“It’s not about the money money money
We don’t need your money money money
We just wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag.”
My kids love singing this song in a totally non-ironic way.
Really? You don’t want my money? Forget the price tag? How much do you think that Light Sabre cost and who do you think paid for it?
I remember the first time we took our son to a big box toy store. He was a toddler, and looked so adorable standing transfixed before row-upon-row of Makka Pakka’s, Iggle Piggles and Ninky Nonks (the world was a simpler place before Peppa Pig.) How could we NOT have bought him the Makka Pakka and Iggle Piggle? How could we NOT have realised that we were sowing the seeds of consumerism in his malleable brain?
In the years that have passed since then, we’ve committed all the mistakes parents make when it comes to buying things for their kids. Overcompensating for not planning a birthday party with one too many gifts. Caving in to a trembling lower lip, because it’s easier to swipe your card than scrape a child off the floor of the mall. Raise your hand if you’ve ever justified one more plastic doodad by saying “It’s only two hundred rupees no?”
When we lament that our children are spoiled, we fail or choose to not recognise the role we have played in spoiling them.
Last month, my first grader brought home an assignment.
Name fives wants and needs of your family.
Needs: Food. Shelter. Clothing. Education. Water.
Wants: Mansion. Punching Bag. Thor’s Hammer. Candy. Swimming Pool.
Around this time, I was reading Ron Lieber’s The Opposite of Spoiled and decided it was time to teach the boys about money, and how they needed to save for those wants and needs. Taking Lieber’s advice, we set up three jars in which every week they would put away money to Save, Spend and Give. The idea behind using transparent jars is that it allows children to see the money they save increase, and the money they spend decrease.
I followed this up by showing them ‘The Story of Stuff’, a video which looks at where the ‘stuff’ they own comes from, who pays the real price of the two hundred rupee doodad (it’s not really me) and poses questions we should all be asking before we click the ‘Buy Now!’ button.
This might seem like an unfair burden to place on my children. Shouldn’t I as a parent have done a better job from the start, tempering their desires and not giving in to every whim?
I should have. Maybe sometimes I did.
It’s been a few weeks into our saving scheme and the children are yet to spend any of their money. But the practice of putting money away for a rainy day and thinking about whether they really need something or not has started to take root in their minds.
At the recent ComicCon in Bengaluru, the first grader saw a replica of Thor’s Hammer and went up to ask how much it cost. He didn’t blink an eye at the exorbitant price, but came back and said ‘I want it, but I don’t need it.’
The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me