Money doesn’t grow on trees or how Luca is planning on making his first 100 Euros…

This is a post about money and teaching kids about money, spending, and saving. Yes, it’s one of those posts where I am trying to shine as the super parent who can (rationally and patiently) teach her kids about the benefits of saving and delayed gratification and avoiding such terrible things like greed and crazy consumerism (two major, major pet peeves of mine). Feel free to roll your eyes right now and mutter something like ‘good luck, Nicole’ or give me a compassionate pat on the back thinking something like ‘please tell me more about your [what is certain to be successful] methods.’

Honestly, I am not quite sure how to best tackle teaching our kids about money and I realize they are still quite young to have to think about this but on the other hand, Christmas is right around the corner and I know their loving grand-parents will leave no wish to be longed for (it’s a grand-parent’s right, after all, to spoil grand-kids) and if you’ve ever been to our home, you’ll know that our playroom is fully stocked with every type of toy imaginable.

Still, I feel that our kids should realize that toys, clothes, food, and virtually everything else in life costs money and that money doesn’t grow on trees and that’s why we send Daddy to go to work every day (side note: I also think Daddy appreciates his escape to work from the chaos of being at home with two preschoolers but that’s another story). I also think it’s important for our kids to learn that we should be very thankful for having money to spend on ourselves. John can vouch for a few failed attempts on my part trying to lecture patiently explain to the kids that not everyone lives as financially stable as we do (yes, I can see you rolling your eyes right here!).

Anyway, back to money and the past few months.

When we were in Italy in the spring, I bought the kids two coin purses in the shape of a cat (we named them Fridolino after a cat that we so named at our agriturismo farm stay). I thought we could treat these Fridolinos as their little piggy/cat banks for them to save a few Euros here and there and spend it on such treats like gelato or a desired toy. So, I gave them each one Euro and we started talking about money and currency (no worries, we just limited ourselves to the Euro for simplicity’s sake….I can only imagine the conversation when we have to explain that 1 Euro = 2,400 Mongolian Tughrik or that in the U.S., we have to pay with dollars and that American coins don’t have as much value as the ones we use here!). Jules had the natural response of a two-year old and started trying to eat the coins so we took that as a sign that she wasn’t quite ready yet to learn about money, interest rates, and stock options. 

But Luca took to it …. slowly. He began to study the various coins he came across  and started asking about prices and what things cost. He also made two successful purchases with the [few] Euros he had accumulated (every now and then, we would give the kids a few coins to put into their savings) and a new board game (Ravensburger “Wir spielen Einkaufen” / we are going shopping)  playfully taught him how to shop for groceries by staying on a budget (yes, a very German game!).

Learning about money....the board game kind of way!
Teaching tools: The Fridolino piggy/cat banks and the shopping game.

We weren’t pressing the money issue by any means but kept the conversation open especially after the kids began making their Christmas wish lists when Luca, again, wanted to know how much things cost.

Then, the other weekend in Salzburg, the kids asked for a little stuffed animal as a souvenir. Well, at first they wanted a big stuffed animal but when I told them that they cost 10 Euros each and that that was way too much, they settled on a smaller one that cost 5 Euros (this is how “Pinguini” and “Eulie” came to live with us).

The next weekend, we headed to the Vienna Zoo for and before we left for our outing, Luca asked if I could hold onto his Fridolino for him so that he could buy something in the gift store. He proudly told us he had saved 7 Euros and that he was going to buy something small. As we were leaving the zoo, we stopped at the strategically placed gift store right at the exit and Luca searched for something to buy.

What did he want? A little stuffed animal, of course, because he learned in Salzburg that they cost 5 Euros so in his little mind, they had to cost the same everywhere. We told him ahead of time that this might not be possible and that sometimes, things cost different prices at different stores but he was set in his plan.

Until we got to the gift store, that is, where – as to be expected – we found out that his desired stuffed animal (a stuffed cat) cost to astronomical price of 10 Euros.

And he had 7 Euros.

He was devastated when he realized he couldn’t afford the cat. Crying ensued. He tried to bargain with himself and talk himself into something smaller that he didn’t really want but could afford. We discouraged him from such a silly purchase since then he would not have any money left after said purchase where he only needed 3 more Euros to buy his cat if he held onto his money.

He contemplated.

He cried some more.

Did I mention he had just had his face painted as a panda since it was Panda Day? Let’s just say it didn’t look pretty (in fact, he began to look more and more like the Joker from Batman with the running face paint and loud yelling).

I felt terrible – you know, like the mean mother who just doesn’t offer to hand over the 3 missing Euros and instead insists on teaching some silly lesson about saving money and related things that began to make less and less sense as the wailing got louder.

Well – after much conflicting internal debate on my side, we left.


With a crying Luca who amazingly never thought to ask us to give him more money. On the way home, we praised him for saving his money and holding on until he had 3 more Euros to buy his cat and not spending it on something he didn’t really want to have.

We talked a lot. He cried a little more. He began to look more like a racoon with black face paint running all over his face but I was very proud of him.

Then, a few days later, Luca came home from preschool proudly showing me his drawings of the day. He usually comes back with a bunch of paintings that he proudly gives to me as a present (“it’s only for you Mama, you don’t have to share with Daddy”) but this time, it was a special type of art work.

He had worked in a price tag on the backside ….

Luca's "affordable" artwork
Luca’s “affordable” artwork

Yes, he is charging the bargain price of 100 Euros per piece of drawing!

Clever little guy!

I couldn’t stop laughing and when I inquired why he set his price so high, he causally said “well, it’s not like it’s 100,000 Euros.” Well, he has a point.

So lessons learned:

  • Stuffed animals are crazily priced at the Vienna Zoo
  • 7 Euros cannot buy everything
  • Luca might have inherited John’s business sense
  • Grandparents heads-up: you too could own a drawing by your grand-son for the very reasonable price of 100 Euros (that you might be able to bargain down to 3 Euros if you remind him of a stuffed cat!)

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