then buy Jamba Juice. Seize the day! You can still earn money for the toy. It will just take a little longer to get it.

Tears.

“I don’t know what to doooooo.”

Listen. These are decisions your dad and I have to make every day, I told her. We earn a certain amount of money every month and we have to decide how much to save and how much to spend and what to spend it on.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “I didn’t know money was this hard.”

It is hard. I imagined myself standing at an espresso bar, deciding whether or not to spend half my life savings on a latte. There are times (especially when the kids were newborns) I might have forked it over.

It took her over an hour to decide, but ultimately, she chose Jamba Juice. “Is that okay?” She was worried I’d disapprove.

Sure, part of me wanted her to put the $4 into her piggy bank. But how could I disapprove? She weighed her options carefully. There’s a tradeoff when you spend versus save. The decision isn’t easy, and it’s personal. Even simple pleasures come at a cost, though sometimes it’s worth the cost to have the thing you want in the moment.

And also, she really loves smoothies. More than I’d realized.

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