Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A $50 error

I hesitated to tell this story on my Blog. I'm not sure why. I guess it was because I didn't want to be judged for the decision we made. I also don't ever want to be seen as a "rich doctor's wife." JB and I were raised in homes where money did not grow on trees. And we definitely plan to instill those same values in our children.

However, after talking to different "honest" friends (who always shoot me straight and don't just tell me what I want to hear), I decided to share it. I strive to make my Blog a place where I don't pretend to be something I'm not. I'm a Mom. I have to make "game-time" decisions. I make mistakes. I'm a real person. We are a real family.

This story should illustrate that in many ways.

So here's how this went down.

We loved throwing birthday parties for our kids overseas. They were very cheap due to the Base providing cheap venues and supplies, and it was an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate. Overseas, without family around, we were always looking for any excuse to have a party.

But upon returning to the United States, I was quickly refreshed as to how the real world worked. We had a birthday party for my three olders, and despite trying to do something very simple, the parties still ended up costing well over $300 per kid. These were simple bowling or Chik-fil-A parties. Nothing special at all.

(I can't help but wonder how much parents are dropping on some of these more extravagant parties I see floating around the Internet. But that's a whole 'nother post altogether.)

So JB and I discussed this and decided that we didn't want to do birthday parties for our kids anymore. At least not on a regular basis. We felt we spent more money and time and stress than the party was worth. We are constantly trying to teach our kids that we want to do things we value and to place an emphasis on quality time not quality things.

But more than that we felt like we could have more FUN with our kids if we just spent that time and money, together, as a family.

So we told our boys that instead of having a party for their 6th (Sidge) and 7th (Isaac) birthdays, we'd let them pick out one gift for $100 and go out together as a family. This would cost about $200 we figured -- nearly half of what we had dropped on their previous birthday.

So that's what we did. The boys each picked out a $100 Lego set, and we did something fun together as a family.

But now it's June. Abigail's birthday is a month away. We didn't plan on giving Abigail $100 to spend. She's not nearly as old as the boys, and she's not nearly as aware. So we thought we'd just get her a little present and go out together as a family and ultimately, spend even less.

But I didn't understand the power of big brothers. Somewhere along the line, the boys told Abigail she could also have $100 to spend. She didn't really know what that meant, but one day we went into Yoder's Market (a little store by our house.) They saw this big alligator up on the shelf, and the boys asked me how much it was.

I glanced at the price tag and said, "$38."

They turned to Abigail and told her that she could afford that for her birthday. Since it was $38, I didn't correct them. That would be a reasonable gift if she ended up picking it.

Two weeks went by. Abigail didn't bring up picking out a present so I found a few small "girl" Lego sets and bought them for her birthday. We went out for dinner for her birthday, and I gave her the lego sets, and I thought we were good to go.

But then, right after we had cake and ice cream with my parents, Abigail informed me that she wanted to go to Yoder's and get the alligator. 

I talked to JB and explained to him the misunderstanding. I thought she had forgotten about the alligator. I had bought her the Legos. She hadn't forgotten about the alligator. JB and I decided to go ahead and get her the alligator too. We were still well below the original $100 price we had set.

So for two days we talked about the alligator. Abigail was so excited. I told her we could get it after ballet class on Tuesday. She was thrilled.

And here is where my mistake took a drastic turn for "worser."

I had misread the price tag.

It wasn't $38 as I had thought. It was $88. 

I walked into Yoder's and asked the lady at the counter to take down the alligator for me. I grabbed a few other things in the store, and went to the front to pay for it.

She told me the grand total, and I immediately started shaking my head.

Abigail was standing next to me jumping up and down, so excited about getting her hands around the neck of this much-bigger-than-I-remembered-it-alligator.

"How much is the alligator?" I asked when the price popped up on her little cash register.

Eighty. Eight. Dollars.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I can't buy that."

I turned to see Abigail, her face aghast, tears already welling up in her eyes. 

