A dollar from my daughter

Yesterday, 5-year-old Eve and I made a quick trip to a local store. I needed a sheet of poster board for a project. We decided to swing through the toy aisle to get gift ideas for her friend’s upcoming birthday party.
I warned Eve this was not a trip for her to get a toy. I’d recently bought her an extra bling-y wall clock for her room. It’s going to be awhile before we splurge again.
She said she understood. Soon, though, she became enamored with a stuffed kitten, on sale for $5. (It’s not too surprising. On Saturday, she became enamored with a real orange striped kitten at a pet store. She’s still trying to finagle getting that one. N-O.)
Again, I told her I wouldn’t buy it for her, but she could save up money and buy it for herself.

I was up early this morning, getting the coffee brewing, when I heard Eve patter up the stairs. She was waving five bills excitedly. She’d raided one of her two piggy banks (one is for saving, the other spending).
“Mom, look, I have five dollars! I can buy the kitty!” she said, proudly.
I pointed out that two of her bills were actually worth $2 each. She actually had $7.
She beamed. “I can spend this on something that’s worth $2!” she said excitedly.
I explained that was true, but she needed to remember that once she spent money, it was gone. Was she sure she wanted to spend this money on the stuffed kitten? She said she was happy with her choice.
Then, she stopped to look at the two dollar bills in her hand.
“Here,” she said. “I want you to have this one. For everything you do for me.”
My heart melted with love and gratitude for my sweet, thoughtful girl. “Are you sure?” I asked as I wrapped her in a hug.
“Yes. Now you don’t have to worry about working for money anymore,” she said.
Inside, I chuckled at a 5-year-old’s perception of a dollar while simultaneous shoving down that mommy guilt we working women feel.
I tried to tell her I didn’t need her dollar, that she could keep it. Offended by my attempted refusal, she told me no. Then she gave me a penny, too.
There are so many values and lessons we try to impart upon our children. It’s hard to know which will stick.  I’m feeling proud today of my generous daughter, and am excited to welcome the newest member to her horde of fluffy family members.

Parenting Perspectives: Mom wonders what daughter will remember

My daughter, Eve, has always had a good memory. It’s the reason she was reciting her ABCs and 123s before age 2. As a tot in her car seat, she could point out landmarks left and right, like the library, the hospital where we visited her grandma, and the mall where the fishes and dinosaurs are. She regularly awed me by remembering things we’d done the week before.

Now 4 years old, she still amazes me with the moments plucked from her memory.

She remembers playing on the “inside playground” during her birthday party at Chuck E Cheese five months ago, and getting her Toy Story Woody doll when she met her baby brother at the hospital last year.

At a picnic this month, Eve saw a little boy with a yellow sippy cup. She told me that was the same cup she had at Trisha’s day care, and she told me the color of her three friends’ sippy cups. Trisha’s day care closed 17 months ago, or a third of her life.

Eve’s excellent memory also means I can’t slip too many things past her. Diversion attempts of “we’ll do that later” always come back around. And she’s really good at reminding me of my mistakes.

Some “memories,” though, are stories that I’ve told her, like how she ate her first birthday cake. “First I took one finger of frosting, then two fingers, then three fingers and then a big old mouthful,” she tells me authoritatively. When I ask her about our family’s trip to Baltimore last spring, she talks about how I gave her a fiber bar for a snack and she pooped her pants (a true story and an important parenting lesson learned).

Then there are things I’m sure she’d remember that have slipped away. Or people. Eve once accompanied my friend Andrea and me on a weekend trip to Billings. The next time she saw Andrea, a few months later, she insisted this was a “different Andrea.”

Lately Eve has started conversations with “Do you remember when?” And I usually do. When I don’t, often because her explanation is vague or scattered, she gets frustrated.

This little game has made me a bit reflective and contemplative. What will my daughter remember?

Take this summer. Will she remember our family trips to the pool or riding in the bike trailer with her brother? Or will she only remember the things I hope she forgets, like the mornings I was on deadline and had to type instead of play with her?

Perhaps none of those will stick into adulthood. I have to think really hard to retrieve anything pre-kindergarten from my own childhood. And my earliest “memory” was apparently a bad dream or otherwise concocted.

I’m 3 or 4 years old, in a cemetery, looking down into a freshly dug grave. It’s glowing red at the bottom. My mom pulls me back.

