Thursday, September 12, 2013

money, money, money...

We just started a new semester of classes at the coop. 9 yo is signed up for Project-Based Learning class, where he would get guidance to pursue whatever project he chooses and then he would share it with the group. The teacher e-mailed me a short questionnaire for 9 yo to fill out, to learn a bit about him. I printed it out and passed it on to him. He was done pretty quickly and I decided to go over it with him.

The first question was: What is the coolest thing in your house? His answer: money.
Next question: What is the coolest thing you had seen in a friend's house? His answer: Nintendo DS 3D.

I was very upset by these. We are comfortable financially, but not exuberantly wealthy. We do not spend our free time shopping or fantasizing about owning things. We eat out once a month and have not taken any vacations since last November. I am the kind of person who much rather get things for free or as a bargain than pay full price. When we moved to Houston, we went for almost a year without a couch, and almost two  years with one car. We are definitely not keeping up with the Joneses. I had a tzedakah guy shake his head in surprise at our house, not meeting his expectations. Yet my son thinks that the coolest thing we have is money.

We have too many books (my fault) and too many toys. Both my mother and my MIL are in a competition of who will get the kids the next great thing. Right now, 9 yo is obsessed with getting a Nintendo DS. He spent quite a bit of time online comparing prices, looking at options, checking out accessories. At some point he had almost enough allowance and gift money to buy one, but he impulsively spent it here and there and abandoned his dream. I did not mind, I thought this is teaching him fiscal responsibility. By the way, his weekly allowance is $2.25, with a tenth going to tzedakah. When we are talking about such small sums, I do not care what he does with them. As of late, he got quite a bit of gift money, and he revived the DS dream. He spent hours calculating how many weeks of allowance plus recycling it would take him to buy it. He remembered to include sales tax and tried figuring it out, first on his own, and then with some assistance from me. I did not mind this; there is a budgeting lesson in there, not to mention some math. There is working towards a goal. There is delayed gratification and anticipation.

Then my mother decided to be very nice and generous, and is sending him the rest of the sum to get that Nintendo. He became very happy; I became upset. He was getting a lucky break, which nullified all the positive lessons of saving patiently. After a day, his happiness dissolved, as is evidenced by the fact that getting a Nintendo DS is now not as cool as 3D DS he saw in someone's house. And the DS is not even ordered yet! I think he was getting more happiness from browsing and fantasizing about DS than he will get from the actual thing. I mean, if he really needed it, I would have gotten it for him already. And who needs a handheld game?

I spoke to him about how his answer on the questionnaire was not showing what he was like, and he, being honest said that he WISHED he was different and did not want to play computer games all day and not think about money, but that is the true answer.

Is this an age-appropriate fixation? Will it pass? Are your kids thinking about money?


  1. i suppose you know your child better than i do, but it seems to me that he might just think money is the coolest thing in the house because he has a sense of its versatility and how it is capable of getting him so many things he is interested in. he is logical in noticing that it is a prerequisite for anything and everything cool in his house.

    good thing he didn't order that ds, as he might want to be saving up for the 3d ds! and then he will learn, perhaps, that there will always be the next cooler thing.

    my kids also think about money a lot because there is wonderful autonomy in having it to spend, deciding what to spend it on, thinking of things they want, and saving up for them. my daughter spent 300 dollars on a pet she now doesn't like and still has to pay for food and supplies for on a regular basis.

  2. It's OK that your kids are interested in money. The best thing you can do is show how much hard work it takes for your family to earn money to live your lifestyle. Your husband works long hours for money. You, the mother, work hard to add value for things you would otherwise need to spend a lot of money on. If your child realizes that education, energy, and application are necessary to obtain money, it's the most valuable lesson he can learn. It's a long-term project.

  3. Ha ha! My oldest is obsessed with money and wants a DS (please don't tell him about a 3D DS as then he'll want that instead!). He had a job when we lived in Maryland and put a fair amount into a savings account. He's spent some but not all of it since we've been in Japan and now back in Indiana. I try to steer his yearning about/for money into learning about how to manage and grow money for long term projects. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Like tesyaa said, it's a long-term project...