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…

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…

Keeping Good Records

Nathan was ordering something on Amazon not long ago and, in order to receive free shipping, he had the “opportunity” to sign up for a membership.  I don’t remember what the membership was for but it, too, was free…for a month. 

He asked me if he could sign up for it because he wanted to save on shipping.  Sure, I told him.  But it would be his responsibility to make sure that he canceled the membership before the month was up.

Now Nathan is a teenager and, by default, cannot be expected to remember to do these sorts of things.  Part of me is kidding, but the other part is serious.  I attended a meeting about the teenage brain where the presenter talked about how disorganized the teen brain at this age could be.  Did I come home and share this information with my two teens.  Are you kidding me?  They would abuse that bit of info well into their early twenties!

But the reason I bring up the teenage brain is because, as organized as Nathan is (I’ve seen his written lists of things to do), he had not had experience dealing with canceling memberships in order to avoid fees and this may be a bit much to expect of him.  Me?  I do this sort of thing a lot and, as Nathan’s guide, it was up to me to teach him how I do it.

“Grab the calendar,”  I told him.  We have a family calendar and nobody takes their first breath in the morning until we’ve all taken a look at how the day is going to play out.  We have a lot going on.

“Okay.  Now what?”  he asked.

“This is how you guarantee that you won’t be paying the membership fee.”  I had him write down on the calendar when the membership expired and the details that went with it.  He ended up writing it on the three days before it expired because, and I made this part very clear, he was responsible for paying the fee if he forgot.

Last Friday was the first of the three days he had written on the calendar.  Friday evening I asked him about it.  “Already done,” was his answer.

Teach Nathan how to cancel memberships.  Check.

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’

Too Much of a Hassle?

I was talking to a friend of mine recently about setting up an allowance program for her six-year-old daughter.  Six is the perfect age to get an allowance going.  Kids this age understand a lot about money and it’s time to start giving them some responsibility managing some so that they can begin to get into healthy habits.

“She’s not interested in money at all,” my friend told me.  “She doesn’t like to go shopping and never asks for anything.”

I was a little surprised since most of the six-year olds I know are pretty clear about what they want.  And then I glanced around their house.   Her daughter already had just about everything she could possibly want. 

“What happens when she wants a new webkinz?” I asked.

“Well, I’ll usually buy it for her.”

Hmmm, I thought.  No wonder she’s not interested in money; she doesn’t need any.   So I recommended that she stop buying everything for her daughter and give her a small weekly allowance.  That way, when her daughter eventually wanted something, she could buy it herself.   And if she spent all her money and wanted something else, she would be out of luck.    Advances are not an option.  That defeats the whole purpose.

I’m not sure I convinced my friend who, I think, feels the whole thing would be too much of a hassle.  Hmmm, again.  I wonder what kind of a hassle it might be to have to deal with a young adult who doesn’t know how to effectively manage her money?

A Win/Win

I can’t believe I have to add figure out Twitter to my list of things to do.  What the heck?  And I’m already behind the 8 ball, so the pressure is really on.

That’s when it hit me.  Ryan.  He likes spending time on the computer.  Why not have him do it?  I’ll even pay him.  And he can work when he wants for as long as he wants. 

So that’s what I did.  I showed Ryan my Twitter account.  And when we finally got the two Twitter accounts I owned figured out (I opened a Twitter account last fall??), he went to work.  I pay him 25 cents for each follower he gets me. 

But there are rules.  I’m very, very picky about who I interact with.  I don’t consider this a popularity contest.  This is not about amassing as many followers as he can get me.  He needs to read all the bios before clicking the ‘follow’ button.  I had already started the work for him so he could see the types of people I’m interested in following.  And if there’s ever a question, he can ask.

So far he’s made 75 cents.  That’s 3 followers.  Hmmm…this may be harder than I thought.  But then, who knows, maybe it’s just a slow start.  Hey, why don’t you help Ryan earn some money!  Become one of my followers on 

I feel great having that crossed off my list of things to do.  And Ryan feels great because he gets to “work” on the computer while earning extra money.  It’s a win/win.  Yea me for figuring this out.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

For someone who is very interested in his money, mostly because he needs it to fill up his car with gas, Nathan does a pretty bad job of keeping his cash organized.  He’s got some in his bathroom drawer, some on the floor of his room, some in his backpack, and some spilling out of the cup holder in his car.  And who knows where else.

So he decided the other day to collect it all and see how much there was.  Over $300.   He was thrilled.  I was not.  That’s a lot of money to have lying around.  He put it all in a baggie and there it sits on the family room table.  Still.

But as he passed the table last night and glanced at the bag he said, “I need to get that money into my checking account.  I don’t spend it if I can’t see it.”

Ah, so true.  So maybe there was a lesson in this after all.

A Blog Worthy of John

As I jumped up from the dinner table last night to jot down something that Nathan had just said about all the extra packaging that things come in (he’d rather save the money than have it spent on stuff that gets thrown out), John announced that he was glad he was not blog worthy.  My poor kids have to put up with a lot in the name of teaching  kids financial literacy.

Actually, John is very blog worthy.  I’ve just been focusing on the kids.  So this one’s for him.

As it so happens, later that night Ryan was talking about his investments.  He has $1500 in his savings account and I had mentioned earlier in the day that he might want to think about taking some of it and investing it.  He already owns shares in Chipotle, Costco, and Netflix and has a Vanguard 500 Index account.

John is a very deliberate thinker.  The first thing he asked Ryan was about his upcoming car purchase.  Ryan will be in the market for a car next year. 

“You need to consider your time line,”  John told him.  “You don’t want to put money that you’re going to need soon in an investment that’s meant for long term.  Like the stock market.”

Ryan responded with, “I don’t want to invest in CDs and bonds.  You don’t get much back from those.”

He’s right.  I’m not sure those could keep up with inflation right now.  But it is a secure investment and he’d get a little more than if he kept his money in his savings account.  When John realized, though, that Ryan was leaning a little towards choosing another stock he reminded Ryan that he’s taking on risk and will need to do his research.

John also talked to Ryan about balancing his portfolio.  “You don’t want to have all of your money in the stock market.  It’s a matter of percentages.  You need to figure out what percent of your money you want in stocks, what percent in mutual funds, and so on.”

This weekend the two of them are going to take a look at Ryan’s portfolio.  I don’t know if Ryan will, indeed, put some of his money into the market.  But I do know that if he does, I will follow suit.  So far, Ryan’s investments have done very well by him.