The Value of Money

“Can we go bowling? Can we go bowling? Can we go bowling? Can we go bowling?”

This is the standard strategy that my children use to get my wife and I to take them somewhere. They badger and harass us until one of us, usually me, gives in, often only by the 124’th repetition.

It is a surprisingly effective strategy. They chip away at my resolve to not give in to them the same way that coal miners chip away at a rock wall until nothing is left but crumbled up bits of my resolve piled up around my feet.

The query, “Can we go (insert any fun activity here)” is the primary means they use to achieve their objective of going bowling, skiing, to the movies, to the park, mini-putting, go-karting, camping, skate boarding, swimming, biking, to their friends house, to McDonalds, to Pizza Hut, to KFC, or to the moon. (Hmmmm….the moon)

With a small adjustment, this same strategy of breaking us down is also used to buy them things. The query simply becomes “I need (insert any object that costs at least ten dollars here.)” This is how they obtain wallets, clothing, clock radios, CD players, video games, sports equipment, shoes, and new cars. (Hmmm…a car)

Although as a recent purchaser of a new car, it struck me that our children, in this age of entitlement, don’t really have a good grasp of the value of money.

They accompanied my wife and I on our final trip to the dealer to pick up our new car. “How much did it cost?” they all wanted to know.

I replied, “A googol bajillion dollars.”

“Wow!” they all said.

So I have tried to educate them on the value of money. For instance, when I was a young boy, a quarter could be used to purchase a 12 ounce glass bottle of Coca Cola and a 10 ounce bag of Hostess potato chips that were packaged in a sort of papery aluminum foil bag. The empty glass bottle could be returned for a two-cent deposit that could be used to finance the purchase of two pieces of Dubble Bubble bubble gum with the little comic strip inside.

The only use for a quarter today is to use its edge to scratch off the silver stuff on lotto tickets. When my kids ask for money for something, and I hand them each a quarter, they launch off into peels of hysterical laughter and comment on what a dinosaur their old man is. Nonetheless, they accept the quarters in the hopes that over time, say in a few months of quarter collecting, they will have saved enough money to purchase a chocolate bar.

To teach them the value of money, we went to some local Canada Day celebrations and I gave them each five dollars.

“Here,” I said, “you can spend this money anyway you like. It is up to you to budget your money while we are here.”

Since everything was free except for the food and drinks, I knew that they would have to spend their money wisely if they wished to avoid total dehydration in the 90-degrees heat. When they got hungry and thirsty, I sent them off to the food vendors to decide what they wanted to buy for sustenance.

“Three dollars for a glass of lemonade!” one of them exclaimed.

“Four dollars for a piece of fudge!” another one yelped.

After a while, they managed to find something that fit within their budget, and their daily food dietary requirements. Two of them bought themselves each some French fries and a juice box; another one bought a beaver tail and a can of pop. Note to animal rights activists, the “beaver tail” is not an actual beaver tail – I think. It is a fried up pancake coated in sugar and cinnamon. Just the right amount of sweets all children need to maintain the same level of hyperactivity that popping corn exhibits at the movie theatre concession counter.

They each had a bit of change left – a quarter – that they can use to scratch the silver stuff off of lotto tickets.

And in case you were wondering about the actual purchase price of our new car, it was only half a googol bajillion dollars.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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