After 10 years at NRHBC and Cross Church, our church family graciously gave us a sabbatical. Like any All-American (Texan…) family, we went to Disney World. The five days spent at the different parks were filled with fun, exhaustion, and memory making. We spent countless hours at play, countless steps pursuing that play, and countless minutes waiting in line for the play to commence.
The danger of taking a first-grader and a kindergartner to Disney is the sheer number of purchasable items found throughout the parks. It makes one wonder if Disney does this on purpose. Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it’s almost like they know that when a kid (or let’s be honest, an adult) finishes a ride, they will want to buy something associated with all the fun they just had. It seems like the location of the gift shops are more than just a coincidence.
What’s not a coincidence is how Janet and I were unwilling to buy everything the boys (and I) wanted to buy. Knowing this, we made a decision a few months prior. We decided that we would not be paying for our Disney trip and souvenirs for months and months after we got back home. (Sorry Mr. MasterCard.)
Instead, we gave Parker and Jonathan ten dollars a day. To spend on whatever their little hearts desired. If they wanted a $10 churro, they could buy one. Or a $10 plastic sword. Or whatever…
If they didn’t want to spend their money, it could accumulate. I trust you can do the math, but just in case, if they spent nothing, they would have $20 after 2 days, $30 after 3, and so on.
It’s safe to say that they were pretty excited. From day one, they started to make plans. After a few days, with the savings they brought plus the money they accumulated, both Parker and Jay saved enough to buy lightsabers.
Enormous lightsabers. Brobdingnagian (it means enormous – you’re welcome) lightsabers. Lightsabers that are easily 2 feet taller than they are.
And, of course, I had to buy one too.
Had they not saved their money, we would not have bought the gigantic lightsabers. The cost would have been too much for Janet and I. But because the boys decided that’s what they wanted, and were not dissuaded by other enticing souvenirs, they bought them (with the money we gave them…but not Mr. MasterCard’s money).
Comically large lightsabers taught my boys financial responsibility.
And enable us to have awesome Jedi battles.
I wish this were my idea – that I had some sort of brilliant fiduciary idea, but alas, I can’t take credit.
Vacation on a budget is a Spence family tradition. When I was 10, my family went to Hawaii. Given $10 a day (notice that inflation didn’t impact what I gave the boys), I was permitted to buy whatever I wanted. For some reason, I came home with several gecko inspired items – toys, shirts, and other assorted junk.
I’m a spender, so there was no accumulation for something greater.
Eight years later, my family went to Europe and my parents’ financial instruction substantially increased.
Instead of receiving souvenir money, we were given a budget to manage for the entire trip. This budget covered our food, travel, souvenirs, admissions, and hostels. Prior to the vacation, each of us three kids were given the money and the responsibility to pay for ourselves.
In Paris, if we wanted to see the Louvre, we had the money to go to the Louvre. If we wanted an expensive meal or amazing souvenir, we had to make choices.
I remember once that my debit card exceeded its daily limit. When I asked my Dad what to do, he encouraged (forced?) me to problem solve. The trip was priceless as was the experienced gained in budgeting, problem solving, and planning.
As a parent, I want my kids to have the best – the best vacation, the best souvenirs, the most fun, and on and on.
But more important than that, I want to prepare them for adulthood. One day, we pray, Parker and Jay will be out on their own. They will need to save money, to spend wisely, to sacrifice what they want in the moment for what they want long-term. They need all these things as an adult that they already experienced in Disney World.
If ginormous lightsabers help prepare them to be adults, then we are more than happy with their souvenir choice.
That…and the awesome lightsaber battles.