One time I abandoned an entire cart of groceries because my then three year-old threw a fit over a toy. I regularly avoided roads that would take us by a toy store (or even a landmark that would mean a toy store was nearby) and certain grocery stores with large toy sections. My older son, now seven, was like a drug addict, always looking for his next fix in a cheap toy. Our house slowly filled with cheap junk purchased for $1 – probably we’ve spent $1,000 in $1 junk.
We’d try to get him to save his money, save our money, but we aren’t really the best models of saving ourselves and so eventually we’d give in. It weighs on you though: that you’re not teaching your kids how to be responsible, that you’re supporting a terrible economy of “quick fixes” and imported junk, that you have an Hawaiian vacation worth of toys your kids don’t touch again after they get out of the car.
Then we heard a little blurb on NPR’s Marketplace about how parents regulate allowances. Most people spoke about giving an amount equivalent to the child’s age per week. $7 a week! Amazing! And then a listener (see the embedded link above) said that they matched their daughter’s allowance once she’d saved $100. Commentator Dan Zevin remarked on what his kids would save for.
We were transfixed. And started talking about what Cormac’s “rules” of saving would be. After consulting with Daddy, this is what we put in place.
1) $7 a week – must help around the house (with pets, brother, general picking up and fetching for lazy parents)
2) opportunities to earn up to $3 for working hard at soccer, picking up dog poop, etc.
3) can’t spend anything until he reaches $100
4) once $100 has been saved parents will match it (this is a stretch for us so we are saving up to help him save – it is a BIG incentive for him)
5) 20% of that $200 must then go into a savings account and stay there until he’s 16 (he thinks he wants to save up for his own car)
6) then the saving starts up again from scratch, even if he chooses not to spend all (or any) of the $160 he has
7) he can window shop and Mom or Dad will take pictures of the things he thinks he wants at the store
We had to really go into a big toy store/department in order for him to understand what $160 would buy. Three big Lego sets, a scooter and some Lego sets, 640 gumballs…
And we’ve done well! He should have $100 this coming weekend. He’s so close that he can taste it. We went to Toys R Us on Friday and he was desperate, DESPERATE for something new. Anything. I needed a birthday present for a friend’s son and while I shopped for it, Cormac tried to work deals out of me. Finally I told him I would buy him a present if he could find something for $10 or less. I refuses Bey Blades that were $10.49. He didn’t need any of the ones that cost $8.99.
Then I got him interested in picking out a $1.50 Matchbox car. We got in line. I handed Cormac $2 and told him he could keep the change. The line was slow, really slow. I put down the birthday present and told Cormac he could keep the $2 of he put down the car and we left the store. He refused. A few minutes later I offered again. He put down the car. We walked out of the store.
And then, on a whim, I gave him another $2 because he was willing to save instead of spend. It was awesome to see his already proud and excited face filled with absolute joy because he was saving money. It is one of my most proud moments.