Missed Opportunity

I was in Beverly’s the other day buying scraps of fabric for the Money Jars I will be having kids make at an upcoming book signing.  I totally lucked out on the fabric scraps!  The day before, I had gone in to purchase the fabric and was told that I could save a lot of  money by waiting until the next day where I could fill a bag with as much fabric scrap as I wanted for only $2.  So, since I’m a savvy shopper, I left the store and returned the following morning.

The next day, when I got to the back of the store where all the scraps were, one other person was there sorting through all the left-over fabric bins.  Apparently she and another woman, who had already left, were there when the doors opened, half an hour earlier, and had first dibbs at all the cool fabric.  Who knew I had to get up early for fabric scraps?!

So I started chit-chatting with the woman about what she had planned on doing with her fabric.  She had one very cool piece that had kid-friendly farm animals on it…and I wanted it.  Apparently she makes scarves for veterans.  Okay, that’s cool.  But farm animals?  I was salivating over the farm animals.

So we chit-chatted some more and I started telling her about what I do.  Kids…money…saving…jars… Somehow we got on the topic of commercials and kids.

“My daughter-in-law doesn’t allow her kids to watch t.v.,” the scarf woman said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“She doesn’t want them exposed to all that commercialism.”

“Oh.  That’s a bummer,”  I said.  “Watching commercials is probably one of the best ways to teach our kids how to think critically.  Besides, it’s pretty much guaranteed that one day they’re going to be exposed to all that stuff.  Don’t you think the kids need the skills to be able to think through all those messages?”

She actually stopped going through the fabric.  My chance to dive to the bottom of the bin and find the next kid-friendly fabric.

“Well, that’s just her style,” she ended up saying.  I decided not to push it any further.  People really don’t like to think that their, or their daughter-in-law’s, parenting style is being questioned.

But my hope is that it gave her something to think about.  And perhaps she’ll even decide to share it so that her grandkids can be armed before they’re out on their own.  Although my guess is that the daughter-in-law would not take kindly to mom-in-law giving her tips on parenting. 

When I left, my bag was filled to the brim with moon and star fabric, fabric that shimmered, fake pink leather fabric…but, alas, no farm animals.

$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.

She Who Dies with the Most Jewels Wins

Has your brain ever been so saturated with thoughts that you render it useless?  That’s what happened to me when I saw a bumper sticker on a car that read, “She who dies with the most jewels wins.”   It evoked so many emotions all I could clearly think was, Ahhhh.

When that went away, my next thought was That is precisely the kind of attitude that contributed to all the dark stuff of 2009.  If my kids had been with me, they would have looked at me, rolled their eyes, and said something like It’s just a bumper sticker, mom.

I know it’s just a bumper sticker.  And I know that the driver is probably not on a mission to gather all the jewels she can get before she dies.  But words mean something.  And the clear message here is that what’s  important in life is the accumulation of stuff. 

Our kids are exposed to these kinds of messages on a daily basis.  They see celebrities in huge houses driving fancy cars.  Or their friends buying (with their parents’ money) the latest technology.  It’s impossible to watch t.v., take a ride in a car, or chat with your friends on Facebook without stuff being peddled to us. We are a consumerist culture.  Which is not a bad thing…unless we become consumed by it. 

So what do we parents do?  We do double-duty to counter the hundreds of spend, accumulate more, focus on stuff messages our kids get sent each and every day.  It’s up to us.  Otherwise, unknowingly, our kids may develop an unhealthy attitude towards money.

How do we do double-duty?  We talk with our kids about the messages being sent via bumper stickers, billboards, t.v., etc.  We ask them if they know what the message means?  We ask them if they agree or disagree and why.  We ask them what kind of life they would need to live in order to die with the most jewels.  And we find out what the important things in their lives really are.  Those will enrich their lives far more than a chest full of jewels.

So what kind of car was Ms. Jewels driving?  A Mercury Sable.  Does that matter?  No.  I’m just sayin’


I recently read the book, The Overspent American, and it had an effect on me that, frankly, caught me by surprise.  I get the whole media push for Americans to buy, buy, buy and I’ve been quite smug with myself knowing that I usually do not succumb to their multi-billion dollar advertisements.  Until now.

It’s lipstick.  And, specifically, the lipstick tube.

The book made it very clear that, although unbelievable differences in retail prices, women’s makeup is pretty much the same across the board.  Not that I cared.  At the time of my reading I was a mascara-only female.  I simply am not interested in applying daily or even bi-weekly makeup.  Not that I don’t want to look good.  But, truly, I’d rather spend the time writing or working on a new lesson.

