Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fun Card

As life chugs forward, I get caught up in the daily movement of things and forget about what really excites me...writing...writing about Fun Dollars. Instead of documenting my journey, I have been living it, practicing it, and making it better. Constant evaluation of what works, and what doesn't; changing or discarding what doesn't work.

What wasn't working about Fun Dollars after we moved to a more urban setting: Cash. I hated carrying around my Fun Dollars in cash after we moved to the city. I discovered with all the options for buying I could possibly imagine, I had a hard time exercising restraint when purchasing. What was to stop me from getting pizza and ice cream at the Costco food court every time we went grocery shopping? Nothing but my own will power. Now take that same restraint and apply it throughout the city many times a day. I just couldn't do it. I knew I needed more accountability to my Fun Spending than blogging about it, or looking back at receipts before they go in the file.

For the first few months in 2016, I dispatched with carrying cash, and made extraneous purchases only sparingly. Corey was busy with a work transition, and we agreed that once he was six months in with his new career, we could revisit Fun Dollar ideas. Until that time we were both just on the honor system, and very restricted, with our personal Fun Spending.

As summer approached, school was letting out for Carrick, and Corey was getting into the swing with his burgeoning new career. One day went to the bank for some business and came home with a "Fun Card". Well, he didn't call it a Fun Card, I did, because that's what we were using it for. We had talked about what to do with Carrick and allowance, and a reloadable debit card seemed to fit our need. We diverted from our plan with Carrick over the course of the summer (that's a whole other blog post), and ended up using the reloadable debit card as my Fun Dollars for doing summer things with the kids.

Now that I had nine months of city-exploring under my belt and a new, more accountable system of Fun Dollars, I quickly set to work with summer plans for the kids and me. While Corey was at work everyday, we went to parks, on hikes and bike rides, and swimming. All of them were free activities costing zero Fun Dollars. I would take the kids somewhere fun, and free, then we might enjoy a treat afterwards, using our Fun Card. We made trips to Dollar Tree and Target for art and craft supplies, buying them with the Fun Card. We made trips to Goodwill for cheap, new toys. We built up a nice stash of creativity-inducing supplies this summer and the kids were involved!

They learned that we only get to load the card up with a certain amount of money. They learned that once it is all spent, it's gone until the next reload time. Little by little, the kids began to understand that they could make purchasing decisions and see the effect of a well thought-out buying decision. Lily was obsessed with glue all summer long. She learned that getting a package of glue sticks at the Dollar Tree meant that she could stick anything onto her "Masterpieces". She learned that having glue sticks, instead of yet another doll or necklace that would get lost or broken, she could enjoy it over and over again, each time a reminder of the buying decision she made.

Carrick learned the value of "being picky". He learned that if he didn't find exactly what he was looking for, there would always be another store to search. Carrick was looking for goggles this summer and I told him that would be a great thing for us to "hunt for" and buy with the Fun Card. (Sure I could hop on amazon, but that's not what I wanted my kids to learn.) After going to several stores, he finally found goggles that were the right shape, size, color (and price). He waited until he found exactly what he wanted and didn't settle. He knew the funds would be there. He knew we would go to more than one store (not all in the same day, mind you), and he knew that at one of those places, his perfect goggles would be waiting for him. The most important part was that he knew that when he DID find his perfect goggles, mom wouldn't tell him "No".

I took "No" out of the shopping experience for my kids. It's now called "The Fun Card is empty", or "Is it on the wish list?" or "We already used our Fun Card today, we will have to get it on a different day." All three are "No" answers, but instead of just shutting them down, they are now encouraged to think back on their spending, their wants, and remember what they already have.

Having the Fun Card allowed my kids to feel more connected and empowered with the consumer experience. They no longer whine when they don't get what they want at most stores. (Lily is still a work in progress, I won't lie...but it's much better than it used to be). They don't beg me at home for things they wish they had. We simply put their wishes on the wish list. We bring the list with us and keep our eyes open when we are out and about. Maybe we find something, maybe we don't. Either way, my kids can handle the disappointment. (Well, except for that one time Lily didn't find a pink glitter unicorn at Goodwill...she cried all the way out of the store...and fell asleep on the ride home, surprise, surprise.)

Also, I would like to mention that still treat myself a little with the Fun Card. I used it for a pedicure this summer. I also used it for chocolate once in a while, or the occasional Starbucks. Let's be real, I didn't totally deny myself some spending pleasures. I was "very picky" as Carrick would say.

Fall Decorations I bought with the Fun Card at Dollar Tree.
The funny thing about using this Fun Card system now is that with 50% LESS money than my old Fun Dollars amount, and the fact that I am spreading that amount over three people (me and the kids) I am somehow making it last just as long, and enjoyed 100% more. My guess is because I enjoy watching my kids learn about Fun Dollars. We don't need to spend a lot to get a lot out of our spending. I love watching my kids learn about their own spending habits. I enjoy seeing them develop discernment about their purchases. I smile as I watch them discover the effect of their decisions. To me, it is priceless.