Jon at Money Smart Guides did a post about his first money memories. It got me thinking about my own childhood money lessons.
My first money memory is a mayonnaise jar.
Mom had cleaned one out, cut a slit in the lid and put it on top of her dresser. Every night, any pennies got put in the jar. (She also had a small dish for dimes and nickels, plus the Mr. Nest Egg arcade fund.)
Each time the jar was full, we’d roll the pennies in sleeves from the bank. Which I found fun for some reason. I was a weird kid.
Whenever we’d go to the bank to deposit the rolls, I marveled at how a couple of cents at a time can eventually mean.
Yes we “can”
Mom took me on walks when the sidewalks were even kinda-sorta clear. We’d take a plastic bag and pick up cans lying on the ground. Those plus Mom’s own soda consumption meant we’d have a couple full plastic bags after two or three weeks.
We’d load up the cans and our old newspapers and drive to the recycling center. The deal was that I could keep whatever we made. Sometimes that was $3; other times it was $6 or $7. Which is a huge for a kid.
I was always amazed that all those light aluminum cans added up to real money — just like the pennies.
Baby Hel… I mean, Heather
In 1987, a doll came out called Baby Heather.
Her eyes blinked on their own. She’d turn to look at you when you spoke to her. Her mouth even moved when she talked — and she could say 350 things.
But, and here’s where things got interesting, she talked at different age levels.She had three — count ’em, three — modes: six months, one year and two years. She was a marvel!
She was also $100. (The equivalent of $215 today.) So there was no way my mom was going to just buy her for me. Instead, I had to save half.
Even then I knew it was fair, but it took months and months to save that much. Approximately “forever” in kid years.
We took a trip to California for Mom’s work, and I had just finally saved up what I needed. Handy, since for some reason, Heather wasn’t available in Anchorage.
I demanded, inasmuch as I ever did, that Toys R Us be the first stop the next morning. My mom acquiesced, probably with a sigh (I know I would’ve sighed), and by the next afternoon I was rescuing Heather from her cardboard prison.
Mom made sure I understood how to work the doll, then she left to do some interviews.
It was very exciting except… hmm… the machine in her back made it uncomfortable to hug her.
But no matter because three modes! Except, well, the six-month mode was mainly eating and crying with a little burbling thrown in. And I had mainly been interested in the baby stage.
But hey, one- and two-year modes it is. But it’s amazing how quickly a randomized set of messages start to repeat.
Within a couple of hours, I was bored.
So I turned on the TV. I accidentally found a Chucky movie which, since Mom wasn’t around, I watched for a few minutes. Then I decided to play with the doll again.
Which is when it happened.
There must have been a glitch because Heather’s voice came out distorted. Then she started switching between modes on her own.
The only logical conclusion was that the doll was possessed.
I mean, I was nine, so I knew she wasn’t actually possessed. But I went ahead and put her in the corner furthest from me and piled some pillows on her. Ya know, just to be safe.
Then I found the happiest, blandest show I could and counted the minutes til Mom got back. I was half sure that she’d come back to my body and a perfectly innocent-looking, burbling Heather doll. Because you never know, people!
That entire time, I alternated between scared and furious.
I’d spent so long saving for her. Feeling smug when my friends spent their money because they wouldn’t get a Baby Heather doll. I knew that my months of saving would pay off in innumerable hours of fun.
Instead, it turned out that I’d paid for the sizzle rather than the (potentially possessed) steak.
It was an important lesson. From then on, I really thought purchases through. Would I enjoy the item, or would it be Baby Heather (sans demon) all over again?
Which may be the best, if scariest, money lesson ever.
What money lessons did you learn in childhood?