“Sixty dollars is a lot of dollars”

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photo-10“Sixty dollars is a lot of dollars”
That was Max’s response when, shortly after his birthday in April, we discovered the Lego Star Wars X-Wing set. He had gotten a little cash for his birthday, and it was burning a hole in his pocket, so we had gone online to see what his options were.
We explained to him that yes, it was a lot of dollars, but that he could save his money and eventually buy it for himself, with his own money.
And the other night, that’s exactly what we did!

How does a five year old come up with $67 ($59.99 plus tax) in four months?
By working hard and doing jobs (and having exceedingly generous friends and family)

In our house, chores and jobs are two different things.
He does chores as a member of the family; Jamie and I don’t get paid for doing our chores, neither does Max.
At five years old, he is responsible for putting the silverware away when the dishwasher is clean (“Again?!?! I just did it the other day!”), putting his clothes away in their labeled drawers, keeping his toys cleaned up from the rest of the house, and straightening his room when asked, and he helps carry out the recycling sometimes. Those are the things he does to contribute to the running of the house.
Jobs are extra things he gets paid to do; usually they are tasks I don’t feel like doing. (Parenting win, BTW) Collecting all the shoes from around the house and putting them in the appropriate closets, wiping down bathroom counters, that sort of thing.
He earns $0.25 per job, or a sticker. We use both systems for a reason, and not just because I don’t always have a quarter on me (even though that’s part of it!)

When I was in Chicago last month, I attended a brunch with Virtual Piggy, and one of the moms there, while talking about teaching kids responsibilty about money, made an interesting observation. In this age of debit cards and PayPal, children don’t have a physical association with money. They just think that a card gets swiped and it’s taken care of. We want Max to know the feel of his hard-earned savings in his pocket, the weight of $17 in quarters and nickels tugging his pants down (Also? Hilarious)
While I had been doing both change and stickers for a while, what she said really stuck with me, so now I make an effort to switch it up.
Stickers are worth a quarter each as well. There’s a chart on our pantry door with his sticker collection… he sometimes forgets that they’re there, even when counting his money to see how close he was to his X-Wing goal. See? Not real money.

So anyway, Max gets stickers and quarters for jobs, and then if he finds money, he can keep it; usually change that’s fallen out of Jamie’s pockets on the sofa, things like that. And then, of course, my mom insists on totally overpaying him for doing things that he should be doing anyway. A dollar for putting away a puzzle he was playing with? She drives me crazy! (Love you Mom!)

So Max has been saving his “monies” to get this X-Wing set. We added it up last week, and he was only about $10 away.
Proud of him, I posted on Facebook about how proud I was that he was so close. Almost instantly, a dear friend sent me a message.
“We want to contribute to Max’s X-Wing fund. How much does he need?”
And I was torn.
I don’t want Max to go through life thinking that people will just give him stuff when he wants it, but I also want him to know that friends, people we love, will help you out when you need them.
Such a quandry, right?
“Oh noes! Someone loves my kid and wants him to be happy!”

photo-9And suddenly, Max has all the money he needs for the X-Wing.
He almost cried when I told him that they had given him enough to put him over.
Then the next challenge: I didn’t want to order it online.
I wanted him to walk into a store, find it on a shelf, carry it to the register, hand over his hard earned cash.
He had $17 in rolled change, and a stack of bills.
I was thrilled when we found out the Fry’s near us had ONE X-Wing set in stock; the Lego Store only carries the most recent releases, ouyr favorite mom and pop toy store has had it on order since May, and I’d already told Max that we were going to try and buy it that night.

We went straight to the toy aisle at Fry’s, and he saw it right away; the box almost as big as him, the only thing bigger was his excitement that it was actually happening. He limped through the store ($17 in change in one pocket, cash in the other, hands full of giant Lego box) and made it to the register.

We explained to the cashier what was going on, and Max started piling his money on the counter. To our surprise, it was only $50, not $60, and out generous friends had put him over the top anyway.

As soon as he got his change and receipt, the first words out of his mouth?
“I’m so happy I got my X-Wing! Now I’m going to save for the Millenium Falcon!”
That’s a $300 Lego set, folks.

But you know what? I have no doubt my boy will do it.

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  1. “A dollar for putting away a puzzle he was playing with? She drives me crazy!” Oh, I know that feeling! Please stop paying my kid to clean up his own toys AAARGGHH!

    This spring our kiddo wanted a third Chima Lego set beyond what his Grandma had gotten him as an “Easter present” and he’d been saving up. I do agree with you that the act of taking cash to the store and counting is out is very important. He could see how much he had to give them and how much was left. It was also good to head to the store with a certain amount that he’d saved and then be confronted with the reality that he didn’t have enough for the biggest box, and he had to choose to save more OR buy something smaller.

  2. Hi Liz, these are such great ideas. I agree on teaching about money and that it is not just a card. You are a good mom! Commenting from triberr.

  3. One of the best parenting ideas I ever had was one to deal with the kids not wanting to get rid of their old outgrown toys. When I was little my mom would always just make them disappear, and I always resented that. Of course, I’d never want to let anything go and put up a fuss if she involved me in the process of making me get rid of stuff, so I can understand her position. I didn’t want to do that to my kids though.

    Peter really wanted something quite expensive, so I told him that I’d pay him a dime for each McDonald’s-sized toy, a quarter for each medium toy, and a dollar for each large (~$20) toy in his room that he got rid of. Presto! Over the next week bins and bins of baby toys were disposed of, my kiddo earned enough money to get that video game system he wanted, and his room was much less cluttered.


    1. That *is* a good one!
      We’re working on selling Max’s Thomas stuff… he decided he’s too old for it. He won’t get all the money though; that’s a lot of cash! LOL

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