Becoming a parent involves learning about a lot of things that we hadn’t even heard of before, and one of those things is American Girl Dolls. A year ago, we were blissfully unaware that any such product existed, and now American Girl catalogue is one of our daughter’s favorite things to read. Noelle is five, and one day while reading the latest catalogue, she announced, “These dolls cost one hundred dollars, which is more than we can afford, so I don’t think you should get me one.” We were taken aback, not because Noelle was entirely wrong, but because we didn’t realize she had any concept of the worth of one hundred dollars, or that it is perhaps too much to spend on a doll. Not wanting to burden Noelle with a false impression that we were within one hundred dollars of going broke, we replied, “We could afford to buy an American Girl Doll, if it were a necessity, but it isn’t, and so we don’t intend to buy one.” Noelle could have responded, “Well, if you can afford the doll, then I think you should buy one for me, because I really, really, really want one.” But she didn’t. Instead, she calmly declared, “A doll isn’t a necessity, but when I get an allowance, I’m going to save up for an American Girl Doll.”
Noelle will start getting an allowance later this year, when she starts school. Her allowance will be about one dollar per week, which means that she will have to save all of her allowance for at least two years in order to buy the doll she has her eye on. Will she be able to save her entire allowance, and forgo the temptation to spend it as it arrives? Will she still even care about American Girl Dolls when she’s seven years old? Hard to say, but what we do know is that Noelle has picked up a fairly sophisticated picture of money. Prior to our American Doll conversation, we hadn’t discussed money directly with Noelle, nor had we figured out specifically what lessons we wanted her to learn from us about money. However, we are fairly open in discussing household issues, including money, within Noelle’s earshot. Our family budget is on the refrigerator, and Noelle has probably heard us asking each other, “Which category should this purchase go under?” Noelle has given an offering at church as part of children’s time for several months, and she enjoys the children’s auction at the annual Mennonite Central Committee sale. We are thankful that she seems to have picked up a calm, matter-of-fact approach to money, and we hope this will be a good foundation for learning to plan, save, and give. -Matthew and Shelly Hendricks
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