Number 4 had her fourth official babysitting job this past week.
She loves babysitting.
She loves it because she really enjoys kids.
But she also loves it because she loves the freedom having your own income provides you.
Our kids are pretty grounded when it comes to money.
They haven’t known a time when money hasn’t been a concern for us.
So anything out of the ordinary is special for them. Going to the movies is a big deal. A new shirt or pair of shoes happens about once or twice a year. So they have a level of appreciation that many of their friends do not have.
Most of their clothes are hand me downs. Especially the younger kids.
This didn’t used to bother Number 4. She was never really into clothes. So when a bag of someone else’s now-too-small clothing made its way to our door step, she was always happy. It didn’t really matter what was in the bag. It came from someone else, so it was “new.” And that was good enough.
In the past six months or so, Number 4 has become more aware of what she is wearing and what other kids are wearing. She now has a particular taste. She wants specific clothes from specific stores.
Every time she’d tell me the kind of shirt or jeans or sneakers she wanted, I responded the same way.
“Well, you’ll have to find a way to earn some money.”
So that’s what she did.
Since November she’s earned over $200 babysitting.
She used some of that money to buy Christmas presents for her siblings. She set a budget of $30, made a list of what she wanted to get and what store she needed to get it from, and she asked my mom to take her shopping. She got everything on her list and she only went over her budget by four dollars.
I was really happy to see her enjoying the gift of giving to other people.
Having a job provided her the opportunity to do something for someone else.
I gave her a few things for Christmas and one shirt wasn’t quite her style, even though it was from Aeropostale, the store she likes the most right now. I told her I’d give her the receipt and she could return or exchange it for something else. When she got the receipt she was a little disappointed to learn I only spent $5.99 on the shirt.
“Mom, can’t you give me a few more dollars?” she asked.
I told her, as I always do, that we’d get the necessities for her, but she’d have to buy the extra stuff.
“Now that you have a job, you can afford to pay for your own things,” I told her.
“But what if I want to buy something else?” she asked.
“Well, then you have to decide which thing you want the most, and spend your money on that, first,” I told her.
Then I advised her to take at least half of all the money she made and put it directly into the bank.
“But then it will take me longer to have enough money to get what I want!” she said, somewhat frustrated. “Why can’t you just get it for me?” she asked.
I explained to her that my money already goes toward stuff for her.
It goes toward the mortgage and the electricity and the food and the gas and the insurance. It goes toward the team bathing suit and the goggles and the team cap and the meet fees. It goes toward the hotel room for the swim meets in Boston and Richmond and Rochester. It goes toward field trips and saxophone reeds and 5K races and babysitting courses and rec basketball and travel baseball and birthday presents for the countless parties they are invited to.
“Oh,” she said.
Number 4 quickly realized there is a big difference between spending money that was given to you as a gift and spending money that you had to work your butt off to earn.
It’s a little harder to let go of it when you actually earned it.
We need to teach our kids about money, no doubt.
Giving them an allowance and having separate jars or envelopes for them to put a percentage of their money in will give them some understanding of how to handle money.
But there is nothing quite like having a job to teach you how long it takes to make money and how quickly you can spend it.
Boy am I glad she’s learning this lesson now. And in this way.
“Mom, do you ever regret having so many kids?” she asked me.
“Of course not!” I told her.
“But you’d have so much more money if there weren’t so many of us,” she realized, I think for the first time.
And this is why I love Number 4 having a babysitting job.
Because I don’t think she could truly learn this in school or from rationing out an allowance that was handed to her.
And now she really gets it.