January 07, 2006

The value of a dollar

Or ten. Or, in which Calendar Girl, Bionicle Boy, and Twinklette go shopping.

The kids each got $10 from an aunt and uncle for Christmas, and over the holidays the money was definitely burning holes in their pockets. Usually we ask that they save their money -- they don't get allowances, mainly because until recently only Laura had a good understanding about money and most of the time she (and we) forgot all about allowances whenever Sunday, allowance day, rolled around. Besides, I was raised with my parents buying most of what my sister and I needed, which allowed them to have a say over what we wore, read, and played with; though I have to say I don't remember too many occasions where I asked for something so outrageous (in quality or quantity) that it was denied. Frye boots and platform sandals come to mind, and looking back I'm more than relieved my mother said no. Of course, I was raised in a family where my allowance was a quarter until I started high school, when it was was raised to 50 cents, and then my father always gave us the chance of double or nothing by not talking all Sunday lol.

So watching how my three decided to spend their money, and on what, was a pretty interesting exercise. Laura went first, on Monday, when we went to the little city 40 miles away so Tom could get some building supplies (all the stores in our nearby town were closed for the holiday). Since the boys wanted to go with Tom to Totem Hardware, which not only sells tools but gives away freshly made popcorn, always a big draw, I asked Tom to drop the two of us off at the mall, where I needed a few things for our upcoming trip. At first Laura was rather taken by a Narnia calendar she saw in Zeller's, but it was $7.99 and she didn't seem entirely convinced by her choice. Then we happened on the free-standing calendar stand with more calendars than one usually sees all in one place, and Laura went straight past the six dozen different dog breed calendars to the kids' Make Your Own Calendar 2006, which she had received as a present a few years ago and enjoyed very much. Very canny choice, because all the calendars were 50 percent off, so she still has another $4 to spend one of these days. She's been busy coloring, drawing, and stickering every since. So busy that she hasn't though much about spending the rest, though she did mention bringing it along on vacation and asking if she could exchange it for the local currency.

Yesterday, the boys decided that they would spend their money on our weekly trip to town. Our first stop was the drugstore, where again I had a few more items on my trip list to cross off, and which the boys found a pretty tantalizing place. Daniel, like any good red-blooded Canadian boy, was first seduced by the NHL winterwear display. After realizing that he had less than half as much as needed for the logo-ridden winter hats (called toques up here) and gloves, he found a gaiter, which is basically a circular scarf, like a hat with the top cut off. Very handy for avoiding strangulation while playing, and a nice extra layer. The gaiter, with the Edmonton Oilers emblem, was item number one for quite some time, but then Daniel decided it was "too practical" and wanted to see what was available in town drugstore number two. In the meantime, Davy ended up in the stationery/school supply aisle (he is oh so definitely my child), where he was dazzled by the display of glitter markers (appropriately called "Twinklette"). I was dazzled by the price ($1.99 each, yikes), but explained that if he really wanted them, he could buy 5 for his $10 (I had decided the Christmas money didn't have to include the seven percent tax). His mind was made up, and he picked out yellow, dark green, purple, gray, and orange, studiously avoiding the pink.

At drugstore number two, Daniel was temporarily enamored of a couple of farm sets (though it's hard to get too excited when we already own lots of plastic animals and yards of little plastic fencing), a John Deere combination key chain/flashlight/bottle opener (where it was pointed out that a) he has lots of key chains already and still no keys, b) he has a much bigger and better flashlight, and c) he has no need of bottle openers), and some Lego Bionicles. Still hedging his bets, he asked if we could head over to the local department store, which has a pretty good toy department in the basement. Where he went up and down the aisles, stopping for an in-depth study of more Bionicles, especially Knights. After talking me into a quick review of the the True Value Hardware store, where his first choice was either a jackknife or a utility knife on a keychain (vetoed for safety's sake), it was back to the department store to fondle the Bionicle Knights some more. He finally decided on King Mathias, who started getting built in the back seat while still on our rounds. I still can't see the point of Bionicles compared to regular Lego, but Daniel is delighted by his purchase, and I was more than happy to see all the thought he put into the matter. Especially after I caught the tail end of Oprah's show (apparently a repeat from September) on getting out of debt the other day, the segment with the two teenagers who spend about $600 U.S. each a month on Mommy's and Daddy's credit cards. Double yikes. As Oprah's money whiz of the day, Dave Ramsey, said, if you're not teaching your kids about the value of a dollar before they leave life under your roof, you're not doing them any favors. In fact, I think he mentioned the words "child abuse" and also told the 18-year-old daughter that he wouldn't want his son dating her. Definitely some tough love for those who think they want to give their kids "everything."

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