Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Bag Of Goods

Lately, money has been on J's mind and it comes up in conversation most unexpectedly. Who has how much, why more is better than less. The rich are happier than the poor because they possess more things. I have been putting up with all this with a mixture of anxiety and resignation. It is a material world, the neighborhood is full of rich and snooty people. The kids in her school are drinking from the fire hose of consumerism. For me to expect J to remain untouched by her environment is patently naive.

I have in the past tried to explain to her the mechanics of multiple credit lines, balance transfers and finally out of control credit card debt; how external appearances of affluence can be very deceptive. It is hard to tell what part if any of that message gets across to her. After a while both J and her mind wander away.

Yesterday, I got an opportunity to teach her a real life lesson that I thought would be easier to grasp. Lindsey's youngest one had come to play with J. She had brought this huge tote bag full of "stuff" she wanted to play with. J toy and "stuff" repertoire is woefully inadequate when compared to Caitlin's and she usually comes with her belongings so they can play. She went back home leaving all her things behind. I felt too lazy to go drop off her stuff and had J collect everything and put it back in her bag.

But before she did that, I had her make a list of things (about thirty five in all) there were and assigned an approximate market price for each. I showed her how to calculate the total. That small sampling of Caitlin's worldly good was worth atleast $150.

The next task was to explain to J how much $150 was worth and what it could buy - a month of groceries for the two of us, a beginner's digital camera, a trip to the beach, food for a famine starved family among other things came to mind. I wanted to get across to J the big difference between money well spent and money wasted on junk that added nothing to one's quality of life.

I am not sure, if my message was successfully conveyed but the numbers and orders of magnitude did get her thinking for a bit.


ggop said...

It will take some time to sink in - five is still an early age to grasp all these things.

Its probably never too early to slowly introduce these concepts. My friend tries to drill in the "waste not want not" concept too in her kids. She despairs at the gift giving/goody bag culture in birthday parties. Do you notice this too?


Heartcrossings said...

ggop - Yes, I notice that too. An American girlfriend taught me the birthday gift-giving etiquette "You pay your way through it" and I do just that. Makes things easier when you know the rules :)