Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Value of a Dollar

I previously blogged about about money and kids. When Jackson first started getting allowance, we made weekly trips to the dollar store so he could buy stuff that would fall apart in 10 minutes and was no doubt laced with lead and cadmium. Then, he forgot about his allowance for a while and suddenly had "saved up" enough to buy himself a Nintendo DS.

I said "saved up" because we didn't actually pay him allowance. The odds of us having the right change (or any) on hand on any given day was remote. So began the fictional bookkeeping of allowance.

But still, I think we were happy that Jackson was learning the lessons of money: spend it on stuff you don't use and it's gone; save it up you can buy something great.

For most of the fall, Husband and I talked about creating an allowance spreadsheet. So that allowance could accumulate visually. Sydney started her allowance theoretically in September, but we bought her a DS for her birthday, which was quite a bit more than we usually spend on birthday gifts. So we deferred her allowance to January for her to make notional contributions to it.

Over the holidays Husband threw together a spreadsheet. We had to backtrack and account for Jackson's allowance from last June. I knew when he bought he DS he had no money left. He got an increase in his allowance in September to $3 a week (still below the "suggested" $1 per year of age per week). Jackson has requested to purchase things over the past 6 months so we deducted the ones we could remember.

We added birthday and Christmas money that we pocketed and noted that gift cards they had available from birthdays etc. And we deducted the week of allowance they agreed to put towards our family's purchase of a goat for a family that needed it to survive.

For the first time since last June, I felt we could survive an audit of the family books.

It was good for the kids to see what saving money can do. Jackson of course is talking about buying a DSi or an iPod iTouch, both cost $180, assuming the parents-pay-the-tax deal continues (it's easier than answering all the questions about what taxes are and where all the money goes).

So Jackson was actually well on his way to $180, if you include gift cards. I was actually worried he would get there a little too soon as I am not keen on his getting another handheld electronic gadget. I needn't have worried.

The spreadsheet did come in handy this week when Jackson called me a piece of crud and, since it's not the first time, we instituted a fine system where parental name calling results in loss of one week's allowance. Now instead of just barking out threats that evaporate into air, I can walk to den and update the spreadsheet, which is much more satisfying than I would have thought.

Also, when he threw plastic bins at his door repeatedly and broke them, I deducted that from his allowance as well.

But if I thought the J Boy was getting any idea of the value of a dollar, I was disavowed of that notion on Thursday. The boy was being particularly obstinate. I asked him to put away his clothes from which he had just disrobed, and to brush his teeth and then Daddy would read him his nightly Harry Potter chapter.

He refused.

I was steadfast.

He kept hammering away, trying to find a compromise.

I told him I was not negotiating bedtime routines that have been in place for 6 plus years. I don't have the kind of energy required to do that nightly when I'm tired and want a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Husband backed me up and we told the J Boy that there would be no Harry Potter read if he didn't do his bedtime routines.

This continued well past when sensible parents would allow it. But he was determined to win. And he didn't care what it cost him. Literally.

"I'll pay you $30 if you let me brush my teeth and put away my clothes after Harry Potter."

I paused.

"OK" I agreed.

"How about $29?"

"Fine." I said.

"How about $28?"

We could be here a while.


"Okay, I'll pay you $29." he nodded very satisfied that he had 'won'.

I think he could be a legitimate contender for finance minister of the country with that kind of financial know-how and wizardry. Or at the very least, an executive position on Wall Street.

Oh and to show that I can also be equally unreasonable with my money, last night I said I'd paid him $29 to babysit his sister last night while Husband and I watched Grey's Anatomy.

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