Lessons from a kid: How to be a tightwad

Posted on March 26th, 2010


My son is a tightwad.

He comes by this honestly. Hubby is a tightwad—only he prefers the term “thrifty.” But he’s a tightwad, just like his son. Hubby hasn’t willingly parted with a dollar since 1984, when he bought my engagement ring. And there’s some argument about whether that purchase was willing.

Now my personal belief is that a penny saved is a penny better spent on shoes. I have never met a dollar I couldn’t spend on something. Clearly, my son didn’t get this tightwad thing from me. But even though I think saving is a waste of perfectly good spending money, I still managed to be quite proud of Junior and his thriftiness. When Junior was 6 (he’s now 14) I even managed to take advantage of it.

I hate to go to the bank. So sometimes, I would just borrow a stack of dollar bills from Junior’s stash and leave him an IOU. Pretty soon, Junior had more IOU’s than actual cash and Hubby said I had to make good on my debts. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I owed my son $82.00.

Yikes. How on earth had a six-year old managed to save that much money? He only makes two dollars a week. Apparently, Junior had saved every dollar he’d ever earned. At first, we were very happy for him. Then we realized how Junior had managed to save so much.

He didn’t have to pay for anything.

It’s easy to be thrifty when you can just take your allowance and stuff it in a gold Hot Wheels case every week. When you don’t have to pay the mortgage, PG&E and mommy’s shoe debt, you can be a pretty thrifty guy.

You see, if we were at Wal-Mart and Junior asked nicely for a package of Harry Potter trading cards, chances were that unless Junior threw a major screaming fit in the craft section, he would get those cards. And it didn’t matter to him that it cost approximately one and half weeks of allowance, because he wasn’t paying for it.

So we decided it was time Junior found out how much things cost.

The next time we were at Wal Mart and Junior wanted Harry Potter trading cards, I told him he had to buy it with his own money. That stopped Junior cold. He looked at me as if I had suddenly morphed from Nice Mommy into “Evil Mommy Who Makes Kids Use their Precious and Hard Earned Allowances to Pay for Things Nice Mommy Would Just Buy with No Questions Asked. “

Which is, of course, exactly what had happened.

After the pleading and begging was over, Junior decided not to buy the cards. I was very proud of the lesson my son had learned until I heard him on the phone with his grandmother. Apparently, Junior had found another source of Harry Potter trading cards. Sure enough, in the mail two days later was a card from grandma with—you guessed it—TWO packages of Harry Potter trading cards.

At that point, I had a couple of options. One was to call grandma and tell her not to do that again. But I knew my mother would just laugh and tell me that it was a grandma’s job to indulge her grandchildren. The second option was to wait grandma out. Sooner or later, my mother would get tired of being Junior’s main source of trading cards. It took about two weeks. Suddenly, Junior wasn’t getting what he wanted from grandma. But, hey, my kid’s no dummy.

He started asking to call his other grandma.

Frankly, I figured lesson time was over. I lost hope for Junior being anything but a moocher. He would go through life with a Hot Wheels carrying case bulging with money, while he bilked women out of their life savings so he could build the world’s largest collection of Harry Potter trading cards.

So I was pleased last week when a now 14-year old Junior came to me with a wallet full of money. He had savings and he wanted to add it to his bank account. And imagine my surprise when my son took the money out of his wallet and it was mostly dollar bills. You know, just like the dollar bills I was giving him to buy water at school.

And now imagine my son’s surprise when he went to school the next day with a reusable water bottle and no dollar bills. Hey, he needs to learn a lesson. And mommy needs a new pair of shoes.

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10 Responses to “Lessons from a kid: How to be a tightwad”

  1. barbara Says:

    My son used to be like that too. It’s easy to save when someone else pays the bills for the fun stuff. Once we quit paying, he’s been broke ever since.
    I love the bit about the reusable water bottle. good lesson plan!

  2. pixielation Says:

    My 8 year old is only just learning the value of saving – and her saving is only able to be done at home, with no distractions. If we go to the toy store to spend birthday money, she wants to come home with something. Even if they didn’t have anything she wanted, she can’t come out empty handed and save her money for later.

    She’s starting to understand that I can buy stuff online for her, but the waiting is painful! She’s an instant gratification type of gal.

  3. Laurie Says:

    Oh Barbara, but now he’s lost the reusable water bottle :)

  4. Laurie Says:

    I’m just like your 8 year old ;)

  5. Jacquelyn Says:

    I think I was worse off than your son when I was in school. The extra money that my mother gave me never went to what it was supposed to. Instead it went into the vending machine to buy me some chips or some other type of snack!

  6. Laurie Says:

    But at least you spent it! Mine is using me as an extra savings account ;)

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