I’ll never forget my first real job. I’m not talking about chores around the house for allowance; I’m talking about the first time someone outside of my family hired me to do a job that I actually got paid for.
My family was living in Bird City, Kansas (a tiny town in the northwestern corner of the state) and I got “hired” to work in a little grocery store just two doors down from where my Mom worked as a teller at the First National Bank. There were two grocery stores in Bird City at the time (which was pretty incredible considering the population at the time was fewer than 500). I worked three days a week for an hour after school stocking the soda cooler. I’d organize the single cans into neat rows, and sometimes make six-packs by popping the cans into the plastic rings. I was paid $1.00, and usually spent 50 cents of it on candy before I left the store. The rest ended up in my piggy bank back home. If memory serves, I was 8-years-old.
I learned very quickly how great it felt to earn money and buy things I wanted. My parents always provided for Lindy and I, and made our lives comfortable, but there was something I enjoyed immensely about being able to watch my stash of cash grow and walk into a store to buy something that I worked hard to save up for.
I quickly graduated from stocking the soda cooler to spending my summers mowing lawns for both sets of grandparents and the neighbor lady who owned the vacant house next door, and babysitting for several families in the neighborhood. I got my first legit, let-the-government-take-half-my-paycheck-in-taxes job when I was a freshman in high school, logging 20+ hours a week at the local grocery store, Hinky Dinky, where I stocked shelves, scrubbed floors, and worked as a cashier, wearing the regulation Hinky Dinky polo and bright blue smock.
Working may not always be fun, but it is always rewarding. There’s always a sense of accomplishment and pride when you complete a task. And if you have a job that you actually enjoy, you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to earn a living and maybe even have a good time while you’re doing it.
Thankfully I married a man who shares my work ethic, and who also believes that it is important to teach our children the value of a dollar and that we live in a world where you are expected to work hard for what you want–whether that be tangible items you want to purchase from a store or more abstract goals you want to accomplish.
We started teaching this to Cadence very early. We enjoy buying things and treating her to thing we know she wants, but we are also very comfortable telling her no. She has chores she is expected to complete around the house without compensation–things like keeping her room clean, throwing her dirty laundry down the laundry chute, and taking her plate to the kitchen after meals. We feel it’s important for her to know that there are some things you just need to do without reward. Other things, like cleaning her bathroom or helping us clean up the yard, we offer her a small payment, which she promptly runs to deposit in her piggy bank.
Cadence has been saving her money for more than a year now. With the exception of a few dollars withdrawn to buy some of the cookies her Kindergarten class made for their Kids for Kids fundraiser (to help buy goats for children in Haiti), she has been quietly adding to her stash and feeling her piggy bank get heavier and heavier with the fruits of her labor (and all the extra pocket change her Papa Duane likes to give her just for being an awesome granddaughter). She finally decided she wanted to empty the bank and count her money and go treat herself to something at Toys R Us, so Stevie and I sat down with her to count all her hard-earned cash.
The one rule we have for Cadence’s money is that she also learn the importance of saving for the future. That means, any withdrawals she makes get “taxed”. Stevie takes 60% to deposit in Cadence’s college fund. The rest, she is free to spend however she wants.
So, we sat down and started, sorting all the coins, and then stacking them. By the time we finished, I think we were all a little surprised to see that Cadence had managed to squirrel away a grand total of $94.10.
Stevie rounded up Cadence’s cut and handed over $40 for her to go shopping. When we arrived at Toys R Us, Cadence was giddy with excitement at the prospect of having so much money in her purse to pick out whatever she wanted.
Stevie took the stroller to go walk around and keep Henry occupied while Cadence and I meandered through the aisles and explored the possibilities. We looked at Barbies and dress up clothes and craft kits. We checked out some Lego kits. Cadence seemed pretty intrigued with the Lego Cinderella Castle and Avengers Tower sets, but scoffed when I told her the price.
“Those are way too expensive,” she said. “Let’s keep looking.”
She kept coming back to the My Little Pony aisle, picking up and putting down a dozen different figures and play sets until she finally decided on the My Little Pony Rainbow Kingdom Playset, with three levels of fun for the small collection of ponies she has managed to collect.
When she found out she had enough money to buy it, she scooped up the box and beamed. She even had $10 left over, which she tells us she wants to take to school when she returns on Monday to donate to help buy another child a goat, or maybe pick out something for her little brother. She hasn’t decided just yet.
Back home, Stevie and Cadence sat down immediately to build Cadence’s new tower, and she has been playing with it non-stop ever since.
She’s already starting to fill that piggy bank back up. She’s hooked, and her daddy and I couldn’t be prouder.
And who knows, maybe one of these days she’ll take us up on the offer to help us pay the mortgage. 😉