Money and Family: Part 3 – Working Hard for the Money A He Says Commentary

He says: 

Part 3 of my money and family series concludes…

When my youngest recently asked for a pair of new jeans and I said, “Well, let’s first go check out the thrift store…”, you would have Finance3-Spendingthought I offered him a frilly pink dress! “NO DAD! I hate the thrift store! It smells weird and I’ll never wear anything from there!” he screamed. I explained that our budget required we start looking there, and after that we would troll for sales, and… “But you OWE it to me since I’m your kid!” Equally amused and ticked off, I somewhat calmly replied, ”Son, it is my responsibility to make sure you don’t run around buck naked. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend my hard earned money on fashion jeans for you! If you want fancier clothes, then work and earn the money to buy them!” His reply made my blood boil, “NAW, that’s alright.” It was close, but I didn’t take the bait. “OK then, you won’t be getting any jeans.” He ran downstairs to his room, yelling out to the world what a horrible parent I was and how unfair he was treated…

The revered American Work ethic played a big part in my growing up. Solidly lower middle class, I never wanted for anything essential, but if my sister or I wanted more, we fully understood it was up to us to earn the extra cash. With my parents’ encouragement, I started working at an early age sweeping my dad’s service station floors, sweeping warehouse floors at my mother’s work. A whole lot of sweeping! In 6th grade I even sold bubble gum on the school playground until a teacher put a stop to that sweet deal.  Later were jobs as a busboy in a seafood restaurant, dishwasher in a dormitory, valet, catering server, file clerk, box office cashier… Wow, so many jobs! Doing odd jobs like these taught me the value of a dollar, and the pride of earning my own pocket money.

Times are somewhat different now. The job market is tough for young people like my children as many entry level jobs are filled by laid-off adults. Adding to this challenge is our relatively prosperous past when we could splurge a bit and buy extras for the kids. But those times are over. Our trim budget can’t cover it, and the kids have grown older. I have been reminded of the value of an earned dollar versus a “gimme.” And I see that being overly generous with the kids, and keeping them away from hard, dirty work may cause them long-term harm.

So despite the shortage of entry level job opportunities, my budding entrepreneurs do their best with small odd jobs like yard work, babysitting, computer repairs, etc. Did he get his jeans? Yup. I gave him $5 (the thrift store budget), then he waited ‘til they were on sale and paid the rest. With money he earned. Lesson learned.

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