My children just got a fantastic offer. Our very good friend Vicki, who is the closest thing the children have to an aunt, offered to take them to Disney for New Year’s Eve IF they can save $100 each by then. Disney is a 3-hour drive away, so they would drive down there for the day, play, watch the fireworks, and drive home, exhausted and wired and having lived an incredible experience. She’s a brave woman! Plus, it gives everyone a long-term project to plan for.
Elizabeth is incredibly motivated. She’s already a saver. In a now-legend family story, she saved her Christmas money, and asked for little jobs to do, and saved up $45 over four months for a heart-shaped rug with flowers on it that I had originally told her “No, you can’t have it, but you can always save your money”. When she was four years old. FOUR! She’s going to make the family fortune. She already had $25 saved for “something”, so she’s well on her way. She’s plotting all kinds of money-making opportunities.
Ray is… not a saver. He gets $2 and spends $2.25, somehow convincing Elizabeth, my husband, me, store clerks, random strangers in line, that he will be eternally happy and thrilled with this particular toy/car/Lego/ball/pen, if only he had one dime more… Manipulation and verbal pleading are his forte. Plus, he’s cute. He reminds us a bit of Puss-in-Boots from Shrek with the enormous eyes that beg you to help him out. Even when we hold the line, he spends the very last dregs of his money immediately.
So, when the offer of Disney came up, Elizabeth started gloating and figuring. “I have $25 already. I only need $75 more. Over 6 months, I need… and that means….”. Her strength from autism includes singular focus. Ray looked at the enormous amount he needed and immediately not only gave up, but started convincing himself that he didn’t really want it. “There’s no way I can save that much. Besides, I WANT to spend New Year’s with you, Mommy!”
I realized that this is an opportunity for my husband and I to actually have a New Year’s together without children, and there is no way that I’m giving that up. Plus, I really want Ray to learn that long-term saving over time can pay off. The kid IS going to save money for this trip- we will make sure that he’s successful.
So I lowered the expectation. “Because he’s younger” is the reason we gave, but it’s because I knew that he wouldn’t/ couldn’t set a goal for something that big. So, for every $2 he earns, we will “match” him $1, which means that he only has to earn $66. When he did the math and realized that he would still be a dollar short, I ‘”graciously” said that we would contribute the extra dollar. “What about ME, Mommy?” asked Elizabeth. “If I only get $99, will you give ME a dollar?” Ahhh- sibling rivalry. And so, we’re committed to contributing $2 for this expedition.
Which means that they’re now the most helpful children I’ve ever seen. For a quarter, they will empty the cat box. For another quarter, they’ll clean windows. For another quarter, they’ll wash the car. We have already established the list of “You have to do these things because you live here and are a member of the family, and anything above and beyond that can be paid”. My mother has even gotten in on the action and come up with a list of things that they can do around her house to help towards the cause.
And to make sure that Ray doesn’t spend his cash, we have a “bank account” started. I have an ongoing Excel spread sheet with their “earnings” added into it every evening and they can see the numbers adding up. So far, they’re each up to $.75.
But there’s only so much money that they can earn/we can pay them before it’s clear that we’re actually paying for this trip. Plus, Elizabeth and Ray both quickly figured out that at the rates we pay, they would be emptying cat boxes for a very long time.
So, they turned very quickly to the age-old strategy of making money from other people. “What about selling something, Mommy?” After our refusal to let them sell off all of their furniture on Ebay, Elizabeth thought of a bake sale. “We can sell cookies! We can sell them for a dollar each! We’ll make LOTS of money!”
Which prompted their first lessons in supply-and-demand economics and profit and loss statements. Their faces were crest-fallen. “Can’t you even donate the flour, Mommy?” Ray asked, disgruntled, kicking the kitchen cabinet in frustration.
And then I threw in the kicker “And if you’re going to do a bake sale and make money from other people, you have to give 1/2 of your profits to a charity. It’s also possible that people will buy more if you do this. This way, everyone benefits”. We had just bought some Dawn soap because of their ad to help the critters, so the example was fresh in their minds.
So, we started researching which organizations to give money to… They were very interested in helping out the birds from the oil spill, but it turns out that BP is paying for the International Bird Rescue Research Center to help the birds. Huh! I guess that they’re following through on the whole “we will help fix this” thing. But sea turtles are close to our hearts and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is planning on receiving a number of the sea turtles that might be affected. So, we chose to support the LMC and the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.
To drive the need home to the children, I’m going to replicate a fabulous experiment I did once with kindergartners where we put oil in water and we brainstormed different ways to clean it up. We tried sponges, we tried hay and the thing that worked the best was soap. The experiment lesson plan is here…
So, here’s our plan…
- Saturday, June 12th, my children are going to be making and selling cookies and lemonade. I will front them start-up money and they will pay me back from the proceeds(I won’t even charge interest). And yes, I’m volunteering the vanilla and sugar and oven. They’ll pay for the flour and chocolate chips.
- 1/2 of the profits will go to the Disney fund- which my children are drooling and slathering about
- 1/2 of the profits will go to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Wish us luck! It’ll be an amazing lesson in economics, charity, achievement, and salesmanship. Although I was kindof looking forward to months of not cleaning the cat box…
And… I’m flirting with the idea of my husband and I going on down- alone-to Disney ourselves, too. Wonder how much I can pay myself for cooking dinner?
UPDATE: Early Birthday party celebrations took priority over the weekend. We’re on for June 19th!