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Ryan Learns to Grocery Shop…and Gets Paid

Ryan Learns to Grocery Shop…and Gets Paid

Ryan just got back from Winco.  He was grocery shopping.  For me.  My entire weekly list of items.

For over a year, Ryan has asked me if he could do the grocery shopping.  He knows it’s way down on my list below scrub the toilet and clean the hair out of the sink.  But for some reason, I thought it would be more of a hassle having him do it than me just going and getting it over with.

I was wrong.

After an hour and a half, Ryan returned with every item on my list.  And then some.  But we’ll get to that.

“How’d it go?” I asked him.

“Not so bad,” he replied.  “The only hard part was figuring out how to fit everything into the cart.”

Now, Ryan did not do this simply to help me out, although that certainly helped his argument for convincing me.  No, he did it because he was looking for ways to earn extra money.  He figured that he could cash in on my dislike of shopping by offering to “help” me out.

And now I’m thinking what took me so long to agree to it?!  Ryan left with list in hand and I got to stay home and work, uninterrupted.  Although I did bring the house phone into my office expecting him to call.  He never did.  I think he really liked the freedom of being in charge.

I was curious about a couple of things as he left to shop.  What items would end up in the cart that were not on the list?  After all, he’s a 16-year old boy in a grocery store.  And would he realize just how horrible shopping is and never want to do it again?  Or is that just me?

So here’s what happened.  I gave him my debit card and PIN number…because I trust him.  He spent $127.10.  That’s about $37  more than what I typically spend.  Before you think I’m not feeding my kids enough, once a month I take a trip to Costco instead of doing my Winco run.  I spend about $300/month at Costco, $400 if I need printer ink.  So average that into my regular grocery shopping and we’re now looking at $140/week in groceries.  I have two teenage boys and a husband.

So what did Ryan add to the cart?  One pineapple, one mango, one large bag of fish sticks, two bags of Totinos pizza snacks, an extra bag of Kettle chips (okay, I love those), Corn Pops cereal, and an extra tub of yogurt.  Then there were the strawberries and blueberries, but I’m going to ignore those because I may have done that, too.

So the question is…is it costing me more to have Ryan do the shopping?  …because I have to pay him, too.  How much?  That’s what I asked him.

“15% of the total,” was his answer.  I had already told myself that it was worth between $15 and $20 to me to pass that chore on to someone else.  15% of $127 was around $19…not bad.  But I was worried about even more items ending up in the cart under this agreement.

“Would you be tempted to add more to the cart to increase the bottom line?  I usually spend under $100 on groceries.  Would you still do this for $15?”

“Yup.”  We had ourselves a deal.  Ryan was officially hired as my grocery boy.  Sometimes paying someone to do something for you is so worth it.

But next week, I’m sending him shopping AFTER lunch.

Nathan Earns a FREE Tux AND $400 Suit

Nathan Earns a FREE Tux AND $400 Suit

Okay, so it’s just a free tux rental, but the suit…that’s $400 that he gets to hang in his closet forever. And Nathan loves suits. Last year, when he did an internship with my brother in D.C., we went shopping for his very first suit. When the tailor brought out the tape measure and Nathan had to lift arms, he was in awe that people actually got treated this way. $600 later, it made sense why. That’s a lot of money to spend on a suit. And lucky for him, I was the one who pulled out the credit card to pay for this extra special attention.

But now, he’s earned a free suit. Knowing how much these things cost, when the opportunity was presented to be a prom rep for The Mens Warehouse, he jumped at it. If he got 5 boys from his high school to rent their senior ball tuxes from The Men’s Warehouse, then he would earn a free tux rental. 10 people, and he would earn a $400 suit!

So Nathan and his best friend, who also understands the value of a dollar, signed up. Both boys are responsible for their proms costs, so any way to cut down on expenses and they’re in!  They took the $40 off a tux rental coupons to the ASB secretary at their high school and asked her if she would put them in the senior ball ticket envelopes. She agreed. Slowly over the next few weeks, his sign-ups started coming in. But I didn’t know anything about this.

It wasn’t until two days ago that Nathan was online showing me the tux he was going to wear.

“Do you think I should wear the black shirt or the white shirt?”

What’s really cool about The Men’s Warehouse site (no, I’m not promoting them…it really is cool), is that he could piece together his tux and it would appear completely put together for me to see.

“I’m getting the rental for free,” he said. And that’s when he told me about the prom rep sign-up.

“Yeah, Ronnie already has a free suit. He got 10 people to sign up. I’ve gotten eight so far.”

Yesterday Nathan got two more. Today he added another one. He has “earned” his $400 suit. And the whole thing took less than a minute to sign up.

I’m not an extreme couponer. I do use coupons but don’t have the time to spend hours getting the best deal. So when an opportunity like this presents itself, well, it’s a no-brainer. And as Nathan takes off for college next year, I know he’s ready….academically and financially. Because a person can be as sharp as a tack, but if they don’t have the savvy to understand money, graduating with high honors is not going to help you much in the real world.

