Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Buyer's remorse

This morning Andrew went to the girls' school for "grandfriends" day, which coincides with the book fair. What the school is really hoping is that grandparents, unfettered with the day-to-day business of raising children, will accompany their grandchildren to the book fair and spoil them. But we don't have grandparents here, so year after year we attend grandfriends day and so far have restrained from spoiling our children.

Last year Rachel bought a really cheap book (it was $2 or something; the cheapest thing there).

This year the girls had saved up their pennies (literally) and were aching to buy some books.

So we told them they could.

But then Zoë didn't sleep well and I was a wreck in the morning so Andrew ended up taking the girls to school for grandfriends day by himself. He had the girls count their money and then told them that he would pay for the books with his credit card and have the girls pay him since he didn't want to deal with the girls counting out pennies at the cash register.

Miriam knew exactly what she wanted to get: Who was Mother Theresa? and Who is Malala Yousafzai? Both books cost $5.99 (a bit steep, in my opinion (Scholastic books are such low quality (again, that's in my opinion)). Miriam only had $9 and some change to spend. Andrew advised her to buy one book but she started getting weepy right there in the stacks so he told her he'd "gift" her two dollars so she could get both, telling her that this meant she would spend all her money.

She was cool with that.

Rachel had birthday money to burn. She set aside $15 to spend, which I thought was a bit much, and then Andrew "gifted" her $2 as well. She ended up buying three books. And she's already finished one. Which is why libraries are awesome because what are the odds of her having purchased a book she's going to want to read over and over again? Pretty slim.

Anyway, we figured spending some of their hard-saved money would be a good life lesson for them (it wasn't really hard-earned because all they did was lousy stuff like turn a year older and lose teeth and things like that) and it really was.

Neither one of them wanted to cough up their money when it came time to pay Dad back.

There were tears.

Rachel has more of a handle on how money and trade works so she came to terms with things a lot faster than Miriam did. She knew she'd purchased something. She knew how much that something had cost. And she knew she owed Dad money for it.

Miriam was clueless. She was like, "But I don't have to give you my money. You paid for my books. I left my money at home. Now I have the books and the money. Lucky me!"

I had her pull out each book so we could look at the sticker price and then we painstakingly counted out the correct amount of money for each book. The first book was fairly easy because she mostly used quarters and she's been doing fractions in school so she knew that four quarters makes one whole (dollar).

"So this whole pile of money is how much?" I asked her.

"Six dollars," she said.

"And how much does this book cost?"

"Six dollars."

"That's right. You traded all this money for this book. Now you have to give that money to Dad."

"But I did't buy the book from him. I bought the book from my school."

"But he paid for it with his credit card and now you have to buy it from him."

"This is confusing."

"Yup. Now we need to count out four dollars for the second book because Daddy gave you two dollars. You don't have to pay back the money he gave to you, just the money he lent to you."

This time the counting process went a lot slower because we were working with pennies and nickels and dimes, but she was pretty quick with her facts. She knew that ten dimes made one dollar and then said, "So, that means twenty nickels are one dollar! And one-hundred pennies! Can we count one-hundred pennies now?"

We made stacks of pennies, ten pennies high, and then set them on the floor in a 2x5 grid (common core style) and she was able to count out four dollars worth of coins.

Handing those over was the hardest thing she's had to do in a while. I think she was left holding thirty-seven cents, which seemed like nothing compared to what she'd had in her piggy bank before.

But, I assured her that she'd have plenty of opportunity to collect more money. Her birthday's coming up, and Christmas is coming up, and she's got another loose tooth.

Andrew told her that the purpose of making money is to spend money. Money is relatively useless unless you spend it (though saving up for future expenses (and long-term needs) is prudent).

We talked about needing to think about cost when you want to buy something—just how empty will your piggy bank look after you trade in all your coins for whatever thing you wanted. Did you really want that thing that bad? Could you have found a better deal? (In this case, yes, those books were both cheaper on Amazon...not to mention...we could have looked at the library for them).

Both girls were excited to spend money, but I think they were surprised to find how quickly that money was spent, and I think they both experienced a little buyer's remorse (if their tears were any indication of such a thing). But they're enjoying their books and learned some valuable lessons in finances and they have no money left so they won't ask me to take them to the book fair tomorrow when I'll be attending Rachel's grandfriend day.


  1. E likes to save his money and buy Lego sets that always give me buyers remorse. $70 bucks gone like that after a whole year, but it makes him happy so these is that :). I actually get a ton of not out of saving, but maybe that is because I didn't save for so many years! Hope they enjoy their budding libraries. I'm with you on libraries being better.

  2. But it is good to support fund-raising efforts at school. So there is that. (Cheaper, sometimes, just to give the school money...) And it just feels good to go and choose a book sometimes.

  3. You almost got all your embedded parentheses completed. :-P :-D (can you tell the semester's started and I'm grading Advanced Writing papers again... haha)

  4. I used to trade the kids' coins for dollar bills so it was easier for them to use their own money for things like that. It means more to them when they actually have to hand over the bills and see there's nothing left. Cash is important sometimes, in spite of what dad says!