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It’s not retail therapy; it’s education

Submitted by on Thursday, 25 February 2010 No Comment

What could possibly be more annoying than a 6-year-old who fritters away every dime on candy or a bright shiny object that’s going to hold his interest only for as long as it takes to open the package?

A first-grader who hordes money as tightly as Ebenezer Scrooge, carefully researches his purchases and then vacillates about buying.

The latter is the case with Big Guy, who’s returning to his frugal roots. He’s learning from it, too: How to read bar graphs, evaluate information sources and compare prices. Knowing my luck, he’ll forget all of that when he’s an adult and remember only that his mother started him down the road to his amazon.com addiction. It’s one more thing he can share with his therapist.

I’ve given the guys an allowance since Big Guy was 4, and I’ve always had a rule: I won’t tell them how to spend it. I’ll suggest that when we have a pile of candy at home, buying a pack of Skittles isn’t the best choice. I’ll hint that purchasing a Hot Wheels that looks just like three others they already have isn’t the wisest move.

If they decide not to listen,  I’ll let buyers’ remorse set in. They’ll figure it out when they don’t have the money to buy something they really want.

A few years ago, Big Guy was great at saving. We had a chart – of course! -  in the kitchen that we marked every week so he could watch his money grow toward his goal. For some reason, though, he got away from that.

He found his way home thanks to the Wii. Santa had brought the guys several games, but I told them that if they wanted more, they’d have to save their money.

Within three weeks, Big Guy had accumulated $15 and conned Boots into contributing his savings, too. “Do we have enough for a game?” he asked.

He’d wanted the military game that he loves playing at a friend’s house. We searched online and found out it wasn’t available for Wii, so we looked for other options.

“Dang. They’re all radiated T,” he said. That means it’s a game I’m not going to let him buy yet.

“You like the Lego Batman. Maybe we could search for other Lego games,” I suggested.

In the middle of that search, he ran into a “Phineas and Ferb” game. I steered him toward the customer reviews at the bottom of the page, where he looked at the bar charts and discovered that people who actually owned the game didn’t love. And besides, it wasn’t available on Wii either.

He decided to look at the Lego game again, and he found the video this time. “Wow! This looks super-cool,” he grinned.

“Yes, but remember that the people who made that video are trying to make the game look super-cool. It’s kind of like a commercial. The game might be cool to play, or it might not be.”

“So how do we know?” he asked.

“You could ask some of your friends if they’ve played it . H’s mom was talking about it at soccer the other night and said he loved it, so that’s one person we know who’s actually played it and liked it.” Even though H is on Boots’ team, Big Guy was willing to accept the endorsement.

“So can you order it for me? Please?”

“I can, but it will take it about a week to get here. Why don’t we check the game store and see if they have it? It could be cheaper there, too. If it’s not there, we can order it.”

Big Guy had no luck with Indiana Jones, though he did find a used Avatar game similar to one he already owned. He was able to convince Boots that he loved the game, too, which meant there also was enough money for a “Pirates of the Caribbean” game Big Guy had his eye on.

Except his eye kept roaming, from Avatar to Jack Sparrow to NASCAR to baseball and back. “We already have a baseball game. And racing games. So we’ll go with Avatar and Pirates,” he finally said, forgetting that it was supposed to be a joint decision.

About a month later, he’d saved enough for another trip to the game store.

He found a used Indiana Jones in his price range, though I reminded him that the new one was cheaper online. Then he spotted a Spiderman game and the back-and-forth began again. Finally, he put down Spiderman. “I don’t know anything about this one,” he said. “I’ll get Indiana Jones.”

Minutes later, he regretted his decision when a Lego car Boots had bought started looking good.

“Ohhhhhhhhh. no fair. I want one.”

“Yes, fair,” I said. “You spent all your money on the game. You’ll have to start saving again.”

Another lesson learned.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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