value of a dollar
by lisa horak
kids have a hard time grasping the concept of money, which is completely
understandable. After all, to Molly and Isabel, who are six and four,
their food, clothes, and toys seem to magically appear. And when they
do see my husband and I pay for things, more often than not it is with
the swipe of a credit or debit card.
Still, they definitely know what money is. For example, whenever a tooth
is lost the Tooth Fairy leaves a handful of change, since the number
of coins is far more impressive than their actual monetary value. And
then there are the pennies that I superstitiously pick up for good luck,
heads up or not.
But this summer the girls had a chance to truly learn the value of a
dollar. Weve had one of those crunch times when money is particularly
tight. You knowwhen the Visa bill, the life insurance, the mortgage
and everything else were due all at the same time, and then to top it
all off the car suddenly needed repairs. I think the girls picked up
on my stress about our finances. Now before you start to worry about
us, let me assure you it wasnt that bad, its just that kids
are unaware of such wondrous things as savings accounts and bimonthly
Whatever it was, Molly suggested that we use the money in our Coin Jar.
Doesnt everyone have one for loose change left in pockets at the
end of the day or found in the washer? Our Coin Jar is huge, an oversized
glass vase that we had been filling ever since we moved to Asheville.
Molly had a great idea, and she and I spent an evening counting coins
and putting them in their tight little sausage-like paper rolls. We
had nearly $170! Not too shabby!
That satisfying experience put the girls in a major money making mode.
The next day, Molly decided to have a lemonade stand. This is a fundamental
part of being a kid, wherein a mom prepares lemonade and anything else
lying around, and the children mark it up about 700 percent. Of course,
there is an unwritten code in our neighborhood that adults support these
sales, regardless of price gouging, because a) its hot out, b)
the kids are both cute and entrepreneurial, and c) it might be their
kids having a sale the next day, and they expect reciprocity. At fifty
cents a cup, Molly made four bucks in no time. Add that to her recent
Tooth Fairy income, and she was suddenly loaded.
Times are tough when my six-year-old was making more money than I was,
and my husbands payday was still a long way off. Nonetheless,
you have to have some fun during summer vacation. So the next hot and
muggy day I took the girls to a movie at Asheville Pizza and Brewery.
I figured it was surely worth $2 a ticket to be both cool and entertained.
Come on, Moneybags, I said to Molly, who like any fashionable
lady wanted to bring her bulging purse along. You should be taking
me to the movies, I joked.
Her whole face lit up. Yes! she cried, I want to pay
for you and me and Isabel!
NO! shouted Isabel, who never wants to be left out. I
want to pay!
Fine, then Im going to buy us all ice cream at the Hop!
yelled Molly, once again coming up with a good idea.
No! I want to pay for ice cream, whined Isabel, running
to empty her piggy bank into her purse.
What a wonderful argument they were having! Imagine, one-upping each
other in generosity. I was thrilled. Not only would it be a cheap day
out, but it promised to be a full, fun, memorable one as well. So that
day Molly paid for the movie. Afterward, back out in the hot sunshine,
we picked my husband up at work and Isabel bought us all ice cream at
I truly believe that movie was a little bit funnier and that ice cream
was a little bit sweeter because my daughters treated me to them. They
learned about using their money for a pleasurable experience rather
than a material object. They learned about buying things for others,
not just for themselves. And now that they have a vague idea how much
certain things cost, perhaps theyll be more grateful or gracious
about what we splurge or skimp on.
For one day, I felt like I was living that famous credit card commercial:
Movie: Six dollars. Ice cream: Seven dollars. Fun summer day: Priceless.
Lisa Horak lives in south Asheville with her husband
and two daughters, Molly and Isabel. In her spare time she hikes, volunteers
in classrooms, and dreams of writing childrens books.
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