Bella’s Money

So far Bella seems to be a numbers girl and part of that might be due to her interest in money.  Mark and I are both really careful with our money.  We only buy things we can logically afford and have agreed that our money is best spent on things which benefit the health of our bodies, minds, and spirits.  That being said, we don’t buy a lot of unnecessary stuff for ourselves or for the girls.  Bella and Callee pretty much know that unless it’s their birthday or Christmas they shouldn’t bother asking because the answer will be “no.”  Often when they do ask that “no” is followed by “we don’t have the money for that.”  When Mark says it, he’s joking in his not so funny way.  When I say it, it means I don’t have the cash for it and I won’t buy it with the card.    Either way, Bella has become very interested in money, how much things cost, and whether we can afford them.

Since Bella is getting ready to start Kindergarten, I have been scoping out backpacks.  I want to get her a good quality one but recently noticed that Jansports cost $40 at JCPenny’s.  I was at a bit of a loss until the L.L. Bean catalogue arrived and I saw that the basic backpack that would be just right for Bella cost $27.95.  I decided I’d order her one from them and gave her the catalogue so she could choose the color.  Wouldn’t you know that she flipped past the page I had given her and found one she wanted more and wouldn’t you know it cost $40.  When I insisted that we get the less expensive backpack, she insisted that she would pay for the more expensive one herself.  (She has a piggy bank with at least $80 in it and she knows this because she has sat with her daddy and counted the money more than once.)

The compromise I have come to is that I will pay $30 and she will pay the rest.  I am currently trying to figure out what lesson, if any, she is learning from this.  By not agreeing to just pay for the more expensive one, I think I am teaching her a little responsibility and accountability.  But, by making such a big deal out of it, am I teaching her to be miserly?  And then what about my whole view on “material things,” what happens when the backpack becomes the shoes or the cell phone?  I’d love your thoughts on this matter and any personal experiences you have.  (Also, I totally get that I am over-analyzing something that’s really no big deal…but hey if you can’t do that on a blog where can you do it!)

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7 thoughts on “Bella’s Money

  1. Amanda July 22, 2009 / 7:23 am

    I think you are right on point. We don’t buy our kids things excessively either, and I notice that in comparison to our other friends with kids, they have far less than “normal”. But are they deprived?? Far from it. It is very easy in this day and age to think that we are not giving our kids ‘enough’ but it’s not like you said ‘no’ altogether. You are teaching the tie of ‘things’ to the money that Bella is already learning about – this is going to be very valuable. Far too many kids think it grows on trees…

  2. eastkentuckygal July 22, 2009 / 10:18 am

    I agree with you allowing her to pay for part of it. I think it will definitely be of a benefit to her to realize that part of the money she has saved is going to buy her the backpack she wants. Where I would focus my thinking would be the whys of her wanting the more expensive backpack when the cheaper one would do the job absolutely. I hope to help my girls learn that though a product may be more expensive, it doesn’t mean it is better than a less expensive item. For example, Coach purses. I’m sorry, but people are paying $300 for a bag when they can pay $15 and get a bag that is just as good and pretty too. Or, better yet, maybe spend a little more and get a handcrafted bag of excellent quality. Sure, Coach may be leather (I don’t know) but essentially you are paying for that logo and in doing so for the prestige of carrying a Coach bag.
    I’m hoping to help my girls learn to get things because they really think they are nice, or useful and not because they think the name will carry the item.
    I’m not saying Bella is doing this by wanting an expensive backpack, but I’d talk with her about why she wants that one. See if the desire is a pure one. 🙂

  3. Leigh July 22, 2009 / 10:28 am

    You handled it perfectly. Using your intelligence is not the same thing as being miserly, and teaching a child how to buck all the silly, expensive, name-dropping fads is really teaching him how to think for himself. This seems like a money matter, but it’s an equally important lesson on peer pressure. You taught Bella that quality is good, a saving’s account is better, and we all have a choice in how we handle our money. You didn’t get into a power struggle or make the expensive backpack a taboo by saying no, you showed Bella your values and allowed her to pay for something she deemed important. Next time she sees something she wants to buy equally as much and the piggy bank is depleted, she’ll get the additional lesson of cause and effect. Parenting at its best. Good job.

    When she is a little older, you can explain about the psychology of shopping and ads and how these are silly games many people fall for but we don’t have to. Understanding how outside influences work and knowing how to counteract them will empower her to take a stand later on when the issues are much more serious.

  4. Carlene July 22, 2009 / 4:34 pm

    I agree with Leigh, and think that it was a fantastic way to handle it – it was literally the perfect compromise. You went a little higher than you wanted, she had to dip into her piggybank to make up the difference (therefore figuring out if she truly wanted it), and you should be proud of a fantastic parenting choice, not second-guessing what lesson was learned.

    Realistically, I don’t know that kids learn “lessons” the way adults do; instead they learn to recognize patterns and act accordingly. In Bella’s case, she just recognized that if she wants something more than what Mom can/will afford, she can make up the difference herself.

    And I can’t for the life of me think of how that’s anything but positive.

    • lesleehorner July 22, 2009 / 5:04 pm

      Thanks guys for all the great responses! We ordered her backpack today. She wanted this particular one because she loves butterflies and birds and it had a butterfly embroidered on it.

      • Leigh July 23, 2009 / 2:03 pm

        So much for all our “in-depth” insightfulness! Cute.

  5. eastkentuckygal July 23, 2009 / 3:31 pm

    Good job Bella! That’s a good reason to prefer one over another. She will probably enjoy carrying this backpack and feel like her money was well spent. 🙂

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