My 11-year-old daughter had softball practice between the holidays. During some down time at the end of practice, the girls sat in a circle and shared what they each got for Christmas. Of course, no one talked about the jammies they got from grandma – this discussion was for big ticket items only. The list included an iPod Touch, Ugg Boots, cell phones, Xbox with Kinect, a drum set and several other nice gifts. My daughter’s best friend got an iPad. A nice haul for 11-year-olds.

Although my daughter has some very nice things – she already has a cell phone, iPod Touch, Ugg slippers and then got the Xbox with Kinect for Christmas – she was feeling a little bit of the ugly green monster rearing its head. After practice (two days after Christmas) she announced she was going to buy her own Ugg boots and an iPad. (I guess the two other pairs of boots she got for Christmas from Delia’s and access to my iPad wasn’t enough).

I told her I was happy to hear her plan to save and buy her own things. I knew she would appreciate them more. She had done it before. Two years ago, she used her own money to buy her iPod Touch. Her “own money” consisted of monetary gifts from her birthday and Christmas and money she had earned from doing things at home. After counting her money, she was about $400 dollars short on the iPad and less than $50 short on the Ugg boots. (Of course, she didn’t factor in tax.) She would earn the rest somehow. We went to bed that night knowing she had a goal in mind.

The next day we went to Petsmart to get new collars for our dogs. Santa didn’t realize how much weight the dogs lost and brought collars that were too big! My 11-year-old came with me. After recently losing a snail in her fish tank, she wanted to replace him. Moments later, she decided she wanted to buy a 10 gallon fish tank to replace her 2 ½ gallon fish tank at home. I reminded her about her savings plan, but she waved me off. She told me it was her money and she was going to spend it however she wanted. So we walked around and added up all the things she would need. We talked to the man in the fish department who gave us some tips. When all was said and done, the price was the same as the Ugg boots. (plus tax, of course)

Wow! That was a lot for a last minute decision. I told her that since she had a totally different plan yesterday, she should go home and sleep on it tonight. That didn’t sit well with her. She had an 11-year-old tantrum right there in the fish department. She loudly shared her feelings about HER MONEY and that I was the meanest mom in the world. The before-having-kids Pam would have been embarrassed, but I have been through the Terrible Twos three times. At least she wasn’t lying on the floor. I just told her I was leaving and she followed.

In the car, I told her that I know she is mad at me, but she should really think it over. I told her that I didn’t go to the first car dealer I saw and drive out of there with my car. Yes, it was her money and I thought she should spend it on something of her choosing. I just wanted her to research it and not end up with buyer’s remorse. When we got home, my husband got to listen to the whole story and agreed with me. We told her to do some research and compare prices and then we will talk about it again.

That night, my daughter went online and wrote down all the items she would need. She compared prices at three different stores. She even made a spreadsheet listing prices and items. While she was price shopping, she decided to read up on the types of fish – who was aggressive, who needed different water temperatures, who played nice with others. She also realized that she needed to buy a 20 gallon tank to get all the fish she wanted. It was a very thorough list and we told her how proud of her we were. The only problem was that she was still short on money. She asked if there were projects she could do to earn money.

Projects that needed to be done? You have come to the right Mom! The first project I gave her was the Christmas card list. It got out of hand with address changes and new names. I wanted them all changed in the computer so I could print out labels next year. It took her about 2 hours to complete and she did it without complaining.

Next project? Clean out her room. I don’t mean make the bed and pick up the stuff off the floor. I mean go through every drawer, the closet and under the bed. Make bags for donation and bags for garbage. A couple hours into it, I went to check on her. She was working hard and I told her that. She made a face and then said “I have to. I need the money.” I nodded in understanding and left her to her work.

I walked away from her room smiling. It was a teaching moment that had gone well. If you really want something, you have to work for it.

The following week she had enough money to buy her tank, accessories and fish. Today everything is living happily on her dresser. Last night my husband asked her how much money she had left. She told him it was less than a dollar. He was surprised and it must have shown on his face. She responded, “Dad, fish are expensive.” I had to laugh. She should try having kids.

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