My parents raised me to be capable.
We never had a cleaning service in our home, I didn’t have a chauffer if I missed the bus, and I used to make fun of rich kids who got allowance. My parents loved and provided for me, that was my allowance.
When I was eight years old, my brother and I were walking down the Lego aisle at Wal-Mart when we saw it — Lego’s newest colonial conquest, Imperial Trading Post. To our wide eyes, it was 592 pieces of heaven, with three cannons and nine mini-figures to boot. We loved Legos, especially in the wintertime when the rain kept us from our Robin Hood escapades outside. We spent hours in the basement raking through boxes of the jagged squares to find that perfect piece, hoping mom would wait a little longer before calling us for bedtime.
It was not an issue of “if” we were buying Imperial Trading Post, but “when.”
Due to the aforementioned lack of allowance, our only revenue came from our weekly paper route. Making $24 a week, split between my brother and me meant it would be a while before we could afford the $85 purchase.
My parents taught us to split up our individual $12 into four areas — spending money, clothes money, savings and tithe. I would begrudgingly separate my $1 bills into four piles, wishing all $12 could go toward Imperial Trading Post. Instead, I tucked away $3 into my clothes money envelope, $3 into my tithing envelope, and handed $3 back to the bank teller to put in my savings account. Slowly, my spending money envelope grew fat with dollar bills.
It took my brother and me over three months to save up $85. Withstanding the temptation to spend a couple of dollars here and there on a pack of Topps baseball cards or sticks of Juicy Fruit, we did eventually walk out of Wal-Mart proudly toting the largest Lego set we ever owned.
Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, my parents were teaching us how to get through hard economic times. As an eight-year-old, I didn’t have much money, but I knew how to work for what little I did have, and I learned how to save.
Not having a lot of money doesn’t mean an expensive dream is completely out of reach, it just means it might take a little longer to get there. If my brother and I had put every dollar of our paper route earnings towards Imperial Trading Post, we could have bought the Lego set in one month. While this seemed like the best idea back when I was eight, now I realize how the three other budgeting categories benefitted my life as well. Over those three months, I was able to use my clothes money for that new Mariners cap I wanted; the one with the turquoise bill and Ken Griffey Jr.’s signature on the back. Years later, I used my savings account to buy my first car, a $725 beaten-down 1985 Mazda with a digital speedometer. As for the tithing, now I see how important that money is. Every Sunday when I would drop my wrinkled up dollars into the offering box at the back of church, I never realized that someday my husband would be a pastor and we would rely on the generosity of the people at our church to faithfully pay our bills every month. In this economic downswing, I am continually reminding myself of the things I learned through my first experiences with money: Always budget, don’t be too eager to spend it all in one place, and fun doesn’t have to be frivolous.