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Renting vs Buying a Saxophone

Renting vs Buying a Saxophone

This is Nathan.  He’s playing By Loch and Mountain, one of my absolute favorite pieces he learned in middle school.  That was five years ago.  Nathan is now headed off to college soon and will not be taking his saxophone with him.  So I’m selling it.

Until today, it had been three years since he tooted a note.  He quit band his sophomore year in high school.  Even so, I’d been holding on to the sax in the off-chance that he might pick it up again.   That never happened and now it’s time to move on.

I bought the sax seven years ago on ebay and paid $367.  It was my very first ebay purchase and I was stressed out.  I’ll never forget that I was bidding against ‘Rosie’ and, gosh darn it, Rosie was not going to win.  I remember hyper-ventilating as the clock ticked down to bidding close and I was trying to increase my bid.  It was an unbelievably stressful event but my kid needed a sax.

I probably paid more than I needed to.  But let’s break down the math.  At the time, it cost $45 a month to rent a sax.  Multiply that by 9 months and the total yearly cost for a rental adds up to $405.  He played the instrument for 4 years.  So $405 times 4 = $1620.  Sheesh, that’s a lot of money.

Two days ago I placed an ad on Craig’s list and listed the sax for $300.  It’s in great shape.  And came with 5 brand new reeds.  Those things are pricey so it’s a bonus to the buyer.

Tonight I sold the sax.

So let’s do a little more math.  The original price I paid was $367.  I just got $300 in cash.  That means that it cost me $67 to have Nathan entertain us with his sax playing for four years.

Okay, so there’s the price of the reeds that I seemed to always be buying.  At $2 a pop, those add up.  Then there was the time that one of the palm keys needed to be replaced.  That cost $50.  Of course, when the lower oct key mechanism needed alignment, that was another $55.  Those things are simply going to happen.

But all in all, purchasing vs renting was absolutely the way to go.  And getting misty over the band’s rendition of By Loch and Mountain…well, that was priceless.

Early Training Pays Off

Early Training Pays Off

“There are three boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats.  Are you not eating them, Nathan?”

I was washing the breakfast dishes when Ryan opened the pantry door and noticed all the cereal.

“I’ll eat them.” replied Nathan.  “I just want to finish the Chex first.”

I started to chuckle.  A few weeks ago, this would have been a weird conversation between the two teens.  But since Ryan has been doing all the grocery shopping, he’s beginning to notice things.  Things like how quickly we go through gallons of milk.  Or how the cereal is multiplying.

And I think it’s great.  Years before I ever thought it would happen, the boys are beginning to appreciate what needs to happen in order to run a household.  And…how much it all costs.  When Ryan got back from Winco yesterday he mentioned how the bill was a little higher than usual because we needed toilet paper and laundry detergent.

“Those are things I don’t buy every week.”

Indeed, I thought.

And then it occurred to me that their future wives owe me one.  Not that I’m keeping score.  Or anything.

Preparing Our Children for Kindergarten: Using Everyday Opportunities to Teach Concepts in Money

Preparing Our Children for Kindergarten: Using Everyday Opportunities to Teach Concepts in Money

All parents want their children to succeed in school. And since Kindergarten is a child’s first exposure to “formal” schooling, preparing them for success is an important first step on the academic ladder. But “preparing” our kids for academic success does not mean completing reams of worksheets and stacks of flashcards. It’s actually a lot easier than that. It simply requires looking for opportunities to seamlessly tie “lessons” into daily life. And the good news is, because these lessons are done in the context of things that are meaningful and relevant to children’s lives, deeper learning takes place.

Money is a good example. Most kids are familiar with it. In fact, most two-year olds already know that this thing called money buys stuff. By the time they are four and five, they’ve had a lot of money experiences, from watching mom and dad pay for things at the store to receiving money as birthday gifts. We can use these opportunities to sneak in some lessons and begin to prepare them for what they will be learning once they head off to school.

The Kindergarten curriculum includes learning about coins: their names, values, and some simple equivalencies. The following activity covers each of these in the context of having kids set their first personal financial goal. Seem lofty? Believe it or not, given the opportunity, and with your guidance, 4- and 5-year olds are quite capable of learning how to use their own money to purchase something they want.

The “lesson” begins as soon as you hear your four-year old utter the words can I have? That’s because the question, Can I have, creates a teaching opportunity that is immediately relevant and meaningful. The answer, Sure, let’s create a goal that will help you save enough money to buy it, will help your child learn skills that will become useful in Kindergarten and beyond.

Since it’s important that kids experience success with their first financial goal, start with an item that has a relatively small price tag…under $5. Through an allowance or some Above-and-Beyond Jobs (extra things kids can do to earn money), help your child figure out about how long it will take her to achieve her goal. Print and fill in the My Savings Goal activity sheet. Then print out the paper coins (from the My Savings Goal activity sheet) and cut out and paste her target amount onto the activity sheet. Help her find a clear jar where she can begin to save her coins then have her tape on a picture of the item she is saving for. This will serve as a concrete reminder of her goal.

