Spend to Make? But, of course!

I hung out in a second grade classroom last week to talk about saving money and then have the students make their own Money Jar.  It was a fun lesson and the Money Jars turned out unbelievable.  Kids and their creativity never ceases to amaze me.

While we were discussing money issues, I asked the students how they got money. Of course, the usual answers came up…allowance, chores, birthday money.  Then one little guy raised his hand and volunteered, “You have to spend money to get money.” 

Wow.  It took me a second to let his comment sink in.  If I was with a group of adults, I probably wouldn’t have skipped a beat.  Adults spend money on investments all the time in the hopes of making that money grow.  But I was in second-grade-mode, and the thought of a second grader coming up with this took me by surprise.

But he’s absolutely right…even on a second grade level.  Think about the good old fashioned lemonade stand.  Before you can make a profit, you first need to purchase all the supplies.  The same goes for making and selling crafts which a lot of kids like to do. 

I am always impressed with the kind of thinking that kids do if we allow them the opportunity to share their thoughts and reasons.  Who’d have thunk that a seven-year-old would get the concept that, yes, sometimes to make money you need to spend it.  Sheesh…with this kind of thinking, it’s hard to be smarter than a second grader.  🙂

Snap Goes the $300 Putter

Nathan and I were driving to a doctor’s appointment yesterday, chit-chatting about this and that, when he started to chuckle.  “Oh, yeah.  I forgot to tell you about (Mike) yesterday.”

Nathan has been going through golf try-outs for the high school team.  Yesterday was the last day of try-outs and I’m pretty confident that he will make the team.  And (Mike) will, too, but not because of his attitude.  Golf has a way of turning mild-mannered people into cranky two-year olds.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes…with John who is about as mild-mannered as it gets.  I’ve even seen a 45-year old man jump up and down in frustration.  And they ask me why I don’t play.

Apparently (Mike) was having a “bad” round yesterday.  Instead of figuring out how to get through his game, he snapped his putter around his neck.   I didn’t even know golf clubs could snap.  He had to putt the rest of his round with his 4-iron.

But the story doesn’t end there.  In the last three weeks, (Mike) has managed to destroy 7 of his 14 clubs.  Yup.  Half of them.  The putter he snapped around his neck yesterday… $300.  I am not making this up. 

Here’s the question (there are actually several questions we could ask here, but I’m going to focus on the “money” one):  Who the heck is replacing all of his clubs?  If his parents are covering for his inability to control his temper…OMG, it is his parents.  Nathan was curious about this and actually asked (Mike) about it. 

Here’s what I think.  Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.  (Mike) needs to be put in charge of paying for his own golf clubs. No doubt that will quickly solve the snapping of clubs problem.   And, it will have the added benefit of dealing with another troubling issue…his attitude.  Being responsible for his own clubs just may teach him a little self-control and discipline, especially if he has to work to earn the money to pay for them. 

That’s what I love about golf.  It teaches kids how to set personal financial goals (Nathan has one right now for a $150 putter he wants) and how to deal with the frustration of playing a bad game.   Those are life skills kids will need on and off the golf course.   And when the opportunity to teach those skills presents itself, grab it.  There are no better lessons than those tied directly to every day life.

$100 Jeans

I love watching commercials.  Especially with Ryan.  He wants to go into marketing as a career so it’s always fun to critique commercials with him.

But last night, Ryan wasn’t with me while I had tuned in the Olympics so John got to hear me get annoyed at the t.v. instead.  It was a Tide commercial and a young girl, about 12 years old, came on and started complaining about not being able to get the $100 pair of jeans she wanted because her mom was able to get the stain out of her older sister’s jeans, turning the jeans into hand-me-downs.

I get the reference in the commercial to saving $100 on a pair of jeans by using the right laundry soap.  It’s become almost ho-hum to hear a commercial talk about saving money.  (On a side note:  Ore-Ida does a pretty creative job of listing a bunch of ways for families to save money…however, these families are simply not willing to compromise on their choice of french fries.  Brilliant.)  Money-saving commercials are in vogue and Tide wants to fit in.

But, honestly, do 12-year old girls really need $100 pair of jeans, and are their parents buying them?  Kudos to the mom in the commercial for making the young girl wear the hand-me-down jeans.   But I couldn’t help think about the message that was being sent about 12-year-olds wearing such expensive  jeans.

I say, if the girl wants those jeans so bad, then have her pay the difference between the “regular” cost of a pair of jeans and the designer cost.  Let’s see if that doesn’t change her attitude pretty quickly.  And, heck, if you gave her a clothing allowance and put her in charge of buying her own clothes, I’ll bet those hand-me-downs may not look all that bad.  It’s always amazing how frugal kids become when it’s their money they’re spending.

