Money comes and goes out of our lives in an instant each and every day. If you are employed, each hour (or portion thereof) you are on the clock, you are earning. On paydays, you get to reap the rewards of your hard work, and spend what you have stockpiled in your bank account. The feeling that money provides most of us is something along the lines of: power, control, and the ability to make (more) choices.
Why does money affect us in this way? We always want more than we can afford, and we tend to spend more than we have. Can you feel the power, control and variety of choices without money?
I am a mother of two, and have been discovering over the past few years that my children’s perception of money is vastly different than my own. When we are at the store, I frequently have to field the question of “Mom can I have ___?” It frustrates me to the point that I want to scream “NO!” and deny them of any future gifts. They just don’t get the value of money, but why should they? They see me buy things without deliberation, and haven’t yet witnessed our family discussing large financial decisions.
I decided to try a spending experiment with my oldest child recently. The two of us spent the day together. That morning, I gave her $20 to spend any way she chose. She was ecstatic. Since we hadn’t started an allowance system with her, the $20 was a way to kick start her work at home helping out. We set off for the mall, and her eyes lit up at everything she saw. The stuffed animals, candy, rides on the merry-go-round…it was all so enticing! She wanted it all. I told her she was in charge of her money, so she went into the first store to purchase a toy.
She quickly discovered that her $20 wouldn’t cover a stuffed animal, and all of the clothes and accessories that went with it. As she put her items on the counter to pay, she had to make some tough choices. If she wanted a ride on the merry-go-round later, and possibly a piece of candy, she would have to put some of her purchases back. But which ones? She carefully deliberated over her choices, and asked me several times to help her figure out the difference in the prices. I think we drove the salesperson nuts in that store, but my exercise in making money decisions was achieved.
At the end of the day, we both were satisfied. My daughter felt empowered by having control over her money and her choice on how to spend it. I felt like we made a great first step in teaching her the value of money, and its limits. If you only had so much, and not a penny more (or access to credit), would you choose to spend it differently?