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How a $0.25 Lesson Can Have a Lifelong Impact

How a Quarter Lesson Can Have a Lifelong Impact

We were at the Nature Center gift shop last week and my children had brought their own money with them to buy something from the gift shop. Each child looked at all the options and weighed them carefully. Finally, they decided upon their purchases.

One of the girls had picked out some colorful rocks and a honey stick. I had gently reminded her that she probably didn’t have enough money for all of it after tax was added on.

But she held onto hope and handed her items to the cashier. The cashier rang the items up and the total was $0.15 over the amount my daughter had with her.

I inwardly debated what I should do as a parent. The honey stick was just $0.25 and part of me really wanted to just buy it for her. But at the same time, I knew that it’s these little lessons that can often have a big impact on our children.

So instead, I watched as she put the honey stick back on the shelf and just bought the rocks. Putting the honey stick back on the shelf didn’t seem to bother her one bit… she was thrilled with her colorful rocks.

And I realized that often, it’s these small, seemingly unimportant occurrences that shape our children’s view of money. I want my children to grow up understanding the value of money and hard work. I want them to learn how to stick with their budgets and not be tempted to spend more than they have.

While we love to bless and surprise our children with special treats or gifts on occasion, we also want to give them many opportunities where they don’t get everything they want. Because that’s life! All of us probably have many things we’d love to have or that would be nice to have that just aren’t in the budget right now.

By giving our children opportunities to learn and practice money management at the $0.25 and $3 levels, we hope we are saving them from making the $250 and $3,000 mistakes someday!

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  • Denise Sloan says:

    Thanks for the reminder that the little lessons in life are of big importance! Your kids are blessed with a wise mama!

  • margaret says:

    great example!

  • I think this is such a true lesson for our kids. I listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast quite often, and I hear him talk about the lessons that we are teaching our kids through teaching them discipline and delayed gratification. Though I’m sure it was hard to say no, teaching them the self discipline for future purchased and the ability to choose between things they want to buy is such a valuable life lesson to have!

  • Thank you for this story! My 3-year-old is into money now (she gets a few dollars in the mail from Grandma once a month) and we want to teach her to be responsible and thoughtful with it. I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to help her out at the store but I am finding that she really understands that she doesn’t have enough money – and she is ok with that! She just finds something else. I’m sure there will be some sad moments but I don’t want her to make some of the mistakes I have made in the past with overspending. Your story will pop into my head when I need it to – thanks!

  • Lana says:

    I am so glad to see parents teaching children about money at a young age. I am a mentor to women in a prison re-entry program and I am seeing that many have never learned any discipline when it comes to money. It is difficult to make a 50 year old woman understand that she cannot spend what little money she makes on anything she wants instead of being responsible to pay her bills and spend based on needs instead of wants. I guess they never had any training this way as they were growing up and it is much harder to learn as an adult.

  • I love this reminder to be teaching my children about handling money. The kids are all working toward saving for a big item together. When they get close to the goal, my husband and I might be tempted to help them over the top. I think I’ll keep this post in mind and remember what lessons I want to be teaching them as they all work together to earn and save money.

  • Sonya says:

    What a great lesson for both of you. I have a six year old and reading this has inspiried me to begin to give him a small allowance for spending. Up until now we have given him money to save in his piggy bank, but not spending money.

  • Cate says:

    Great lesson reminder. I probably would have been tempted to give my daughter the extra money. I need to remember to incorporate these life lessons with money.

  • Thanks for sharing that lesson, Crystal. It’s so important that we teach our kids sound money principals. It’s getting harder and harder in our culture. When my oldest was little he begged to “borrow” a couple of dollars because he had left his wallet at home. I told him he’d have to pay interest of 100% per day. That was the first and last time he was ever tempted to borrow money. He’s almost finished with college and he and his new wife are completely debt free. It’s such a blessing.

  • Cindy says:

    I remember when my son was about 4, and begged for a roll of lifesavers. We had started paying him “commission” for his “work”, but he didn’t have the money with him at the time. He promised to pay me as soon as we got home, so I went ahead and bought the lifesavers. On the ride home, I reminded him how much the candy would cost him in terms of work: 3 times unloading the dishwasher and one time matching socks. He got all teary-eyed and suddenly decided he no longer wanted those lifesavers. He is now almost twelve, and recently purchased a Nexxus tablet with money he had saved. He learned his lesson somewhere along the way (and he never did get that roll of lifesavers). So keep up the good work, Mom – they do remember!

  • Kaitlyn says:

    Wow, this is great! How easy it is to just go ahead and do it for them and help them out, but a what a valuable lesson they would miss! I will definitely have to keep this in mind for the future! 🙂 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    We enjoy buying little odds and ends for our children every once in a while, because they rarely ask for anything. We have tried stress the importance of being content and saving money for something along the way. I have not given my children the money (like you did) and I have chipped in (in certain circumstances).

    Our oldest (almost 12) wanted an Ipod for his birthday last year. He didn’t ask us for one. Instead when he told us that is what he wanted, he immediately said, “I better start saving.” He knew we wouldn’t buy him the Ipod. (We would contribute, but not buy him one.) We were so impressed with that attitude (and grateful some lessons we are trying to teach, he is learning!) Good parenting moment. 🙂

  • Jennifer H says:

    I laughed when I read this because I am the parent that would make my kid put the honey stick back, but my husband would just pay for it. I am also the one most likely to impart the wisdom of decision-making (like the lifesaver mom, Cindy), but my husband is the one most likely to impart the wisdom of charitable giving, so I feel our kid gets the best of both worlds.

  • Great article and great lesson.

    I wish my parents had taught me these lessons as a child. I grew up not having a clue how to manage my money and spent years living above my income, in debt, whining, and entitled.

    We have worked hard to remove the entitlement attitude from ourselves and pass on stewardship, simplicity, and gratefulness to our children… we still have a ways to go:-)

  • Flavia Ambikiire says:

    Am so greatful for your wisdom,learning lots be blessed mama!

  • beth says:

    My daughter would probably have asked me if we had a coupon for it. 🙂

  • Christiana says:

    What we do is a bit different I guess. My hubby and I made a spur of the moment stop at Best Buy to look at a camera. My 11yr old who saves all his money wanted a game. He asked if we could buy it and he would pay us back. We bought it, but when this happens we put the money they “pay us back with” in their savings account that they do not know about.

  • Christine says:

    Haha! I have done this before with my son. He wanted to buy a lego set at Toys R Us and came up $1 short. I just looked at him, not willing to bail him out. The clerk magically came up with a “coupon” for a dollar off. This type of thing has happened more than once, the clerk ruining my lesson, turning it into “see how lucky my kid can be”!

  • Linda says:

    We have a thrift store in town and a generous woman works there and seriously tries to give away all the toys to the children. I finally stepped up and told her that I was attempting to teach my children how to spend the money they had earned and she quit doing that. If I go to the register to purchase something it will be $2 but for THEM it will be $.50. I never quite got that…

  • katrina says:

    I do this with my son. He has leaened to dislike taxes. But even to this day he still tries to get me to pay the extra. ha. I always say no.

  • Aimee Wiley says:

    Thank you for this. I am definitely guilty of buying those little things, sometimes telling them they’ll have to pay me back and then forgetting to collect from them. This strategy is definitely wiser for them and easier on my budget, because with five kids, those little things add up fast!

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