Monday, September 20, 2010

Breaking The PIGGY Bank

Few things in life have made me feel like an utter and total failure as last week's dilemma.  I know many people are feeling the sting of the GREAT RECESSION, and my family is definitely feeling it.  My bank account often involves a delicate balance and I have to be extremely creative to make it by each month, but within the last year or so I am finding myself teetering on the terrifying edge of being BROKE nearly all the time.

Last week, with virtually nothing left in my checking account and having used all of my savings (which wasn't much to begin with) to pay for household expenses, I had to make a decision: Pay for groceries on my credit card or borrow money from my three year old daughter Hannah's piggy bank.  Well I chose to borrow $100 dollars for groceries and managed to spend a meager $57 on groceries.  I spent $20 on gas and am saving the rest for gas money to make it to the next paycheck.

I feel bad about taking money from her bank, especially considering it was my idea to stow away for her any birthday money she gets from family and friends to be used for college.  I wonder just how many moms like me are facing the same dilemma these days.  I have excellent credit and the thought of paying 14% interest on groceries that will be consumed long before next week when the dilemma starts again, makes me feel ill.  Would other women rather pay back their child or their credit card company?
What helped make me feel ok about it was that it is my job as her mother to make sure she is fed and well cared for today.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring; only that we must do whatever we can today to ensure that it will be there waiting for us when we come to it.  I remember as a child, having a piggy bank started by my grandmother.  She would put a little money in it every week for me.  One day my mother asked me if I wanted to go to the Catskill Game Farm (an amazing petting zoo that has since closed).  Of course I said yes, but she said that we could only afford to go if we used the money in my piggy bank.  I agreed and off we went.

When my grandmother found out, she was extremely upset.  The money was supposed to be for me, she explained.  But it was; it was my choice to use the money to go to the zoo.  Looking back I can totally see both sides of the coin (pun intended).  I see how you want to save for your child's future, but you also need to remember that getting to that future always has an associated cost.  Whether its for an adventure with your family or just groceries, sometimes we have to stand together as a family.  Maybe its ok to give your child a choice and with that choice, an understanding that things cost money.  My mother had taught me that things are not free and that choosing to spend money on one thing means that you are choosing not to have money to spend on other things.

This morning my daughter begged me for a donut as we drove to my mother's house (Mimi's).  I told her no, repeatedly but the pleading continued.  When we got to Mimi's house she looked me in the eye and said, "Mommy why can't I have a donut?"  So I looked her in the eye with love and sadly a little shame and explained that donuts cost money and mommy doesn't have money for donuts right now.  She said to me in her sweet innocent voice, "That's ok mommy, I have some at home I can give you."  My heart melted. 

She's really doesn't understand she has a piggy bank with real money that is "hers."  In all likelihood she is talking about loose change that she finds around the house and we let her keep.  But hearing that made me believe that if she was old enough to make the choice to help her family, she totally would.  For that, I am the wealthiest person on earth.

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