Monday, June 25, 2012

An economics lesson

I don't often write on our philosophy of children and money, but every so often it comes up. The short version is that we don't do allowances and we provide them with what they need. Household jobs are not tied to money because it is something we all do to serve each other and to jointly keep our home a nice place to live. If a child wants something special... iPod-type stuff, or special clothing that's not in the budget, etc.... they're welcome to earn the money and buy it themselves. (Or they can ask for it for Christmas and cross their fingers.) My children with phones also buy their own phone minutes on a pay-per-use phone since we don't have a family cell phone plan. Don't feel too sorry for them, they (nearly) all have the gadgets they desire and also have a pretty good sense of the worth of money.

Perhaps this is why TM's tendency toward planning out his next get-rich-quick-scheme was a little bothersome to me. I didn't want him to grow into an adult who thought that these types of schemes would a) work and b) be less work than actually working for the money. To continue in this mindset seemed to be filled with future misery, or at least dissatisfaction. All of this background explains why I was so thrilled with the results of a little experiment which happened last week.

TM loves lemonade stands. I think he actually loves the money, but he enjoys selling things to passers-by as well. He struck up a deal with J., that is J. would loan him the money to buy supplies, TM would pay him back. TM happily went to the store (with A. to supervise) and purchased lemonade mix and paper cups and ended up spending about $10. For the next several days, TM sold lemonade and earned enough to pay back his loan. At first we though this would be the end of it, as TM loves lemonade and he seemed to be drinking his own profit, but then (assisted by A.'s yo-yo mania), he decided he wanted to buy a cool, new yo-yo. We pointed out if he wanted one, he could sell more lemonade and see if he could earn enough to pay for the desired object.

Now, I have to pause here a moment and explain our location. We get a lot of foot traffic on our block, and we have learned, much of this foot traffic is susceptible to cute children while at the same time lacking common sense. (In my humble opinion.) My evidence? Last summer TM and a friend from next door decided to have an art sale. The scribbled (not really exaggerating) dozens of "pictures" and then set up their table. Both of us mothers warned them that they may not sell anything. (We had personally seen the level of artistic commitment which went into these things... they were not even representational!) Well, the joke was on the mothers, since those silly children earned nearly $20! This will help explain how TM could earn so much money in just a couple of days.

The short version of the story is TM earned enough to buy his yo-yo, extra string, and then yesterday he quickly set-up another stand because he saw some items at a nearby yard sale that he wanted. So, step one, in that we have convinced TM that actually earning the money is a good thing has been accomplished. I suppose the next step is to convince him of the beauty of saving his money and not spend it on whatever enticing thing crosses his path.

And now after I have written this, I'm not so convinced that we have actually accomplished step one because truly a child with a stand on our block is about as close to get rich quick as one can get.

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