And, although he wasn’t with me, I know Ryan would agree.  He finally succumbed to his torn-in-the-knees jeans (not a cool look anymore) and bought himself one new pair…on sale…with his clothing allowance.

Girls = $

We were driving home from Nathan and Ryan’s basketball game yesterday when I asked Nathan what he planned on giving his girlfriend, Shea, for Valentine’s Day.  “I bought her a rose,”  he said. 

“My math teacher did an equation in class the other day where he proved girls were evil,”  said Ryan.

Ryan often throws out what I think are non sequiturs, but which actually turn out to fit in with the conversation.  It just takes a few additional questions to get there.  I wasn’t sure where Ryan was going with this one, however, and I would have been pretty surprised if his math teacher really believed it, so I asked him to explain.

“Mr. Williams did an equation where he said that girls equals time times money.”  Okay, I was with him so far.  “Then he said that time was equal to money so that makes girls equal to money squared.”  Hmmmm…. “Then he said that greed is the root of all evil so that makes girls equal to the square root of evil.  Cancel out the square and square root and you end up with girls equal evil.”  Double hmmmm.  And apart from the early reference to money, I think this was actually a non sequitur.  And I was a little concerned about the impact of his “equation”, especially on girls. 

“He’s only kidding, mom.”  I’m sure he was, but his equation was implying that girls were expensive and things that are expensive are evil.  But let’s focus on the expensive part for a moment.

I have to take issue with the perception that girls are expensive; I know plenty of girls who are much more frugal than their male partners.  That said, I do feel that high school is the time when boys are exposed to the cost of females.  That’s because it’s typically the time when boys and girls start dating and along with that comes expenses.  And from listening to the stories Nathan and his friends share about girls and their expectations (i.e. money spent on them), girls expect a lot.   Nathan is finding this out as he had to put out for last week’s Valentine’s dance ticket and dinner.   I know Nathan, and my guess is that he compares these expenses to a tank of gas.  The dance cost him two tanks of gas.

“I’ve decided that instead of going out to dinner and spending lots of money for Valentine’s, I’m going to take Shea to a little pond that Ronnie, Jimmy, and I discovered on one of our bike trails.  We can have a little picnic and then I have two movie ticket gift cards so we can go to the movies after that.  It won’t cost me a penny,”  he said with a pretty wide grin.  No, it’ll cost me money since it’s my food he’ll be using.  But that’s perfectly fine with me.  He’s learning some important lessons.

Then Ryan pipes up again.  “My friend is waiting until after Valentine’s to ask one of his friends to be his girlfriend.  He says he’ll save a lot of money that way.”  No non sequitur here.  That message came in loud and clear and made perfect sense…in a frugal, money-saving kind of way.  I wonder if his friend is in Mr. William’s class…

To Share…But Not With My Sister

I was in a third grade classroom today doing a lesson on saving and spending wisely.  It’s a fun lesson because kids get to “buy” things with $25 that I “give” them.  With third graders, it’s important to let them know that the money isn’t real, nor are the items they buy.  I learned this the hard way last year.

Part way through the lesson I allow the kids to choose to save their money, spend it on another item, or share some of it.  They record this on a worksheet I designed specifically for the lesson.  Once they’ve recorded this part…the lesson continues.  It culminates in whether or not they get to go to Water Wonderland with their bestest buddy depending on how much money they have.  I’ve also learned the hard way that I need to make sure, up front, that the students know that Water Wonderland exists only in my imagination.  I had a second grader cry over this.

But mostly it’s a fun activity because kids get to peel off stickers.  And the stickers have cute little pictures on them.  Much more fun than “filling out” a worksheet.  Except for the very last worksheet “requirement”.  I ask the students to write down at the bottom what they learned from the activity.  I do this to see if I’ve made my point.  Then I collect the worksheets, read them (usually when the students are out at recess), and then send them home.

I was quite surprised at the answers to this third grade group of students when it came to filling out the part about saving, sharing, or spending more.  About 2/3 chose to save and the other 1/3 chose to buy another item.  No-one chose to share any of their money.  It made me wonder about how I presented it.  I made the assumption that they would know that they could share it with those less fortunate or maybe a cause that they are passionate about.

Turns out, my assumption was wrong.  I did the exact same lesson in a different third grade classroom later in the day.  This time, when we got to the sharing part I asked them who they could share some of their money with.  This is what they told me:  my brother, my sister, my cousin, my friend.  When I pressed for other ways they could share, I got all blank stares. 