I bent down and explained to her that I was not saying no. But I had to talk to her father. I couldn't make this decision by myself. I told her that she needed to be strong while she waited. I told her I understood she was disappointed, but that she was not allowed to throw a fit. (She isn't a fit-thrower anyway, but I wanted her to understand that this decision would not be made based on her emotions.)

Abigail handled it very well. She was teary-eyed and sad, but she did not freak out. I slipped to the side and called JB.

We do Dave Ramsay's envelope system for budgeting in our house. I told him that we had enough in the envelope. He told me that it was not Abigail's fault I misread the price tag and that we should honor our commitment if we could. We have really tried to be "parents of our word" with our kids. We've tried to NOT say something unless we fully plan to fulfill what we are saying. We don't say, "Yes, I'll play that game with you," unless we are going to play that game. Obviously there will be times that we will still have to take back something we said. But we really want our kids to know our "yes" is "yes" and our "no" is "no."

So we bought the alligator. 

I'm not happy about how big it is. I am definitely not happy about how much it cost. But I am happy that we were able to honor our word. Even if the thing barely fits on our king-sized bed!


Emily said...

I love Dave Ramsey! Thanks for sharing!

MtnGirl said...

WOW! That is a huge alligator and why would Abigail want an alligator?! ;-) Parenting is hard even when you are "real" people or a doctor.....

Anonymous said...

Your "real life" stories are one of the main reasons I enjoy your blog so much. Thanks for sharing!
Susan in Seattle

Unknown said...

Love this story and even more so the what you are teaching your kids! You hit the nail on the head with how insane Birthday parties cost for children these days. Lajes, it is not. Not for the wallet and not for sense of community either. I loved how on any given weekend you could visit the Community Center and your son or daughter would be randomly invited to someone's party bouncy castles and all!

We had bouncy castles at L's past B'day but that's where the similarities ended. Being new to the area we were thankful to receive invites to her classmates parties. It let us know that she was making friends and showed us our options where we could have her party. One of the local fun zones was very popular and L wanted to have her party there. So around six weeks out we make the reservations because it books up quite fast. It gets to point in the phone call when they go over the costs and what's covered and request a credit card to hold the reservation. I passed the phone off to the hubby, in my mind, so he can determine whether or not this is a good idea. In his mind, he thought my passing him the phone was me saying, "Okay, make it happen."

I see him nodding and reading off our credit card info all the while thankful that it's taken care of. When he got off the phone and said he needed some air. Red flag. I asked if everything was okay and it was then that he revealed the whopping price tag of $350 to use their space for an hour! I was shocked and asked him why he went through with it if it was going to cost us so much?! He explained his side of things and the miscommunication was revealed. Also the fact that we would be out some dinero if we cancel the reservation. Holy guacamole!

Even though her Birthday, when all said and done, cost us about half our rent-it was good memories. A very valuable (again, think car payment) lesson was learned that year concerning our communication or lack there of. Hopefully, next year will be just as fun at a fraction of the cost ;)

Patty PB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patty PB said...

We are HUGE fans of "spending on experiences" rather than birthday parties. This year was the first time (and probably last), I do one at home. It cost almost the same as 2 nights at a Disney Hotel, and I had to clean up. We have decided to just use our passes and go to Disney World for all of his birthdays or travel somewhere.
And BTW, don't feel bad...I just bought a $37 Candle yesterday, because I misheard the price as $13.07 and did not pay attention when I signed. 37 DOLLARS FOR A CANDLE!!!
The alligator is huge and beautiful...and Abigail's face makes it worth every penny!!! (This candle, however, is not making anyone happy...It's going back today.)
Love and miss you!!! <3

Anonymous said...

We don't do presents or parties and instead do a Birthday Adventure or as others have said "spending on experiences". Not only is it fun to see what Adventure the child picks (we give them a bunch of choices and past examples have included a visit to a waterpark, the zoo, a movie, or an amusement park, etc), but it is so much fun spending the day and going on the adventure with that child without their siblings. Such great memories are made!

Anonymous said...

When I was a young teen I asked my father if I could have everything with a 5 on it in his wallet. He thought he had a few ones. I found 6 50 dollar bills. He kept his word.