When I was a small child, maybe five years old, my grandmother would take me to the store on weekends. Every week, she gave me a crisp $5.00 bill, and told me I could use it to buy a toy. This was a special treat, and it only came from Grandma. When I was a kid, $5.00 could buy quite a few different toys — Lego sets, action figures, Nerf guns. At the time, the thing I was really interested in was G.I. Joe figures. I had tons of them — Destro, Snake Eyes, Wild Bill, Duke, many of them in several different editions or varieties. $5.00 was just enough to buy a basic figure.
But one week, I didn’t want a basic figure. That week, the store had a brand new toy — an actual G.I. Joe jet fighter! It had a cockpit you could put a figure in, it looked really cool, and it even shot real missiles! It was $9.95, and I asked Grandma if I could get it, please please.
Grandma said no. She told me that I had $5.00 to spend. If I wanted the $9.00 toy, I would have to hold onto my money and get it next week, when she gave me another $5.00. This was a novel concept! If I just waited, I could put the money I had now together with the money I was going to get later, and together they’d let me buy something that was more expensive. Somehow it didn’t quite click that saving my money to buy the jet fighter next week meant I couldn’t get a toy this week, though. I picked out a basic figure and trotted up to the checkout line, very pleased with myself — I’d get a new toy to play with now, and I’d get the jet fighter next week!
My grandmother quickly set me straight. She explained again that buying the figure this week meant I wouldn’t have the money to get the jet fighter next week. I was shocked, and I think a little appalled. I couldn’t get a toy this week? I hadn’t done anything wrong. This seemed unfair. This obviously prompted some whining, because I remember my grandmother threatening to take away my money entirely if I didn’t behave. She told me to make a decision — buy the figure now, or wait a week and get the jet fighter. This didn’t seem like a very easy decision to make. A week from now was so far away, and I wanted a toy today. I suppose I decided that waiting was too much to bear, because I bought the figure and we went home, but I kept thinking about that jet fighter.
The next week, I told Grandma that I didn’t want to go to the toy store, because I wanted to save my money for the jet fighter. Okay, well, maybe we could go. But just to look. So we went to the store, my grandmother gave me a crisp $5.00 bill, and I looked at all the great G.I. Joe figures, but especially at that jet fighter. I went home without a toy that week. Grandma put my $5.00 bill in a little Mickey Mouse wallet and told me to make sure nothing happened to it. I think I checked that wallet every day that week, just to make sure my money was still there.
As soon as Saturday rolled around, I dragged Grandma into the toy store, marched straight to that jet fighter, and very seriously handed my money to the cashier. I’m pretty sure I forgot about that toy within a month or two, but I never forgot the lesson my grandmother was teaching me: sometimes you have to give up the things you wantright now so that you can save for the bigger things you want later on.
When you were a child, did a parent or other family member teach you a valuable lesson about money? Did you have to figure it out on your own? Tell us about it in the comments!