Yeah, pretty sure that didn’t happen.

But my husband clearly remembers things that happened when he was 2: moving into the house where his dad still lives, the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through their farmstead.

An article on Slate.com earlier this year explained that kids do remember a lot more than we’ve historically given them credit for, and at an earlier age. But as far as which memories make it into adulthood, they depend more on the parent than the child.

Children whose mothers talk to their children about their past in highly detailed, elaborate ways have earlier first memories, the article said. So the more I tell the story to Eve of meeting her baby brother or her birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, the more likely she is to remember it. If we can gloss over my less-than-ideal moments of parenting, maybe she won’t bring those into adulthood.

My friend “Different Andrea” had another thought on the subject: “I wonder if trying to give kids memories is like trying to give them great presents. You spend a whole bunch of time looking for the perfect gift, but they end up playing with the box,” she said.

I have no idea if any of the perfect memory gifts I’m trying to give Eve will stick. But it’s my job to make sure the box surrounding them is as sturdy as it can be.

Sherri Richards is a Forum employee and mom to 4-year-old Eve and 1-year-old Owen.

Planning, frugality can trim kid-related costs

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’ll cost my husband and me nearly $235,000 to raise our son, Owen, to age 18. That’s how much a middle-income family may spend to raise a child born in 2011, not adjusted for projected inflation, an annual USDA report released last month shows.

The figure includes housing, transportation, food, clothing, health care, child care and education (not college).

The report estimates we’ll spend $12,690 on him this year alone, though I don’t think that author is familiar with Money-Savin’ Mama’s frugal ways.

Don’t get me wrong, kids are expensive and some expenses, such as medical bills, are unavoidable. We’re still waiting to see the total damage of an ER visit this spring.

But there are plenty of ways to cut kid-related costs, if you’re willing. Some parents will spare no expense when it comes to their kids. I’m kind of the opposite.

I don’t care if the tag says Gymboree or Garanimals, as long as the clothes are cute and clean. Extra frills on car seats or cribs don’t make my baby any safer. Generic diapers have worked as well for us as name-brand. We’re choosy about which activities we enroll our kids in.

Before Eve was born in 2008, we purchased and requested as gifts gender-neutral baby gear, including a high chair and play yard. Owen has inherited most of it, including a not-at-all-neutral pink and floral-patterned convertible car seat. He doesn’t seem to mind.

Breastfeeding both my kids saved us hundreds, perhaps thousands, in formula costs, and this time around I’ve made Owen’s baby food rather than buy prepackaged plastic containers.

I’m not sure why I didn’t for Eve, because it’s super easy. All I have to do is steam vegetables, and then puree them with the cooking water in my food processor. I pour the pureed veggies into ice cube trays, freeze, and store the cubes in zip-seal bags. Rather than buy itty-bitty jars of baby applesauce, I purchase jugs of unsweetened applesauce, which are far less expensive per ounce. The ingredients are exactly the same.

Clothing is one of the biggest expenses we’ve managed to trim. According to an article about top baby costs at BabyCenter.com, expected clothing costs are between $20 and $50 a month. I probably spend about $50 per year per kid, thanks to garage sales, hand-me-downs from friends and family and secondhand stores.

One of my family’s favorite ways to stock up on kids’ clothes is to hit up Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store bag sales, held twice a year at each of the four Fargo-Moorhead locations. This year’s summer sales will be July 14 in West Fargo, July 21 in south Fargo, July 28 in north Fargo and Aug. 4 in Dilworth.

Clothing is marked down the week leading up to the sale, and then on that Saturday, for $4, you can fill a bag with as much clothing or shoes as will fit. The smaller your child, the more clothing you can get in the brown paper bag.

Another place to get secondhand kids’ clothes in really good condition is Once Upon a Child. Usually this consignment store is still a bit too pricey for me, except during its seasonal clearance sales. For example, this Monday, all clearance spring and summer clothing will be marked to $1 at the Fargo store.

Child care is one expense that can be difficult for frugal families. I’m grateful I’ve been able to work part-time from home, meaning we haven’t yet paid for day care for Owen. Some families manage by staggering work schedules or relying on family or friends. Taking advantage of a flexible spending account through your employer offsets some of the expense with tax savings.

Even those medical bills can be trimmed down. I’ve gotten 5 percent taken off clinic and hospital bills by simply calling and asking for a discount for paying in full.

