Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spend that money

This weekend I had a bit of a setback in terms of Elli's training on money management.  We went to see Nut Job at the theatre, which was fun, and when we got out I intended to hit the grocery store and go home.  Unfortunately for my plans Elli immediately demanded that we buy a drink from the concession stand.  Not knowing how much drinks cost at the theatre (I just always assume the answer is 'too much') I wandered up to look and choked at the prices.  After I informed Elli that I wasn't going to pay $5 for a drink she then demanded to buy it herself.  Thankfully she has already blown her Christmas money so she lacked the funds.

After this revelation I was treated to a ten minute meltdown demanding popcorn because X's parents bought popcorn and IT ISN'T FAIR.  I even offered to make her fresh popcorn at home as soon as we arrived there but this was met with derision and scorn as only movie theatre popcorn will do.  We managed to make it to the lobby and there we had another blowout because the little trinket machine that wants loonies was taunting her, begging for change in exchange for a brief squirt of feel good hormones and a piece of plastic crap.

Finally we got to the grocery store and the true nature of the problem became evident as Elli shouted "I just want to BUY something!"  I have plenty of sympathy for wanting particular things.  There is nothing wrong with desiring something and buying it when you have the money, particularly when you aren't in the position of having to save up money for necessities.  What truly worries me though is that Elli honestly didn't care what she bought - drink, popcorn, toy, whatever, the only thing that had to happen was money had to be exchanged for goods.  It became almost comical when we went into the dollar store and the following conversation was had:

"Daddy, what is this?  I want to buy it."

"I don't know what it is, but how do you know you want it if you don't even know what it is?"

"I just want it!  What is it?"

"It is a pad to write on."

"I want it!  Can I buy it with my money?!?"


So Elli is now $2.25 poorer and is in possession of a random object she passed by in a dollar store.  I know she is very young yet to have absorbed the lessons I try to impart about saving money and but I can't help but be discouraged.  It is just that raw desperation to buy something, anything, that gets me.  The ability to delay gratification is one of the most important factors in predicting future happiness and I really hope to foster that in my child.  Seven is still young to have real discipline but still I worry.


  1. This is worrisome, but she did proceed to spend the next 2 day playing with that writing pad pretty much non-stop...not entirely sure what to make of that.

    1. That she's got an incredibly good eye for value. $2.25 for 2 days of entertainment is a much better hour/dollar value than the movie was.

  2. I'll 100% admit it....I've been where she is. Sometimes I just feel the need to buy something...anything. mostly it's a cheer me up kind of thing, than a need. I have no explanation as to why I am compelled, but I am.

    So I hear her tantrum, as it is my own.

  3. Her greatgrandmother, herself.

  4. I thought we already discussed this, but the major experiment showing that the ability to delay gratification was an important predictor of future success was terribly flawed and I don't think there is any good reason to believe it is true unless there is other evidence I'm not aware of.

    The Marshmallow Experiment was not testing whether children we able to delay gratification but rather testing to see whether they trusted adults. A repeat of the experiment in recent years in which children were first given signs that the experimenter was either trustworthy or not trustworthy showed that children mostly make rational decisions when faced with the marshmallow. If they believe they will get a second they wait, if they think the adult is lying or unreliable they take what they can get. The reason it was good at predicting future outcomes is because thee-year-olds who think adults are unreliable are three-year-olds who have found they can't rely on adults, which is a pretty bad spot to be in when you are three.

    In fact, recent experiments have shown that about 80% of meth "addicts" are able to put off having meth for a day if given an adequate cash incentive (one that will presumably keep them in meth for a while). If 80% of meth addicts are able to delay gratification to profit and only two-thirds of the mayors of the mega-city of Toronto are, then it might not predict much at all. (If that last comment seems facecious, bear in mind that Rob Ford is actually not a fluke but a poster boy for the children of the rich who are among the least able to delay gratification of anyone on earth and often do very well for themselves).

  5. I was not aware of this Sthenno. Do you have any links for further reading on the subject?

  6. I suspect that this little event will make a good educational story to tell Elli in about seven years:)

    Personally, I'm very impressed with how you and Wendy have set up her relationship with money. You probably have 90% less begging at cash registers than you would otherwise - there's something to be said for maintaining parent sanity after all.