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My 9-year-old Paid Cash for Air Jordans

We paid cash!A testimony from Amy from Amy’s Peas and ThankYou

With the start of the new school year, my 9-year-old, Owen, wanted (and needed) new sneakers. This year was the first year he was brand specific — he wanted Nike Air Jordans, which are around $100 a pair.

My initial response was that designer sneakers are out of our budget and totally unnecessary. But then I thought maybe we could make this a learning experience, and Owen could have his pricey sneakers after all.

There are not a lot of ways a 9-year-old can earn money. He is too young and inexperienced to mow lawns or walk dogs, and a lemonade stand is a hard way to earn a buck.

However, Oregon is one of ten states that requires a refundable deposit for soda, beer, and water bottles, and I’ve noticed that most people let those sticky cans build up in their garages and dread the hassle of returning them. So we decided to offer to pick them up from our friends and family, giving them a cleaned out garage and Owen a chance to earn some money.

I posted a notice on my Facebook page stating that my son was working to earn money for his own shoes and if anyone had cans they had no interest in returning, we would gladly come get them. I was surprised how many people contacted us!

Over the course of one month, Owen and I picked up and returned cans from our friends and family. Owen would feed them into the machines and take his tickets inside to redeem. For a shy kid, I felt like he was learning his first lesson in thanking our friends and family and then conducting the transactions at the return centers.

By the end of one month Owen earned $161!  He earned his shoes — but more importantly to me, he learned the sense of pride in earning your own way, the value of delayed gratification, and the hardest lesson for him: to actually save his money instead of trying to spend it on every trinket and piece of candy that caught his eye.

Owen is now busy saving for his own Kindle Fire!

Wife to one, Mama to two.  Stay at home mom. Left behind an uninspired career in waitressing and retail management because my Dad was right and my Latin American Anthropology degree didn’t prepare me for a decent career.  I blog my love of cooking (and eating) at Amy’s Peas and ThankYou.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. Susan says

    Wonderful! Good for him. And kudos to you too for helping him get the shoes he wanted while learning a valuable life skill.

  2. GSH says

    What a great story! This is definitely a super way for kids to learn that not everything should be expected right away. For me, the fun of waiting and saving for something was always the best part.

  3. Marie says

    Great job! I love teaching kids the value of hard work and earning money for what they want. My 6 year old is currently saving for a tablet. I am very blessed that my children do not beg for toys when we’re at a store. Occasionally, they will ask and I will say we don’t need it and they are ok with it. My 6 year old daughter loves to look in the American girl store but knows that we aren’t buying everything she sees and wants. However, on this last trip I knew she had money saved at home and so to her surprise I said we could get one thing in under $25. She was so proud of using her money. Then of course my son, her twin, wanted something at the Lego store. I reminded him that the prices were much higher then Target or Walmart. I also knew I had picked up a set at Target for over 50% off and had it stashed at home. I got it for $14 and it was over $80 here. He was thrilled with it and had no problems handing over his own money for it.
    I find to that when kids are involved in the process they value the item much more and take care of it.

  4. Audrey says

    I love this! I grew up on the border of Oregon and Washington… I lived in Oregon but my grandma lived in Oregon. I saved money this exact way! This was before Facebook, so we went door to door (Grandma was with us), but we would connect cans and turn them in for money all year and put it in a bank account, and by the time the state fair rolled around, my sister and I would have enough money to go on quite a few rides. We saved this way for the state fair every year until my Grandma died. Great memories. :)

    • Lisa says

      I love this!! I also have such fun memories of fairs and carnivals but, man, I had no idea how expensive they were until my little guy started wanting to go! Such a great idea to have fun while budgeting for it! What a wonderful Grandma you had. :)

  5. Lisa says

    Love this! I, too, get tired of being the “mean mom” and saying “no, that isn’t in our budget”. My son is younger (6) so we started adding a few jobs around the house to his list that he can earn money for doing. He keeps his stash in a little wallet and loves to pay for his own things when we’re out! And I love that he is making decisions about how to spend money. On another note, we bought a Kindle Fire to “share” last Christmas and my son loves it! Some family thought we should have gotten a “kid” tablet but he loves it and is able to use it easily. How proud Owen will be when he has purchased that on his own, too!

  6. says

    My 10-year-old has been washing windows for grandpa.

    My 11-year-old is saving for a camera.

    My 3-year-old is still saving her birthday money. She told me this week that she wants to see the Eiffel tower. I asked her if she wanted to see “The small one, in Las Vegas” (like they quote on Dispicable Me–and we live in Las Vegas). She put her hands out and said, “No, I want to see the big one (making her hands far apart) in Paris!”

    I don’t know that she won’t change her mind, being so young, but I still plan on taking her downtown to see the “small” one in the fall.

  7. Em says

    refurbished kindle fires are $119! My son (12) saved lawn mowing money and purchased his own Kindle fire on amazon yesterday as the refurbished ones were on the deal of the day sale for $89.
    For the past month every time he asked to spend some of his envelope money, I would remind of the kindle fire. Many times he put back whatever he though t he wanted!
    He earned the money as well as some patience!

  8. cheryl says

    It’s so wonderful to hear there are SOME parents out there that are trying to teach their kids the value of a dollar and the pride of earning it themselves. I am so tired of seeing and hearing of the teens today that do not want to work or be responsible. Thank you for a wonderful story.

  9. Karina says

    Love this! My daughter saved cans to buy a Canon Rebel (which she loves!). It was such a good lesson and a great idea for kiddos who are not old enough to earn money other ways.

  10. says

    What a wonderful lesson! I bet he will really appreciate those shoes and take good care of them.

    I checked out Amy’s blog and am having trouble posting a comment, so I am hoping she sees this here! In regards to her gluten free baking – I have found that you can substitute flour with oatmeal (turned to powder in a blender) in many recipes. Much less expensive than those specialty flours. I have done this successfully with chocolate cake and cookies.

    • Amy says

      Rebecca, thanks so much for the tip! I am new to gluten free and appreciate hearing what has worked for you. I’ll give it a try.

  11. Isabel says

    Way to go, Owen!! Thanks Amy, for encouraging ways for your child to earn money for the extra special things! Gotta work extra hard for the “wants.”

  12. Marcin says

    If he cashed in the cans/bottles at $0.05 each then he actually cashed in 3,220 cans/bottles. WOW! Good job! :). That’s the best way to recycle and make an extra buck! :)

    (I cashed in my bottles i’ve been hoarding for few months and made $2.75. )

    • Sarah says

      Marcin – Likewise, so I gave up trying to cash them out. Great lesson, though. The only way this story could have been better is if Owen had realized the value of his hard-earned money and invested it. Who am I kidding – I have an eight year old… :)

  13. Mary says

    Love this story. My 5 year old is saving for a 3DS that he’s been wanting. He has been saving any spare change/money or gift cards he’s been given, as well as having us sell some of his unused toys. He’s been a saver since he was very little (lol). When he was younger, he would say we should use our money to pay for things he wanted. He is over 75% the way there (for the system and game he wants) and now is realizing the impact that buying random Lego sets along the way has had. My husband offer to loan him money and he didn’t want the loan because he didn’t want to have to pay us back. He would rather just wait to buy it. He made my accountant heart swell.:). We have made a deal to help him with the final amount….he has to work on his reading, money math, and workbook pages 5 days a week for the next 5 weeks to make a withdrawal from his bank account of previous birthday money. He was enjoying summer and not doing his studies as diligently. His next plans are to save everything from now until Christmas to buy Christmas presents for kids in need. Love this kid.

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