I read an article about a dad teaching his 4 year old about money through the creation of a lemonade stand. I found it rather fascinating. He went through the whole process of starting a business. They went to a bank to “borrow” money, went to the store to purchase inventory, then they figured out how much to charge customers in order to make a profit. It appeared to be a very sophisticated lesson. I don't know how it turned out, probably because I stopped reading before they started selling the lemonade.
My immediate thought was, Is this Stephen Hawking's daughter? How advanced is this 4 year old? I remember this lesson in my Intro To Economics class in high school. The most advanced thing my 4 yr old does is write her last name and count to 100, and, you know, the obvious, sings along to Justin Timberlake's “Can’t Stop The Feeling”. I don't think she's capable of doing economic business plan that has the potential to be on the next shark tank.
But the idea about teaching a child the value of money still stuck with me, especially since when my daughter goes into any toy store she immediately thinks we can buy the whole store and put it in our trunk to bring home. So I came up with a very simple plan. My daughter would have a budget that she would have to operate in at the toy store. We would look at the price tags of toys, and wouldn’t buy anything that was over her allotted money. Hopefully, she would realize at the end that things cost different amounts and sometimes we only have enough money for certain things. (A lesson my wife occasionally needs to revisit…)
With Easter just having occurred, my daughter accumulated $37 dollars from her grandparents. There was her budget. With my wife working one Saturday I decided to take both kids to Target to start my lesson. On the way over, I kept reiterating the budget to my daughter. “We only have 37 dollars to spend. You can get a few small toys or a big toy with your $37 dollars.” With minimal questions from the back seat, I figured the lesson was really sinking in.
But I was wrong.
First toy: “I want that!” “No honey, it's $70. You only have $37.”
Second toy: “Oh can I PLEASE get that?” “Nope sorry it’s $49 dollars.”
Third toy: “This is so awesome, can we get this?” “Now look at the price tag. Is $63 bigger than $37?” “Yes.” “Then no we can’t get it.”
This went on and on with every toy on the shelf. Then she moved into her budget with asking about the Easy Bake Oven and Snoopy Sno Cone Maker. While both are almost a rite of passage type toys from my generation (just referred to “my generation” which makes me old now) and she was in her budget, the toys where you eat the final product creep me out. So I turned this capitalism lesson briefly into a dictator lesson, and told her flat out “No”. So, after fighting with her about why she can't buy something in her budget, we moved on to the next toy.
She finally found a toy that was priced at $25. It was a toy dog she's been after for a while. Now normally it costs $50, but appeared to be on sale. We picked that up and another small toy, and made our way to the register. At the register, I give my daughter the money to give to the cashier once our items are rung through. Cashier says “ that'll be $57 dollars.” Oh f*ck. My brilliant lesson was coming down like Icarus when he flew too close to the sun. At this moment, I had to decide to either cave, or stand tall and take the brunt of a disappointed 4 year old.
To Be Continued....