(Managing Editor Gary Gould is on vacation this week. His column is a reprint from Sept. 2, 2010.)
I spent the weekend with my kids recently and I was reminded of the difference between grown-up and kid economics.
For kids they want everything they see and they are oblivious to cost because, don’t you know, money apparently grows on trees.
For adults we hear a cash register “ch-chinging” in the background every time we take our kids somewhere.
This past weekend I took my kids to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. For me just walking around seeing people in costumes and checking out the shows is fun. But for my kids they need to do stuff that costs money before it gets really exciting.
For my 7-year-old son, the money was nearly burning a hole in his pocket before we even set foot at the festival.
I can’t complain too much about my daughter. She’s 12 and she’s beginning to figure out how grown-up economics works. She asked me right away when I announced they would each get money if she had to spend it on something at the RenFest.
“No,” I said. “You can spend it on whatever you’d like.”
The lightbulb went off over her head. She had a pair of sunglasses in mind she’d seen at the store. She tucked her cash away and resisted the temptation to spend it all afternoon.
My son, however, wanted to buy everything in sight.
“Sure,” I said. “Just remember when its gone there’s no more.”
After using $5 of his cash for a ride, he quickly got a taste of grown-up economics. Suddenly, he too announced he wanted to spend his money elsewhere.
With their money pocketed, we finished out our day at the festival and headed home. The next day we went to the Davison Dog Walk and there my kids were tempted by the one thing they cannot possibly say no to — the possibility of adopting a dog. My kids want me to buy them a dog badly.
I’ve told them, however, they are not allowed to have one at home and at my house there’s just no room and I don’t have time to care for a dog when the kids aren’t around.
As we walked up to the dog event my son asked me,
“So dad, if i find a dog here for $5 can
I buy him?”
“Sam,” I said in my most comforting voice. “You are not going to be able to adopt a dog here for $5.”
“But what if we do?” he asked.
“I will guarantee you we won’t,” I said.
“But WHAT if we do?”
“Then you’re still not getting it,” I had to reaffirm to him.
Sure enough, there were no $5 dogs. There was one adoptable for $200, however, prompting my daughter to beg me for the money — even after I clearly showed her I did not have $200 on me. I thought she would require sedation to get her out of there, but we made it out in one piece.
So following that I took my daughter out and let her buy her sunglasses with the money she’d so responsibly held onto.
For my son, he opted to spend the rest of his money on toys at the Dollar Store. He’s learning where to get the most bang for his buck.
In the end they were both happy, despite the fact they didn’t get a dog.