When I was 15 years old, I told my parents I wanted a "good camera". Back then, what that meant was: 35 mm FILM, with adjustable f-stop settings and manual focus...rather than a point-and-shoot Polaroid where the picture popped out the front. As I remember it, my Mom said something along the lines of "that's nice, dear, you'd better start saving up." So, that's exactly what I did. I hoarded my babysitting money (probably in my sock drawer) until I had a big enough wad 'o cash. (I believe it was around $200, an exorbitant amount of dough to me, at that tender age!) And I bought myself my first Ricoh camera. (I also continued to use that thing--stubbornly resisting "the digital age"--until about 5 years ago, when I dropped it on a concrete path while shooting Fall foliage. R.I.P Ricoh.) My point is, although these days I fully embrace the beauty of shopping-with-credit-cards, and I have been known to succumb to impulse-buying (cute purse, anyone?), deep down I still harbor an ingrained Saving Mentality that I absorbed from my frugal parents in my formative consumer years.
With my own kids, operating on the belief that it's never too early to begin Money Management Training, Husband and I agreed to start giving Derek an allowance at age 5. Of course at first he spent every penny on inexpensive little toys (which were lost or forgotten or broken very quickly). Over time, we talked about things like: making sure you REALLY want something before you spend your money; saving for higher-quality items; recognizing why "cheaper" is not necessarily better; avoiding the peril of buying stuff "made in China", etc. After almost 5 years of such discussions, it seems my budding Capitalist has blossomed into quite the Tycoon. By carefully stashing his monthly allowance in his little red wallet, he has amassed $160. He has been waiting patiently, deciding what to buy with it, wanting to be absolutely solid about his purchase choice before he parts with his nest egg.
Finally, this week he informed me that he was ready. His decision? A Nintendo DS (since we had long ago established that Mom and Dad would NOT be giving him one, he bided his time until he could get his own). By searching together on Amazon, we established that he had enough money for the system itself, and a game, with some left over to start saving again. (I also seized the opportunity to discuss how he was saving not only the $5 Amazon took off for its "sale price", but also the sales tax they don't charge. And free shipping, let's not forget! I may be creating an Internet Shopping Monster...). So after our transaction, Derek seems to feels proud and confident, for doing this "on his own". And I feel like he's gained some Valuable Life Skills in the process. Not bad for a hundred and fifty bucks!