A Quandary

I just spent twenty minutes looking for Ryan’s graphing calculator.  That’s on top of the 30 minutes Ryan spent looking last night.  It is nowhere to be found.  And that’s a bummer, because those things are expensive.

I have always told the boys that I will buy the first of whatever it is they need for school.  Sketch book for art.  Saxophone for music.  Graphing calculator for math.  If they lose it, it’s their responsibility.  Harsh?  Not at all.  I’ve been doing this since elementary school (the boys are now in high school) and neither one has lost anything. 

That doesn’t mean they haven’t come close.  Ryan left his sax on the field one day after soccer practice, and luckily a parent picked it up and called.  Nathan’s close calls usually have to do with his cell phone.  And if any of your kids have had a retainer, well…you know what that’s like.

Both boys are uber careful about keeping track of their stuff.  That’s because they know what the established and agreed upon rules are, and that I’ll follow through.  As I’ve said, I haven’t had the opportunity to follow through…yet.   Unless Ryan finds his calculator at school today, this may be the day.

And here’s my quandary.  Last night when Ryan was desperately looking for the calculator he was…looking desperate.  It was obvious he was pretty upset.  That calculator could cost him $100.  I told him not to worry, these things usually turn up (which explains my 20 minute search this morning.)  I did not find it.

But the irony of the whole thing is that less than two weeks ago, Ryan pretended that he lost the calculator.  He showed me the “lid” to the calculator and tried to pull of being upset that he couldn’t find the rest of it.  Ha, ha, ha, said I.

I’m not ha-ha’ing now.  And neither is he.   But the story gets better.   Kids at school steal stuff.  So during one of his track practices when they leave their backpacks in a heap on the field, he took out the calculator and put it in his locker for safe keeping.  I  know, I know.  I am blessed with responsible kids…but with Ryan, it took a long time to get there.  It’s about coming up with workable strategies – but that’s another blog entry.

Ryan has proven he is responsible.  One day when we went out for dinner, we hid his retainer.  He got visibly upset that he thought he lost it.  I will never do that again.  But my point is, he cares and he tries. 

So back to the quandry.  If he comes home from school today without the calculator, do I make him pay for the  new one?  That’s always been the deal.  It was meant to teach responsibility.  He’s proven responsibility.  But things happen.  Calculators get lost.  Or stolen.  Is it his fault?

No, it’s not.  But neither is it my fault.  That said, I’m a pretty reasonable mom.  I’ll probably cut a deal with him and we go in halvesies (sp??).  I actually think he’ll be relieved because, as of right now, he believes he’s in it for the entire hundred.  And I just don’t think that’s fair.  What do you think?


The Goal Sheet

I was in Ryan’s room this morning looking for his graphing calculator (that’s my next blog entry!), when I discovered a piece of paper that, apparently Ryan needs to fill out.  It was titled, Whitney High Track and Field Goal Sheet.

Very cool.  His track coaches are making the athletes think about and write down their goals for the season.  The first goal was pre-determined by the coaches:  to have fun.  Nice.  Then, athletes need to write their individual goals and their team goals.  Individual goals were described as selfish goals and team goals were described as not selfish.  I thought that was cute.

Now that I know about this assignment, I am curious to see what Ryan writes down.  Although, proud mommy moment, he already accomplished one of his goals:  to beat the school record for a mile.  He did it in 5 minutes 2 seconds, beating the record by 3 seconds.

I’m a huge believer in setting personal goals.  And I’m just as passionate about teaching kids to do the same.  When we have goals, we have a destination.  Destinations are good.  They offer direction.

The part that we often fail to do, however, is come up with a plan to help us arrive at that destination.  Let’s say Ryan wants to run a sub-five minute mile and he wants to do it before the league meet in May.  What are the steps he will need to take in order to achieve his goal?  First and foremost, he’s going to need to practice.  Great.  How often?  What exercises will he need to do to build up strength?  What do his quarter mile splits need to be?  Etc.  He needs a plan.

It’s the same with financial goals.  So you want to save $3000 in your emergency fund.  What specific steps do you need to take in order to make that happen?  Will you automate some of your paycheck into your savings account?  Will you cut back to two lattes a week instead of five?  And when, exactly, do you plan on achieving this goal?  You need a date and it needs to be written on the calendar.

Let’s teach financial goal setting to our kids.  Start small.  I want to save $20 to buy such-and-such.  Achieving one gives motivation to set up another.  Now I want to save $100 for a laptop.  Kids learn it can be done.  That’s a very important lesson we need to teach them before they leave us for the wild blue yonder.  Unless, of course, you’d like them to stay…forever.

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…

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…