From an early age–when toddler B was around two-and-a-half–I started to buy him whatever he wanted, and Mama soon followed. Mostly it was toys–which I often wanted myself–or candy or puzzles. Almost a year-and-a-half later we’re still doing it. It’s hard to say no to him and it’s fun to make him happy, but I’m also starting to realize the downside of it.
A couple of weeks ago, he received $5 in the mail from his Nana and Papa. As soon as he saw it, B said, “Let’s go spend it,” and off he and his Mama went to the Dollar Tree. The longer this goes on, though, the more I worry about it. How will we teach our son the value of money, and are we raising a future predatory capitalist. Does it even matter at this point?
I think it does at least on one level. Most parents are able to use the concept of an allowance as a real control measure. If you don’t do your chores, you won’t get your dollar or however much is doled out these days. However, my wife and I are so free with our limited funds when it comes to B that it might be hard to carry out something like that. The other day, I asked the old lady as much, and all she could do was shrug her shoulders. I wonder if it’s too late to start.
This past Sunday, the New York Times magazine ran a rather lengthy article about the success of dollar stores in this lethargic economy. Thanks to my sister–who would rave about her low-cost purchases there–I started frequenting our local Dollar Tree around a year and a half ago. Considering we are largely a one-income family, it has become a great resource for us. For instance, we get my son B lots of puzzles there as well as the D-sized batteries that power G’s automated swing, one of his favorite places to sleep and where he’s currently dozing as I type.
A pack of three size-D batteries for $1 is an amazing deal and the Dollar Tree is filled with a lot more, like bottles of Gatorade or bags of David sunflower seeds. They also carry the Betty Crocker line of cooking utensils and so the old lady returned from a recent trip there with a rubber brush to cover food with spices (something I also get there), an item that would normally cost a few dollars elsewhere. Not much I’ve mentioned is an essential–although they certainly have those, cleaning supplies for example, and plenty of food–but they’re all useful or appreciated elements that make life a little more enjoyable. For a dollar, it seems worth it.