Friday, January 4, 2013

A Miser is Born

I have managed to survive long enough as a mother of teens to see my first chick reach adulthood. "Adulthood" I should say, because there is no way that an 18 year old is really an adult. But I digress. John has been an adult for one year now, and has done his duty as the eldest by blazing a trail that leaves many lessons for those that follow him.

Yes, John has been a lesson to us all. One particular lesson I have taken to heart is the importance of being well-prepared to step into adulthood. And I have become even more determined to see Laura and Caleb be as ready as possible to assume the role of Responsibility. Sadly, John would never allow any help along those lines, so he was a little less than prepared for all the fun little tricks of adulthood---tricks like Bills.

And Paying For Things Yourself.

And Unexpected Expenses.

And Spending Wisely.

Laura isn't here right now, so I can only counsel her from afar. That leaves Caleb to bear the full brunt of the burden---I mean, opportunity---of my determination to send him into adulthood as equipped as I possibly can.

So he gets fun little programs like our Summer Spending Plan. This summer, Caleb got to have a certain amount of money each month that was his to spend  (Exciting! Thrilling! Wonderful!), but he was also responsible for ALL personal expenses beyond the basics of food and shelter (Unfair! Cruel! Heartless!). I feel that it was a very eye-opening and educational experience.

 We learned that Caleb has no self-control.

 Each payday, he immediately spent all his money on impulse (and largely edible) purchases, leaving himself penniless for the rest of the month. And he basically finished the summer in rags because he spent no money on clothes.

Yes, Caleb is learning things. And at the end of the summer, he waited confidently for a maternal bailout, but I was loathe to teach him lessons of a cycle of irresponsibility coupled with dependence. I made him earn some money and buy himself some needed items before I would kick in any "economic stimulus," if you know what I mean!

Well, today was another learning experience.

This month Caleb got the rare privilege of buying the groceries with his own money. Being the kind mother that I am, I'm giving the money back to him at the end of the month, but I wanted him to experience what it's like to watch his bank account shrink just so he can eat. And something besides Gatorade and Doritos!

To make the experience more exciting, he was given a budget and then told he got to keep whatever was left at the end of the month. Of course, I made sure that he had a decent list, because I don't expect to be fed on crackers and dry beans all month!

And off we went to Walmart!

I swear, it was like shopping with Ebeneezer Scrooge. He was scrutinizing prices, checking cost-per-ounce, and buying the cheapest (and the least amount) possible. I told him to get 3 boxes of cereal. He picked them out (generic, of course), then I spotted another kind that I liked.

"Get some of the strawberry cereal, please."

"If you want that kind of cereal you have to put one of the other boxes back, Mom!"

"Get some of the strawberry cereal, Caleb."

Caleb gets to pick out 3 treats for himself per month. Suddenly, gone were the rich, decadent brand-name treats he usually craved. It was a package of $1 sawdust cookies, a huge bag of colored-water popsicles  for under $2, and a large tub of bargain bin ice cream.

"Get a bag of frozen strawberries, please."

"Those are TEN DOLLARS!"....This from the guy who wants smoothies every day.

Oh, yes. It was a very educational experience.

I fully intend to continue these programs for the next two years and four months. By the time he "graduates" from childhood I want him to have, not only basic functional skills like balancing checkbooks, but an inner awareness of how much things cost. So he can look forward to more shopping months, another Summer Spending Plan, and months where he is responsible for seeing that all the bills are paid (with my money---see, I'm training him for Congress!).

Lots of opportunities for learning how to spend money wisely. Now if I could just figure out how to get him to SAVE money. But then he couldn't go into politics.

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