My very wise friend Karla made an observation while cleaning and organizing a few weeks ago. Her kids were letting go of their childhood toys and she was struck by the amount of seemingly wasted stuff she was tossing. The plastic toys that get played with once or twice, the stickers, superballs, Polly Pockets and such that accumulate all over the house. She wrote, “I felt like I was flushing thousands of dollars away. I wanted to go back and relive every $6.00 purchase and salt away that money for the things I’d really like to give them now; a bigger college fund, a teenage bedroom, private music lessons, hockey camp”.
Her comments have been running over and over in my head for the last couple of weeks. I wrestle with this in my own home and have tried to find a solution. The problem with just saying “no” at the store, is that a life lesson at the store level doesn’t really work with a kid. Kids can’t grasp the benefit of long-term savings. How can I teach my child responsible consumerism?
My (7-year-old) daughter Sophia and I are launching the Savvy Spenders Project and I’m encouraging all of you to try it at home. Savvy Spenders will apply to all “extra” purchases that are non-essential to running a home, (so groceries and other essentials are exempt). We sat down together and came up with the following guidelines;
When at the store and considering a purchase we will ask, IS THIS NECESSARY? If not, we will pass and record how much money we’ve saved. I’ll probably just use notes on my Blackberry or send myself an email with the amount so that I can record it.
At the end of three months we are going to see what we’ve saved by just NOT BUYING. Half of the savings can go toward a family purchase, (ice cream out or something fun) and the other half will go to charity. By the way, the charity idea was Sophia’s. She will help determine how we spend what was saved – I think this is key.
I’ll blog about it from time to time, including some Q&A with Sophia. If you plan to try something like this in your own home, I encourage you to keep it simple. Notice that we haven’t started out with a lot of rules around what we are trying to do. She’s 7 and I’m busy, so our process needs to be simple and easy to maintain.
As always, please send me your ideas, thoughts and comments. Happy Saving!