That’s when the teacher stepped in.  “Remember when we collected money for our SPCA community project?”  Heads bobbed up and down.  “Well, weren’t we sharing some of our money to help the animals?”  More bobbing.  “Can you think of other organizations or people who might need our help?”  Yes, the could:  the homeless, poor people, the elderly, the families in Haiti…  And they all thought sharing with these was a good idea.

Alrightie, then.  I clearly hadn’t explained myself very well.  Their definition of  ‘share’ related to their everyday sharing experiences:  share a cookie, share a toy, share their crayons.  But then, why was it that no-one wanted to share their money with a sibling or a friend?  It didn’t occur to me until later to ask, so I don’t have an answer.

But another question occurred to me.  Why didn’t any of these kids associate sharing with giving to those in need?  Could it be that they aren’t accustomed to sharing money, or, at the very least, aware that mom and dad share money?  Third graders are quite capable of understanding the sharing concept.  Perhaps we need to do a better job of getting them involved.  After all, sharing is a good thing, not only for the recipient, but for the giver.  We do not want to deny this for our kids.  Note to self:  create a lesson based solely on having kids share their “money”.  Stay tuned…

Are Bribes Okay?

I took Ryan with me to hot yoga yesterday.  Nathan had gone a while back with my friend Rebecca and came back with stories about how he’d never sweat so much in all his life.  Then I started going and found out that he was right.  The heat, plus the difficulty of the poses made for a very intense 90 minutes.

Ryan likes a good challenge and asked if he could give it a go.  So yesterday we went.  In the lobby of the yoga studio was a girl who looked to be about 16 years old.  She was talking to the owner about the heat, not sure if she would be able to make it through, and wanted to know if she could get up and leave during the class.  I’ve learned that that is a no-no.  I’ve also learned the heat isn’t as much of an issue as I, too, thought it was going to be when I first started.  But the girl did not seemed convinced.

When we got into the yoga room, I was surprised to see that the 16-year old girl decided to stay.  She ended up right behind Ryan…and right next to the exit door.  I decided to go over and talk with her and allay some of her concerns about the heat.  I told her that because the poses are so difficult and require a lot of concentration, the heat actually becomes secondary.  And then I asked her what made her decide to come.

“My mom gave me twenty bucks to come,”  she said. 

Really?  So where was mom?  Apparently she had something better to do.

I had to smile to myself, though, about the twenty dollars.  To a teenager, that is a lot of money.  And the fact that she was so concerned about the heat, but stayed anyway, underscored the value of that money.  It made me think about whether bribes were okay.

I am not a believer in paying kids to do things they should do as a member of a family or community.  For example, paying kids to clean up after themselves is not okay.  Neither is paying them for their grades.  But every now and then, like in the yoga example, I do think it’s okay to offer a monetary reward.  The key is to never make it an on-going habit.  Because that’s when kids begin to expect a handout for everything they do.  And raising entitled kids is not teaching them good money habits…or life habits.

The 16-year old made it through the class just fine.  As Ryan and I were leaving, she was asking about memberships.  Ryan…he did awesome, as well.  But in the car ride home, he never asked me about going back.  He had proven he could do it…and was moving on to his next challenge -training for his first half-marathon.  I’ll stick to yoga.

Oops. Missed One.

I recently wrote about how Nathan was given the opportunity to sign up for some sort of  membership on Amazon in order to save shipping costs on an item he had ordered.  After I gave him permission I then showed him how to make sure he canceled the membership within the alloted time so that he would not get charged.  (See blog entry:  Keeping Good Records)

What I missed in all of this was Ryan.  Turns out, when going through my credit card bill last night, I noticed a charge for $59.95.  Apparently when Ryan was signing up for the New Year’s Resolution Run (yes, I gave him my credit card so he could do it himself), he also signed himself up for a membership.  Only he didn’t realize it.  In fact, he was adamant that he didn’t sign up for anything other than the race.  And I believe him.  These memberships sign-ups can be stealthy.

So after going over the importance of reading everything carefully, he agreed he’d be more careful.  But in order to underscore how careful he would be in the future, I told him that if we couldn’t get the charges reversed, he would be responsible for the $59.95.  I was pretty sure it was reversible, but was using this as an opportunity for this incident to mean something to him so that next time, he’d be much more careful.  As expected, he wasn’t very happy about that.

I did get the charges reversed and Ryan is relieved.   So he  just signed up online to run the Shamrock Half-Marathon.   I watched him go through the process slowly and deliberately.  I’m pretty sure there was no membership involved…