Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Money Game

           My last two children were “Latch Key” kids. They had a key and had to lock the door and stay inside until I got home from school – about 45 minutes. They were responsible (or so I thought), and we had plenty of neighbors. However, they were not supposed to leave the house until I was home, nor was anyone to visit until I arrived.
           One day, they did not listen. Snacks were always laid out and there was something to drink waiting for them every day. Well, one day as I arrived home, my neighbor knocked and asked me if I knew about the money game.
I had no idea so I asked, “The Money Game?” And I looked at the last two girls who looked like deer caught in headlights because they were busted. I knew that they had gone outside. They weren’t supposed to leave the house.
She showed me a zip lock bag of money and asked if we had a jar that we put change in.
            I replied, “Yes.”
She told me to go check it. Both of the girls said, “We didn’t know.”
At one time we had a five gallon water jar and we would throw our change in every day. My husband would not allow me to count it until it was half full, until he discovered that he could not pick it up – change is heavy. We had since switched to a gallon jar. I walked in the utility room; and instead of half full, you could barely see any change at all on the bottom.
I stomped out angrily looking at those two girls – and they could tell they had done something very wrong because they started crying and repeating over and over, “We didn’t know.”
I asked my neighbor to explain the money game. She said the girls had passed out zip locks to all of the kids on the street; then they stood in the middle of the road (it was a dead end street) and threw all of the change up. The kids could keep what they picked up. I could feel my face red and knew I was “losing it.”
She told me to let my husband handle it and asked if I wanted the names of the kids who played “The Money Game.”
I said “Yes” and wrote their names down.
When their dad got home, I explained what happened and he just looked at them and calmly said, “We did that for you – but we will NEVER do that again. No more money jar. It WAS your money, but it isn’t now. It’s mine and I will spend it.”
He didn’t raise his voice. I had to bite my tongue to keep from “yelling.” I asked him about the other “game players.”
He told me to go knock on doors and ask for the zip lock bags. I did. All I received was pennies or just a few nickels in the bags. Either the kids or their parents had gone through the zip locks and pulled all of the nickels, dimes, and quarters. There was more silver change in that jar than pennies.
OK – don’t laugh too loudly. We all play the money game. My dad used to tell me it wasn’t the house payment or car payment that would make you broke. It was the change that ran through your fingers.
Think about it. I don’t smoke; however, the last time I checked, cigarettes were over $4.50 a pack – plus tax. If tax is nine percent, a pack of cigarettes costs $4.91 – almost $5.00 a pack. It doesn’t sound like much – but multiply $5.00 X 365 days. That’s $1,826 a year. Now that IS a great deal of money. Some people smoke two packs a day.
            Walk around with a piece of paper and write down everything you spend for a week, then multiply it by 52 to see how much change runs through your fingers. You will be able to see exactly where your money goes and then be able to make decisions that could change your life.