Welcome to Part II of this truly captivating and informative piece on Dollar Stores. In this installment, we will dig even deeper into the depths of the Dollar Store to uncover a timeless life lesson living just beneath the dust. And oh, there is a very, very slight chance that you or your child MIGHT need to get treated for lead poisoning. I’m sorry, but sometimes in order to gain wisdom, sacrifices have to be made.
My husband, Cody, is one of the directors at an overnight camp in Northern Michigan. Our family lives at camp during the summer. Last summer, my daughter Sweet Pea (3-years-old at the time) got her first lesson in budget restraints at one of the Dollar Stores up north. Here’s how it went:
I needed to run some errands and I wanted Sweet Pea to go with me. Sweet Pea wanted no part of leaving camp–too much action. I offered up a proposition: “If you are good while I take care of business, I will take you to the Dollar Store for a treat.” She was intrigued. Sweet Pea was thus far unfamiliar with Dollar Stores, but with the promise of a treat in the air, she was solidly committed.
After we finished our errands, we headed towards the highly anticipated final destination. As we walked through the door, Sweet Pea was instantly overwhelmed by all the goods. She wanted everything. The crappier, the better. I had anticipated her reaction to the store, and true to form–she didn’t let me down. While I, very casually, stocked up on calculators with absurdly large buttons and ceramic rainbow pins for all of my friends, Sweet Pea quietly lost her mind in the toy aisle.
As I made my way through the knock-off Apple Jacks and irregular underwear, I saw my opportunity and seized the moment. I walked over to my little Sweet Pea who was swimming in Dollar Store treasures and I squatted down in front of her. I looked her right in the eyes and said: “We made a deal and you held up your end. You were a very good girl during our errands and because you have been so good, and because I promised, you can have anything in the store that you want, ANYTHING IN THE STORE, but it can’t be more than one dollar. G-D speed. Choose wisely.”
Sweet Pea had no idea that she was, at that very moment, on the cusp of her first lesson in how far a dollar will (or won’t) go. She was a 3-year-old on a mission and on a budget.
I can’t buy my girls something every time we go out. It’s not good for them and it takes away from the money I get to spend on me. Occasionally, I will spring for a totally unexpected treat (I want them to look back on their childhood and have at least one good memory) but for the most part, if we are going out and Sweet Pea is getting a treat, she knows ahead of time why she’s getting it. Conversely, if we are going out and Sweet Pea is not getting a treat, she has been made privy to that info before entering the store. “We’re going to get your friend Blah-Blah her birthday present. I need your help picking it out but know this: you’re not getting anything. It’s not in our budget for today. If you’d like to pick something out to work towards for another time, that is totally cool, but you’re not getting anything today. Too bad, so sad.”
Budgets are a way of life (unless you’re crazy rich and then maybe they’re not)–but I would hope that even Richie Rich is implementing some sort of exercise in budget cognizance so his kid doesn’t expect (or receive) a Ferrari when he turns sixteen. Dollar stores may not be the most glamorous place to teach the value of a dollar, but it’s the perfect place.
The way I see it, as long as we are doing our best to bring up our little consumers to understand “value” and the importance of working for something–it wouldn’t hurt to use a little bit of the budget reserve to reward ourselves for being ridiculously awesome parents—preferably somewhere other than a Dollar Store.
Thanks for being here!
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