Getting your priorities right

Posted October 18th, 2009 by Penny Wise

We all have our deep, philosophical moments now and again and I have to say, I cannot believe how Simple Savings has shaped my life. Not so much in that I've written a book; to be honest I knew I was always going to write a book about something one day. After all, I'll have you know I've been a published writer since the age of seven, when 'Bunty' magazine for girls printed a poem I had written about our Labrador! Still, who would have thought this Sad Sally would end up writing a book on how to save money? Now that is something I would never have written about in a million years without Simple Savings. But more than anything, SS has shaped my life because it has changed the way I think. It has changed the way I do things. Probably most valuable of all, it has changed the way I raise my children. I did warn you I was feeling deep, but it's true!

By the age of three, Ali was the king of tantrum throwing. He wanted everything and by golly he knew how to get it. I'll never forget him screaming his head off in The Warehouse as the two of us played tug-of-war with a giant stuffed Pikachu. Whilst I agreed it did indeed look very soft and cuddly, I didn't really want to spend $24.95 on it and besides, it's not as if we had the money. But what Ali wanted, he got and as usual, he won. Liam was the complete opposite, he never threw a tantrum. Mind you, he never needed to. Why would he, when he already had everything a kid could possibly ask for? When other children came to play they used to run around the house in delight, yelling 'Wow! This is a wonderland!' At the time, I felt pleased as punch. Sad Sally that I was, I felt proud that my kids had so much more than their friends. What a good, successful mother I must surely be! Gaad, excuse me whilst I stick my fingers down my throat. What an idiot...

I wonder what things would be like now, if I hadn't found Simple Savings and honestly, I cringe. Would we be broke? Would we still have the house? Would my kids still be ungrateful brats? Who knows, maybe Noel would have got fed up once and for all with working his socks off only to have his wife spend it all on rubbish? I don't profess to be perfect now. There are still days when I kick myself for throwing money away - but at least I recognise it and find ways to make up for it.

Better still, my kids recognise it too! The change in my boys these past few years has been huge. They rib me mercifully for wasting so much money on them when they were smaller (although they're very grateful for it after all the money they've made selling it on Trade Me!) The best move we have made this year I think is making them responsible for their own money. We started doing this after reading the tip 'Bring out the Simple Saver in your kids' and it certainly lives up to its title. At 11 and 13 my kids now get more pocket money each week than their other friends - but a) they have to work for it and b) they are responsible for almost all their needs. They have to buy all their own clothes, with the exception of school uniform. They have to pay for all their own treats, entertainment, Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family, phone top-ups, just about everything you can think of. In the few months we have been doing this, they have become extremely aware of how much things cost!

Already they are becoming much smarter shoppers - with the exception of Liam's gold plated skateboard, which I hasten to add was mainly birthday money. It didn't take long for Liam to change his phone plan once he found he was forking out $20 a week on top-ups! He switched to Vodafone's TXT2000 plan which gives him 2000 texts for $10 a month. He texts all the time but only uses his phone to call when absolutely necessary so this suits him down to the ground. Ali loved the freedom of being able to buy his own drinks and lollies at first - until he realised how quickly your bank balance goes down if you do this too often! Surprisingly Ali is managing his money pretty well. He just bought himself a pair of new skate shoes online from overseas (for less than half the price they are to buy over here, even with postage and packaging!) and is inheriting 'new' clothes from Liam on a regular basis as he grows out of them, so he's looking pretty flush.

Poor Liam on the other hand is struggling. There are so many cool things he wants! But he can't buy any of them - he needs new clothes and is finding men's clothes are horribly expensive. He really does need them too; his trousers are half way up his legs and he can't do most of his shorts up any more! So he decided to go shopping for some new clothes a couple of weeks ago when we were at the beach - and got a shock. 'I'm not paying $40 for a t-shirt!' he spluttered. Shorts weren't any better, so he came home empty handed. His solution for the time being? Wearing his school uniform as much as possible! Mind you, he can only do that for another eight weeks before the summer holidays. Still, an important lesson was learned; he's not so worried about wearing the 'cool' brands any more since he's realised he can get three pairs of Kmart shorts for the price of one pair of Billabong ones! He's also keeping an eye out on 1-day for when the clothes he needs come up on special. It's been a great way for the boys to learn to prioritise what's really important and work out how much they need, against how much they have. They have also discovered one of Fiona's favourite mantras - 'everything comes on sale eventually!'

As for me, I love it! Honestly, it's like a weight off my shoulders. I love that they are responsible for buying their own stuff and I'm not. OK, I still give them the money for it but that's it; it's a one-off amount each week and it's up to them to make it last and make sure they have enough for what they need. No more things get snuck into my trolley (in fact they are eating less junk food now than ever before!) and I can already see the difference in the bank account. It has even helped with my impulse buys too - I was a great one for buying them treats when out and about, particularly clothes, whether they needed them or not, but no more! If I see something I think they would like I don't buy it; I'm happy that they know what they have and what they need and will buy it themselves if they want or need it. These days if I do get them a treat, it's a real treat which is hugely appreciated 'cos Mum doesn't do that very often any more!

They don't get money for nothing either! They have to do all their jobs - anything from mowing the lawn to filling the firewood basket or making their beds - and the penalties are big. If they leave clothes on the floor $2 is deducted. Liam is safe as he doesn't but Ali lost $10 in the first week! Failing to go and get the firewood before dark is a biggie - $10 gets taken off if the family has to go cold. There was nobody happier than Liam when it got warm enough to stop lighting the fire! Amazing that this one tip has resulted in us saving so much money. Not only that, but my boys are more responsible, helpful and above all, learning the true value of a dollar and smart shopping skills which will hopefully last them for life. Thanks a million Lisette!

Want to comment? Become a Simple Savings member »

January 2015

December 2014

March 2014

December 2011