Then the work with MetroPCS presented itself.  I took the job because it meant I got to spread the word about kids and money.  Besides, I hate contracts and activation fees.  And don’t get me started on overages!  So it was an easy sell.

But that meant I was going to be doing the morning show circuit.  And that meant people, real people…not kids, were actually going to see me.  So I called my younger sister, who’s as girly-girly as it gets, and she sent me to the Mac counter at Nordstrom.

Hundreds (please don’t make me say the actual amount!), of dollars later, I was the proud owner of eyeliner pencils, eye shadow, this stuff that makes your eye lashes longer, skin smoothing cream, cover up, all kinds of brushes.  It was a bit overwhelming.  I had to call the girl who sold it all to me the next day because I forgot what to do with it all.

Then there was the lipstick.  I usually buy lipstick every two years or so.  And it’s usually when I’m picking up a prescription at the drug store.  The tube that the lipstick was living in never registered in my mind.  Until I read the book.

The author made a point to describe how women who are looking for some small way to save some money on makeup will buy most of their supplies at the drugstore (much cheaper!) but their lipstick must bear the marks of designer labels.  After all, it’s really the only make-up that is exposed to others.

So I was happy to find that I liked the tube that the Mac lipstick came in.  Next to the drugstore lipstick hiding at the bottom of my purse, there was no comparisson.

And now I find myself watching those around me when I pull out my Mac lipstick.  Do you see my lipstick?  Do you know that it’s from the Mac counter at Nordstrom?  Do you know it’s expensive?  Do you know I’m worth it?  And I can afford it?

It’s the weirdest thing.  I was never this way before.  I was quite proud that I simply did not care whether or not I even wore makeup.  And now I’m obsessed with my lipstick.  Specifically, the lipstick tube.

Have I become like those ladies in the book who are unwilling to spend ridiculous amounts of money on makeup yet want others to think I do because I pull out a swanky lipstick tube?

In a way, I’m thankful that this has happened.  I will begin working with 17-21 year olds soon.  I want to be able to share this example with them because I think it will have more of an impact on them than the 7-year olds I’m used to working with!  I think the most powerful lessons are those that tap into real life experiences.  And I’m having a real-life experience succumbing to media pressure.  Now I can relate.  And that makes all the difference with young adults.

My lipstick has almost reached the metal rim.  As of this writing, I’m not sure where my next tube will come from.  But I have an idea.  If I’m to make any impact on these “kids”, I’ll be making an additional purchase when I pick up Ryan’s allergy medication at the drug store.  But putting out stocking-stuffer hints is not beyond me.

It’s Just That Easy

Ryan and two of his friends were hanging out the other night.  Earlier in the day before either friend came over, Ryan had been MySpacing one of them about buying baseball cards on ebay.  His friend had bought a Willie Mays card several months ago as an investment.  According to him, it has already increased in value.

That’s when Ryan’s little ears perked up.  Ryan is all about investments.  He knows he has time on his side and he’s willing to wait.  He wanted in on this baseball card investment thing.  I told him to make sure, as always, that he does his research before putting any of his hard-earned money on the line.  I trust him to do that.

True to form, Ryan spent some time researching a baseball bat signed by Willie Mays.  He was tempted to plunk down $300 and wait it out.  But after emailing the seller and discovering that the sale was final, he decided not to do it.  It just didn’t sit right with him.  And $300 is a lot of money.

$4.25, on the other hand, is not a lot of money.  When his two friends came over later that day they checked out several other baseball cards.  I was busy doing something else and figured they were having fun discussing cards, ebay, and investments.

That’s when Ryan came to me and asked me for my paypal account number.  Excuse me?  Apparently, his friend decided to add on to his collection and Ryan allowed him to buy his card using our ebay account.  In all fairness, we’ve done this before for one of Nathan’s friends but have long since retired that habit.  Ryan did not know this.

I now found myself in an awkward position.  I didn’t want to embarrass Ryan in front of his friends.  Unfortunately, I was so shocked that they had bought the card, I forgot to check my comments at the door first.  “Are you kidding me??  Absolutely not,” I blurted out.

All’s well that ends well.  I tried back peddling which never works, but paid for the $4.25 using my credit card.  Then I had Ryan pay me the $4.25 in cash.  I’m pretty sure his friend is good for the money, but I’d rather not be the one waiting around for it.

This little incident got me thinking about how easy it is for kids to buy stuff online.  Especially if they know their parent’s password.  But password or not, what are kids thinking about money when either they or their parents place orders on line?  Is there a connection between the hard work done to earn the money and the item that was bought?  Has technology made things so easy for us that it’s really making things harder?

And should parents be filtering their children’s access to “spending sites” just as ferverently as they filter their access to “adult” sites?

Some things are just too easy.