Easy Money

Easy Money

As I sit here writing this, my youngest son is out pounding the pavement. Money motivates him. Not in an unhealthy, consuming kind of way. But in an I-can’t-turn-down-this-opportunity kind of way. And I’m okay with that as long as his ethics and priorities are in the right place.

And they are. This is not the first time this opportunity has presented itself.

There was a flyer on top of his newspaper stack last week (he has a once-a-week paper route). It described a competition to see which carrier could get the most subscribers. Each new subscriber would earn the carrier $20 and the carrier with the most subscribers would win a grand prize. The prize was not indicated but it didn’t matter to Ryan. Whatever it was would be good enough to sell on ebay.

I know this because this is exactly what happened the last time there was a competition. Ryan was the winner and took home a brand new ipod. He immediately placed it on ebay and it sold within hours. He pocketed a bunch of cash.

And that’s why he’s out knocking on doors. He considers this easy money. A few hours of his spring break and he could make hundreds. He called me a few minutes ago and, so far, has signed up two new subscribers ($40) and received a $10 tip. I think he’s clocking in at $100/hour. Not bad for a 16-year old.

So, although I’m not a huge fan of dangling the almighty dollar in front of kids to motivate them, it’s a pretty safe bet that none of these kids will be taking on paper carrier as a career. So I understand why the newspaper needs to offer a little incentive.

But I also know that Ryan is self-motivated. He knows when he has to buckle down and get the job done even if he doesn’t want to do it and even when he’s not getting paid for it.

The sign that the paying-for-a-job-well-done has gone awry is when you find that your kids will only perform when they get paid. And that’s a no-no. We don’t pay kids to do things that they should simply do because it’s their responsibility. Like working hard at school. Or putting away the dishes.

But if shelling out cash to get your kids motivated hits a chord with you, may I suggest that you have them pay YOU for doing the laundry and making dinner. At which point, they’ll probably need to take on a paper route and hope for “easy money” competitions.

The Negotiator

The Negotiator

A recent study from Accenture found that the easiest way to get a raise or a promotion was to ask for one. Yup, 85% of those surveyed who said they had asked for a raise actually got something.

It reminded me of Nathan’s recent tutoring negotiation. He was recommended, by one of his old math teachers, to the mom of a seventh grader who needed help in algebra. Her first email to Nathan did not mention the fee she was willing to pay and Nathan came to me asking me whether he should state it in his response to her.

“What is your fee?” I asked him.

“I dunno,” he said. “What do you think?”

“Well, last summer you were paid $10 for one hour of tutoring per week. How did that work out?”

“That was fine. But he came to our house to be tutored. If they want me to drive to their house, then that takes time and gas money.”

He had obviously given this a little thought. Then he added, “Plus, I’ve had experience not only tutoring but working with kids of all ages during your summer math camps.”

“How does that affect how much you get paid?” I asked.

“I guess it shows that I’m qualified. I think I’m going to ask for $10 an hour if he comes here and $15 an hour if I have to drive there.”

He went on to ask if he should write all of that in the return email. So I offered a little direction.

“What about telling her that you are interested in tutoring her son but you’d like a little more information. Things like how many days per week and for how long and where the tutoring will be done. Before telling her your fee, let’s see, first, if she comes back with a number.”

This seemed reasonable to him so he drafted and sent her the email.

She was quick to respond. And she did offer her fee. $10/hour. She said it was what she discovered while doing research on tutors from another school. She also said that she’d like Nathan to do the tutoring once, maybe twice a week, at their house, and gave the address. It would take Nathan about 10 minutes to get there from our house.

“Now what?” he asked.

“That’s up to you. You need to respond with what you think is fair and reasonable.”

He had me read his return email before hitting the ‘send’ button:

“…I have also done tutoring in the past. My mom is a math teacher, and each summer I teach math camps with my mom (have been doing this for about 6 years). Additionally, I tutored one-on-one last summer. Last summer, I charged 10 dollars an hour, and lessons were held at my house. I would be willing to do the same deal, or, if you like, I could do lessons at your house, but I would charge 15 an hour, as I have to pay for gas and time spent driving.
Either way, let me know your thoughts and opinions.”

Her response back:
“I really like all of your math experience, sounds like you would be a good fit for what we are looking for. Depending on what part of town you live in, I am pretty sure I would prefer you coming to our house to help him.”

It has been three weeks since Nathan’s first tutoring session. He is scheduled for two times this week. “Time really flies by,” he said after coming home from his last session. “I love doing it.”

And I love that he felt confident to ask for what he wanted…and had the reasons to back it up. This may just be a little tutoring job, but it’s a big step in learning how to negotiate what you think you are worth. That’s a priceless lesson!