Talking to kids about money in the age of Amazon Prime

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Something Special For Me is part of the award-winning Rosa Trilogy by Vera B. Williams – a series of books about a young Latina girl named Rosa who lives with her mother, who is a waitress, and her grandmother. In this, the second book in the series, Rosa is trying to decide what she wants for her birthday. Her mom has saved up enough money from her tips at the Blue Tile Diner to buy Rosa something special, but Rosa wants to make sure she chooses just
the right thing – something special enough to be worth emptying the money jar for.

My daughter Alicia and I stumbled upon this book at the library at the perfect time because I’ve been meaning to talk to her about money – specifically that we can’t just buy everything she wants.

In the age of Amazon Prime, no wonder she’s a bit confused about how shopping works. We rarely buy things in actual stores or use cash. Often we talk about needing or wanting something and then, a couple of days later, it shows up in a package in the lobby of our building with our name on it. For a while Alicia assumed all those packages were gifts that somebody was sending us, until she realized that I often knew what was going to be in the packages before we opened them. “Mummy did you make the packages?” she asked.

I tried to explain how online shopping works, but since we never actually order stuff in her presence (surely a recipe for disaster) she now seems to think I have a psychic link to the “package people,” as she calls the people who magically produce those packages in the lobby. (e.g. “I think the package people don’t want me to have my belt,” after yet another package turns out to be for someone else in the building.) The next night she wished on a star for that belt (which I’d already told her we’d ordered). Sometimes she asks me for something and then checks the packages the next day to see if it’s arrived, regardless of whether we’ve actually ordered it.

So when Alicia told me she wanted a blue sled (“because orange isn’t my favorite color”), I tried to explain why we can’t just buy everything she wants – using Something Special For Me as a starting point.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Well, let’s try to think about whether we really need a sled, because we already have one, so maybe we should save our money for something we really need. Like Rosa in your book. She has to find the perfect special thing for her birthday because she only has enough money in the jar for one thing.

Alicia: (after a long pause) But we don’t have a money jar.

Me: No, but we have money in the bank, and it’s kind of the same thing. If we spend all our money from the bank we won’t have any money left. So we have to think carefully about what we really need and just buy those things.

Alicia: We don’t have a money jar. I’m not Rosa. I DON’T WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME ANYMORE!

Well, it’s a start. Or at least it’s better than just saying yes to every request and then waiting till she forgets about it – or decides the package people don’t want her to have it.

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