As she earns money towards her goal, have her color in the coins on the activity sheet. This is a good time to talk to her about the names of the coins and their values. This little one is called a dime. It’s worth 10 cents. Have her describe some of the unique characteristics of each coin: rough edge, smallest, silver, etc. You can even talk about equivalencies such as ten dimes equals one dollar. Just keep in mind that learning takes time. Right now it’s about exposing her to the coin names and values and introducing her to different equivalencies so that when she enters Kindergarten, she’ll bring with her a familiarity which will make classroom lessons on money a little easier.

As her jar slowly fills up, not only will she be learning about coins, but you’ll be reinforcing delayed gratification, not always an easy skill for a youngster to learn. She’ll need on-going words of encouragement from you and perhaps even little saving reminders. Soon, with your support, she’ll walk into that store with her money jar and walk out with her coveted item. There is nothing like the sense of personal satisfaction for having accomplished something you set out to do. We do not want to deny our kids this feeling. We also don’t want to deny ourselves the opportunity to watch our child hand over her hard-earned money with heavy anticipation and excitement, knowing that she has learned some very important life skills.

Kindergarten is a very exciting year. It’s a year of social, emotional, and physical growth. But it is also the beginning of their academic journey. Looking for everyday opportunities to prepare our youngsters for this incredible journey can turn out to be that extra nudge of confidence they need to help set them up for success.

Teachable Money Moment

Teachable Money Moment

The best way to teach kids financial literacy is in the context of their everyday lives. Here’s this month’s teachable money moment:

The next time you’re out shopping with your child and she finds something she wants to buy (with her money, of course), have her think about the number of work hours or jobs that are necessary for her to pay for the purchase. For example, have her come up with the number of hours she would have to babysit in order to buy the item. Or how many lawns she would need to mow. Or how many cans she would have to recycle.

Giving her the opportunity to think about her purchase in terms of the work involved allows her to have a concrete representation of the effort behind the purchase. And she just may decide that her time and effort is a little more valuable than the item.

An added bonus: She may also develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the choices you make with the money you earn.

Gas Money Lessons

Gas Money Lessons

“Wish me luck,” Nathan said as he exited the room.

“For what?” John and I both asked.

“I’m about to call my manager and find out why I haven’t been put on the schedule.”

Nathan has been working at In and Out Burgers since the beginning of summer. During those non-school months he clocked a lot of hours. And he was happy. Gas money and then some. When school started, his schedule was reduced to two nights a week for about 3 hours each shift. Perfect for a high schooler still needing to focus on studies yet keep his tank full.

Then two weeks ago – nothing. Emails detailing his work schedule stopped coming. He simply was not being added to the schedule and this confused him. He loved his work and all those he worked with. He had established what he thought were good relationships not only with his working peers, but the managers, as well. So he was stumped.

As a parent, my first thought was that something must have happened. Perhaps he rang up the orders wrong…or maybe he was too slow to get the drive-through orders done…or he hadn’t mopped the floors carefully. No, he assured me, for the life of him, he couldn’t figure it out. And, honestly, I told him, if it was any of those things, a managers job is to tell his employees before they get removed from the schedule. But what concerned him the most was his lack of income. No income, no gas money. And although he has some money in savings, depleting it to fill up his car was not how he wanted to use it.

Since he didn’t ask me what he should do, I decided not to say anything. I figured if he wasn’t put on the next schedule he may be forced into action. In the meantime, he talked a lot about getting a job at Jamba Juice where his best friend works. Problem was…they weren’t hiring.

So that’s where we pick up this story. Nathan had decided that no gas money was worth taking the initiative to call his manager. Frankly, I was pleased. This would be good experience for him. But I wasn’t going to let him leave the room without making sure he had a game plan.

“Yup,” he said, “I know what I’m going to say. Very nicely I’m going to tell him that I haven’t been put on the schedule and that I’m confused about that. I’m going to ask if I’ve done anything wrong and if not then I’d like to know why my hours been reduced. And I want to let them know that I rely on this job because I have to pay for my own gas.”

And that is exactly what he did. Turns out, he had been inadvertently left off the schedule one week which made it easier to be left off in subsequent weeks. Mystery solved. And powerful lessons learned. First, if something doesn’t seem right, address it. Be open and respectful. Second, not having income is a pretty big deal. I’m glad that he’s now in a better position to empathize with those who have lost their jobs. Third, building up an emergency fund is important. Hopefully it will never have to be tapped into, but having it around is nice peace of mind.

Sure, it may just be gas money. But that gas money is teaching Nathan a lot of life lessons. I wonder if he’d learn more lessons if I made him pay for his insurance, too…