Burning Money

Not only does this week mark the beginning of the second half of 2018, it also is punctuated with a midweek holiday here in the United States - the 4th of July - Independence Day. In our household, the 4th might be the most popular holiday with the six year old.


He's looking forward to the celebrations - or shall I say, he's looking forward to the fireworks!


Where we live, fireworks are still legal - one of the few islands in the Seattle metro area where you can buy them. Ever since the firework stands opened on the 28th, he's wanted to go every day. And at this point... we've gone twice. Both times, we bought a few small items he has selected. 

He loves fireworks. Not so long ago, he'd complain that they were too loud. Now... he wants to buy, buy, buy. Arguably he has been sucked into consumerism just a bit as the firework stands pop up around our house for a short week every year.


On Saturday, he had a core meltdown. We didn't realize it at the time, but he was hangry. We spent the afternoon at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, and at the end, he wanted to stop in the gift shop. We said no. He threw a fit. That fit led to a yogurt tube being thrown in the car.  SO. GROSS. He whined screamed that he wanted to buy something in the gift shop alternating with the fact that he wanted to stop at the firework stand on the way home and buy some fireworks.


The lesson was simple. I asked him if he brought any of his money. He said no. 


I asked him how he planned to buy something if he had no money? Silence.


"If you want something, you need to plan ahead and figure out how much money you will need and then bring it," I explained.


He didn't really get it... and responded with "Daddy you have money."  Funny, not funny.


Then I asked him what was more important - ANOTHER toy from the store, or fireworks? This made him stop and think. Now I was speaking his language! There were trade-offs to be had and when you spend on one thing that means you can't spend somewhere else.


We are slowly starting to make the transition in the house with our six year old to equating the purchasing of goods with the cost. It's a lesson we hope to teach at a young age - not only that things cost $$ but that there are trade-offs associated with those purchases. 


I regularly discuss money with my six year old. Each time he receives money (from birthdays or chores) we talk to him about the principles of "saving, investing, spending, and giving." Our goal as parents is to have open and honest conversations about money with our kids - and the fact that it is finite. We also hope to instill a very clear understanding with them of wants versus needs, and the fact that we don't need to spend all of our money - especially on things that we don't really need. 


As he cooled down from not getting what he wanted in the gift store at the Museum of Flight we talked to him about the fact that he already has so many toys, and that if he wants a new toy, maybe he should first give up something he's already got that he doesn't play with any more.


It's a simple lesson but one that's hard to grasp when we are bombarded with the message that if we just buy one more thing, we will be happier. So often people buy stuff, it is used one or two times and then simply sits in a house, takes up space and collects dust.


As our kids grow, we are working hard to instill the difference between wants vs. needs. We want them to value incredible experiences rather than be surrounded by a bunch of junk that quickly loses its luster in the house.


And while buying fireworks is essentially burning money, we have allowed for some fireworks in our budget this year. So we will spend a few dollars on a "want" and have some fun celebrating on the Fourth of July with friends and family. But it is an intentional decision on our part - and as we teach our kids about money, we are also trying to teach them about being very intentional in their decision making around purchases.

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