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money or happiness

The Babii came home from school the other day all worked up. Her class had a debate on which was more important, money or happiness. Apparently, a good number of her classmates chose happiness, and she was incredulous.

“How can they choose happiness over money?!? How can they be happy if they don’t have money to give to poor people?!?! How?!?! HOW?!?!?”

Uhmmmm…. I sup…pose I can accept that line of reasoning…. (“Hey Babii, wanna be happy? I’m poor, so gimme some money…. Pretty please?”)

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First off, I’d like to say that my spending habits are not exactly exemplary (or have I said that already?). I have moments of weakness, such as spending NIS 200 on a bunch of plants or even more money on books. But the present is definitely a HUGE improvement compared to, say, ten years ago. Lots of hits and misses there.

Since the Babii started handling her own money, we’ve been trying to teach her about spending it wisely. It’s not easy, especially since she has a penchant for buying little treats for us and a love for Coca Cola, which we rarely drink at home. Nevertheless we try to involve her in discussions regarding family finances (how much to spend for shopping, how much to save for a vacation, etc.) and walk her through what are considered needs and wants.

Lesson #1: Money is earned.

We don’t pay her to do chores, because we believe that chores should be done for the sake of doing it (unless a person wants to live in a pigsty— I actually know someone like that). Instead, I take her to work with me where she shreds my papers and I pay her “per project.” In reality she gets paid more than the average worker, but the lesson is learned and she gleefully puts the money in her piggy bank, mentally calculating how much more paper needs to be shred in order for her to buy an iPod.

ShreddersThe Babii and a friend pack away the papers.

Lesson #2: Money is limited.

When she was a lot younger, she would ask us to buy this and that. The incident would usually end with a very public discussion about money (might as well let the saleslady hear it). “We only have enough money to buy this or our food. Is it okay with you if we have this toy but we won’t eat?” (Okay, extreme example.) Or, “If we buy this we won’t have enough to watch the movie you wanted. Which is more important to you?” (Also a lesson in priorities for her)

I guess we are fortunate that the Babii is very reasonable and easily understands our explanations for why we can’t just buy everything we want. Thankfully, we’ve never had a rolling-on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming kind of incident. R and I did not engage in that when we were kids and I like to think we passed that on to her. ­čśÇ

Lesson #3: We spend money because we have to, not because we can.

We tell the Babii that we are able to live the life we have through lots of hard work and good fortune. Just because we have a little money does not mean we should spend it left and right. Hence, the baon.

During school days, the Babii is obliged to bring to school her lunch and snacks (heck, even I bring my own baon!). She has a small allowance  in case she gets extra-hungry, but anything she saves she can spend on other things.

We don’t buy her everything she wants. We are very clear about the limits: we spend for food, clothes, books, school, toys for special occasions, and the occasional entertainment (parties, outings, etc.). Any thing outside of this (read: luho), she has to pay out of her own pocket.

We also don’t encourage the use of designer things. If the quality and function is the same, we opt for the lower-cost version. Hence, our lack of designer bags and clothes. With some things, though, quality is synonymous with the brand. Hence our kitchen knives. And pots. And tools. Hay, nevermind.

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Anway, there are always opportunities to teach the Babii about money. The other night, she had complained, “We went around the night market all night and we haven’t bought anything!!!!” (Is that such a bad thing???? Cue: sermon.)

It is easier now that it’s summer break and she does not have her daily allowance (which is why she is so gung ho about the paper shredding). I foresee that come school opening, however, she will be back to her occasional soda, donut and pizza treats. But how can you lecture someone for thinking of you and bringing you home a donut, eh?

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