At Christmas, each of our children received a small amount of money as a gift, along with encouragement for them to spend it on whatever their little hearts desired.
Over the next week, the subject of spending that money came up several times. Rather than just taking them to a store and letting them go wild, we told them each to think of items that they actually wanted to spend it on.
Our oldest son wanted to pair his Christmas money with a bit of allowance money and buy a new game.
Our daughter, who is our middle child, wanted a “princess doll” or some markers.
Our youngest son seemed to name something different each time we asked him about it.
When we finally chose to go shopping – after giving them some time to think about it – each of them handled the trip differently.
Our oldest son did not find the exact game he was looking for, so he kept his Christmas money and his allowance money.
Our daughter spent a long time examining the different dolls, found one that was on sale, and held on to her money. At a later stop that day, she used the remainder of her money on art supplies.
Our youngest son picked out the first thing he laid his eyes on and insisted on buying it. At future stops, he kept seeing things he wanted and got very upset because he didn’t have the money for those things.
The thing is, I saw shadows of myself in each of the children.
My oldest child is probably the smartest shopper. He’s the one who manages to avoid immediate temptations and hold off for the exact item he wants, preferably at the price he wants.
My middle child is a bargain hunter, albeit with a little girl’s impatient streak. She takes price into account when deciding what to buy, enabling her to get the things she wanted.
My youngest child is completely driven by impulse, as one might expect from a two year old. His impulsive decision led him to later see things that he wanted that he could no longer afford.
The fun part? I’ve watched my oldest child grow through each of these stages, and I’ve watched my daughter’s impulsiveness gradually drop as well.
At each stage along the way, we’ve had many discussions about how to use money more wisely to not only get the things we really want, but to take care of the things that we need.
They’re still children, but their wisdom with money is already growing.
On the way home, I heard the older two children talking to our youngest child about why it’s a good idea to wait when you’re spending your money. Our oldest suggested waiting around for the thing you want the most, even if the store doesn’t have it, and our daughter told him to look for a while and find the things that were really fun that didn’t cost very much.
As I drove home that night, I could not have been more proud.