Allowance Worthy?

Josie Leavitt -- February 3rd, 2014

Every day I see families teaching their kids about the value of money at the bookstore. Questions are asked: is that a want or need? Do you have to get in hardcover? Yesterday at the bookstore I saw two great ideas that were simple and direct.

The first was for a young teen girl. Her mother had gotten her a Visa gift card for Christmas. This card became her spending money because the mom, Denise, really wanted April to learn what happened with credit cards. Of course this card didn’t allow you to spend more than was pre-loaded on the card, but it is the beginning of learning. Learning how you sign your name, what receipts to take (sometimes, this still mystifies me) and the business of buying things. The main thing this young reader learned was sometimes there just isn’t the money for everything you want to buy. It was sort of kismet that the family was getting their book club premium, so they saved $10, which the mom generously donated to April’s hardcover, which then brought the price down low enough that her Visa gift card could cover it. April’s only real grasp of what happened was when I kept the spent card. She looked shocked and said, “Is it out of money already?” I told her it was and she shrugged her shoulders, hugged her book and left the store. Perhaps this lesson bears repeating.

The second money lesson of the day was for a boy about eight. He was with his mom and his best friend who was encouraging him to get a Lego book that came with a toy. The mom wanted no part of it, sensing possibly correctly, that he only wanted the toy. She would happily buy him a book, but not a toy even if the toy came with a book. I could tell David was perplexed about this new wrinkle. But his friend asked him a very simple question, “Do you have allowance money?”

This question causes kids to really consider if they want something or not, and honestly, it may be the single best question to ask a child about whether or not they want a book. Some kids have no idea how to answer the want/need question; honestly, some adults struggle with that. It’s also really hard to grasp the concept of money if you never actually have to spend any. David and his friend, Sam, huddled up and talked about the book. Sam was a savvy shopper and said, “Look, you get a book and a toy! For only $6, plus tax, that’s a deal. That is allowance worthy.” David was convinced. He came over to the register and I rang him up, and he left the store happy.

The allowance question is perhaps the fastest way to discern if a child really wants a book or not. If they are willing to spend their own money on it, then they really want it; if the prospect of breaking into their piggy bank makes them cringe, then they don’t want it badly enough and can wait until they’ve earned the money. Teaching kids about money seems to start earlier and earlier and honestly, I think that’s a good idea. Plus, as a bookseller, it’s fascinating to me to see what kids will spend their own money to buy.

2 thoughts on “Allowance Worthy?

  1. SuzzyPC

    Josie,
    That second lesson was one my Mom tried to impart to both my brother and me. I like to think it worked in my case. You’re so right – sometimes “need” is difficult to distinguish from “want”

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