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Sarah lives in Edmonton with her 11 year old son Sam. For a number of weeks he’d been saving up his allowance to buy a pokemon game. He was $6 away.

One day, Sam had a truly tough day at school. He came home discouraged, and no amount of talking could bring him out of his mood. Sam asked his mom to lend him the $6 he needed so that he could go to the store and get the game, to help him feel better.

Sarah thought about it, and decided against it. Her reasoning was two-fold:debt piggy bank

– she didn’t want her son, at 11, to get accustomed to borrowing money to gratify a desire for a purchase item

– she didn’t want her son to look towards buying something as a means of feeling better about unrelated events.

To her surprise, most of her friends responded negatively. They thought for $6, if he could have been cheered up, Sarah should have forked over. Sam’s grandfather in fact, differed enough that he bought the game for Sam (somewhat to Sarah’s annoyance).

What do you think? How would you have handled this?

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

4 Comments

  1. Elliot Snord

    I think this mother is right The issue is not that the child wanted to borrow the money (and there are many great lessons to be learned with borrowing money and repaying it). The issue is the timing of the purchase. Buying stuff to make one feel better leads to the use of “retail therapy” as a coping mechanism. Retail therapy is a very popular habit and it comes without the stigma of booze. But, it is not a healthy habit to cultivate.

    In my humble opinion, the mother was doing the best thing for her son.

    [Reply]

    Aug 24, 2007
  2. My son Jonathan is 9 years old and he covets certain items including Pokeman cards. Mostly I let him save for what he wants to purchase. From time to time I will give him an advance on his allowance. He really dislikes his smaller allowance whenthe time comes for him to get it, because of the advance. I find it’s not worth it to let the money go until it is truly earned.
    I too vote in favor of the Mom.

    [Reply]

    Aug 25, 2007
  3. Miriam S

    Way to go Mom!

    I’m not sure if I would have thought it out the way she did, but I probably would have seen red flags in that situation, and would have said NO, but couldn’t have explained why.

    That’s great parenting and preparing son for future wisdom in financial decisions…

    [Reply]

    Aug 28, 2007
  4. RG

    I’m surprised to find that I disagree with Mom. I think the key point for me is that the kid had been wanting this game for a long time and had been saving for it, so it’s not quite the same as a poor-me-splurge. I’m assuming that he gets a weekly allowance that’s at least $7.

    I’m also speaking as someone who is cheered up by (albeit free, stupid) games. It gets my head to stop thinking about problems, which is not always a bad thing! Yes if she could have found free games or other ways to distract the boy that would work too.

    I think my other issue is that it’s NOT a slippery slope. Things that kids cost are expensive compared to their earning potential. To define my terms, I’m thinking that the kid gets a $10/weekly allowance and the game costs $50, so he needs to save 5 weeks’ income and he’s just about half a week shy. In grown up terms, that’s saving towards a $5000 expense and being $500 shy of it. How often does that happen to a sensible person? To me, never. Because our scale is so different. A 6-month-emergency-fund provides a cushion for all the small “I want this but I don’t want to wait” expenses (like a vacation that must be paid for by a certain time or a home appliance that goes on sale or emergency dental care). Most kids have absolutely no way of reaching that level of emergency fund because even a minor expense.

    [Reply]

    Jan 27, 2008

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