The USDA report points out that annual expenditures increased with the age of the child. Obviously, the older my kids get, the more they’ll eat. They’ll begin to shun the bargain-bought clothes. Their interests and activities will become more expensive.

I’m hopeful, though, that we’ll maintain our frugality into their teens. I’d rather use our financial resources to save for their future than spend frivolously on fleeting wants.

Sherri Richards is thrifty mom of two and an employee of The Forum.

Combining coupons to score cute kid clothes

Check out my stylin’ little man:

All preppy in his button-down shirt

I bought this 6-month outfit brand new for Owen to wear in our recent family photos. It looks extra adorable with a white long-sleeved t-shirt layered underneath.

What I really love about it, though, is its price. I paid $1.06.

It’s a Carter’s brand outfit, with a retail price tag of $22. But last week it was on sale for $10.99 at JC Penney.

I don’t normally shop for new kids’ clothes at department stores (except the 75-80 percent off clearance rack), but I had recently gotten a coupon in the mail from JCP: $10 of a purchase of $10 or more.

Combined with the sale, that brought the final price down to 99 cents, plus tax.

Couponers tell me the best way to get a good deal is to combine a coupon with a sale price. My $1.06 brand-new outfit tells me this is a good tactic outside the grocery store, too!

What brand-new steals have you snagged by combining sales, coupons or other discounts?

More about money and kids

If any other parents out there are thinking about money and your kids, like I’ve been, an upcoming seminar may be helpful.  Nancy Kvamme, who blogs at In the Black, will be holding a workshop all about Kids and Money. Read on …

Nancy Kvamme of In the Black Money Coaching will host a Kids and Money workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Wingate Inn, 4429 19th Ave. S., Fargo. Children will learn about financial issues such as budgeting, banking, credit and debit cards and taxes through a series of activity stations. Families may attend as their schedule allows. The cost is $10 per child and includes a workbook. The workshop is geared for ages 10 and up, though younger children can participate with parental help. For more information, call Kvamme at (701) 293-8808 or e-mail nancy@in-theblack.net.

Money management for toddlers

Yesterday, my 2-year-old daughter grabbed the checkbook cover that holds her savings account ledger and deposit/withdrawal slips from the kitchen table. I’d been updating it with her latest interest payment (16 cents, woo hoo!) and a deposit of some Christmas cash.

“What’s this?” Eve asked.

“It’s your checkbook,” I told her. She liked that answer.

I took the opportunity to instill an early money lesson. “It’s an account where you save money,” I explained. “So then one day, if you want to buy something really special, you’ll have money to do that. Or maybe you want to keep saving it. Or maybe you want to give it to someone who really needs it.”

“I’m going to give money to you,” she said, pointing to me, “and to you,” pointing to her Papa, who was helping with a flooring project in our kitchen.

Atta kid. I’m going to remind her of that in about 14 years.

My husband and I have tried to be intentional with money lessons with Eve. She has a piggy bank, where I enthusiastically encourage her to drop the spare coins she finds from time to time. I’ve let her drop the envelope into the collection plate at church. We’ve looked at the different kinds of coins (she recognizes pennies and quarters) and I’ve tried to teach her about their monetary values.

But I don’t think that part has sunk in, largely because we haven’t ventured into one crucial side of money management — spending.

Eve knows money is for saving. I don’t think she knows it’s for spending. And I’m hesitant to go there. Saving is the difficult part. Spending is easy. Why should I encourage it? But if I don’t teach her to spend responsibly, who will? Not TV, certainly. Not our “stuff”-obsessed culture.

Obviously she’s with me when I buy groceries and toiletries and clothing, but I use plastic a lot. Like, all the time, just for convenience. I remember reading a column from a financial adviser about how some kids aren’t learning about money for this reason. When you pay cash, a kid observes you handing over money for things. When you pay with a credit or debit card, that card goes back in your wallet. You haven’t given up anything, in their eyes. They don’t grasp the exchange of currency.

Maybe it’s time to break open the bank and bring some of those quarters and pennies to the dollar store, let her pick out a toy, and hand over the coins. To show her the value of money.

That sort of lesson may be more important than knowing a quarter is worth 25 cents. 

What lessons are you teaching your child about money? How have you tried to instill financial smarts with your kids?