Back when our little family was just starting out, vacations were easy to budget for. We knew approximately how much lodging, meals, and gas would cost. We added in our “extra” spend money and we had a vacation we could afford. In the years that followed, when our daughters evolved from toddlers to children, with age came the increase of wants and “have to haves.” What we found we could no longer budget for was the cost associated with my husbands inability to say no to his two cute little, eye batting, cherubs.
Every year I would find myself saying no to every plastic character sippy cup, filled with flavored ice (at a cost of $12), or yet another stuffed animal that resembled the 2,000 at home. I would cringe at the purchase of light up magic wands that I knew would be in a black garbage bag six month later and posters that would rip before we even got them home. Regardless, every year my husband would buy them what they wanted anyway, reminding me that we were on vacation and I should loosen up. Suffice it to say, when we did get home, he wondered where all his money went?
Neither one of us wanted to continue having the same argument year after year so we finally came up with a solution that allowed us both the ability to be eliminated from the “good cop, bad cop” routine, and come out of vacation with our check book in tact.
Six months before our 2004 trip to Disney we allowed each of our daughters to earn an allowance for chores they were required to do around the house. Nothing major, clean their rooms, empty the dishwasher, clean the cat litter, and set the table. We didn’t want them to think that money came free. At that time, our oldest was ten and our youngest six and a half. We kept their allowance in marked envelopes and each week when we made a deposit, we reminded them that this would be their spend money at Disney.
Well we made it to Disney and our plan went off without a hitch. Every time they said “Daddy can I get …” he would say, “Well, see how much money you have and how much you’ll have left after you buy this.” Kids learn very quickly that if they arrive with $50 for the entire trip and on the first day they want to buy a stuffed animal for $45, they will only have $5 left for the next 4 days. Discriminating purchases were made and math skills improved as well.
For the duration of the trip, they bought what they wanted and were required to put the receipts in their envelopes so at the end of the vacation they could see where all their money went to. It was a new concept that worked for us all. My husband didn’t have to go broke, I didn’t have to continually say no, and when the girls were out of money, then they were done buying. It was that simple.
In 2005 we returned to Disney and did the same thing again. Both my husband and I enjoyed watching our daughters price shop and put back items they didn’t really think they needed since they were paying for them. They managed to get what they wanted, bring back souvenirs for teachers and friends, and even came home with a few bucks in their pockets.
It’s amazing how the value of a dollar changes when you pluck it from the ever blossoming money tree in the back yard and deposit it into the hands of a child who must now decide how far it will take them.