It’s that time of year again in Minnesota when thoughts turn to warm spring break vacations and I wonder when this idea became commonplace. When I was growing up we had “Energy Week” in February, where all of the schools shut down for one week as a way to save energy, but we really never went anywhere. Now it seems that traveling for spring break has almost become an expected occurrence.
A few years ago, the kids were itching to go away. We didn’t have plans to travel for Spring Break, but having grandparents who live in Phoenix during the winter does make for an enticing (and cheap) trip away for a few days. Since we hadn’t budgeted for the trip, we decided this would be a prime opportunity for a money lesson and told them kids they could go to see grandma and grandpa, but only if they saved enough money for their own plane tickets. Since Bret would be staying home to work, we told the kids that whoever had enough money would be able to travel with mom. Kids who didn’t have a ticket could stay home with dad.
Surprisingly enough, this idea wasn’t met with any resistance. It made sense to kids on a budget that if they wanted something, they would have to spend their own money to pay for it.
We made goal charts that showed the kids how much money they would need to earn in order to reach their goal – a plane ticket. We also penciled in a line to show them how much money they already had to spend on a ticket. As the weeks passed and the kids earned money by doing extra jobs around the house, the boys’ lines climbed and climbed towards the ticket. Our daughter’s line however, would climb just long enough for her to convince someone to take her to Target. Then it would plummet, dipping further and further toward zero.
Each week, we took a look at the chart as a family and commented on the progress being made by each kid. We also showed them on a calendar how much time they had until the plane tickets had to be purchased.
Finally, the day came. It was ticket-buying day. We went up to the chart to see how everyone had fared. Both boys had plenty of money and had even accumulated money for spending on the trip. Our daughter, however, had a line that barely showed up on the page. Nervous she wouldn’t get to go, she’d put in a valiant effort the previous three weeks, but it wasn’t enough to buy her ticket.
What were we, as parents, to do?
Stay tuned for part two of When Money Lessons Are Hard next Tuesday…