Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Don't Spend It All in One Place" - Wisdom Wednesday

When I was a child of 6 or 7, I received a weekly allowance of a nickel or a dime.  By the time I was a young teen my allowance had evolved into a quarter or 50 cents.  With a dime I could go to Isaly's, Mineral Ridge's ice cream shop, and buy an ice cream cone with two scoops or, instead, a single scoop in a smaller cone and 5 pieces of penny candy. 

I remember my dad putting the coins in my hand with the accompanying admonition:  "Don't spend it all in one place."  Hmmm.  To my child-mind that meant I should spread the purchases around and buy several different items in different places, not just one large thing in one store.  I took him at his word and, consequently, had many little items to show (or eat) as a result of my shopping efforts.

It wasn't until years later that I understood the humor in my dad's admonition:  it was so little money that it would be hard not to spend it all in one place.  Except that child-size desires could be purchased for very little money in those days.

My parents were frugal:  they'd lived and survived through the Great Depression, coming out the other side with no or minimal debt and the ability to make do with very little.  They raised their children with the attitude and ability to scrimp and save though not necessarily with the desire to do so, especially in the case of their younger daughter (me).  It took some years for the message of saving instead of spending to sink in.  I think their attitude reflected the fact that one never knows what the next problem or expense will be; therefore, it's better to save and be prepared than have too little or no money when there's a need.  I know my parents thought they were teaching us about saving but the lesson I learned felt more like deprivation.  I think that's partially because they didn't talk about why they were saving; about how to choose a purchase based on desire as well as need and price; or about budgeting money.

I don't know that I did much better with my daughters.  One daughter wanted most things she saw, the other never asked for anything.  While walking the aisles of the grocery store, I was often heard saying, "We don't have money for that."  Somehow (Did I say it?  Did my husband say it?) my daughters finally came to understand that the purchase was refused not because we didn't have the money to buy it but because we chose not to spend the money we did have on that particular item.  They have grown to adults who judiciously choose their purchases based on desire, need, quality, and funds available.  They are careful shoppers and consumers.

Youth is so immediate and perhaps saving is a hard lesson for most children to learn.  Thinking back, though, I wish my father would have said, "Save a little and spend wisely," and then explained it all to me -- over and over again -- until I understood.  Now that I'm older I'm thankful for my parents' example.  I eventually understood.



  1. It's interesting how literally you took your dad's advice not to spend your allowance all in one place.

    I used to earn money at home when I was a girl by ironing my dad's dress shirts - 10 cents a shirt. I'm sure I could buy a lot of candy or whatever back in those days. That's not the case today though. My son and I were at the store today and I saw a candy bar that cost 70 cents! Wow!

    1. Yeh, I did take it very literally. Maybe all 6- and 7-year-olds don't....

      We had required chores but in my mind they were never connected with the allowance and I don't remember my parents suggesting the connection, either. I think most everything is so expensive these days. When I was a kid, candy bars were a nickel, then increased to a dime when I was a teen. Whew!

  2. I miss Islay's. After church we would go and the kids would get a cone. Butter Pecan was my favorite. I also remember the "sky scraper" for ten cents.

    1. Hi, Claudia --

      Yes, I remember the sky scraper cones but I'm not sure our store had them -- or maybe it's just a lapse in my memory. We didn't go to Isaly's as a family though occasionally my parents would send us kids "up street" to buy a cone or cup and carry it home for them. My mom usually chose butter pecan, like you, or White House (which was vanilla ice cream with cherries). And I loved their banana ice cream (though chocolate is usually my favorite). Our family ice cream treat was to a frozen custard stand a few miles away. It happened so rarely that it was truly a treat when it did happen.

      Thanks for sharing a memory, Claudia.


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