Since he was about six, he's always paid tithing and put 10% into savings and 10% into his mission fund. He's always been very good with his money and very coachable.
The other day he had $1.50. We were going to Wal-Mart and he wanted to buy a carrying case for an old cell phone that we gave him (doesn't work, he just thinks it's cool). We never dictate how he spends his money -- he knows it's always his choice.
But I thought it was time for a lesson in delayed gratification. I knew what would happen to the carrying case -- it would get discarded in a couple of days, lost in piles of unvalued toys.
So Alex and I sat down and listed all of the things he would like to buy. The list included such things as Transformers, a machete, Nintendo DS games, and an iPod. I asked what he wanted most on the list, and he responded, "An iPod."
So issued a challenge to him to set a goal to purchase an iPod and to not spend any money on anything else until he bought his iPod. He committed.
Setting the Goal
So we sat down and went through the whole goal-setting process. After making our calculations and mapping out a plan, we printed out the following page and taped it to his wall:
"I will buy an iPod Nano by May 20th, 2009.
"In order to do this, I need to earn $95.00. I have 23 earning days from today, which means that I must make at least $4.13 per day.
"I commit to earning five dollars every day except Sundays. I commit to paying 10% of everything I earn to tithing, 10% to savings, and 10% to my mission fund. I commit to saving every other dollar I earn. I will not spend any money on anything else until I buy my iPod.
"Ways I Can Earn Money: Mow Lawns, Wash Windows, Wash Cars, House Chores, Babysitting, Sell Candy, Walk Dogs, Recycle"
He reads it out loud twice a day. After reading it, he spends a few minutes visualizing accomplishing his goal, holding his iPod, feeling the headphones in his ears, etc.
The Rubber Hits the Road
Yesterday was his first official earning day. We told him we'd pay him $5 to mow our lawn, front and back.
I want him to learn how to mow perfectly so I don't have to manage the process and to ensure he'll do a good job on other people's lawns. So the deal is that for everything he misses that I have to point out, $.50 is subtracted from the total price. As I expected, there were so many missed spots that he lost the entire amount. But it was good practice and he's getting better.
By this time it was 4:30 in the afternoon, and he only had until 5:30 before dinner and Family Night. Undeterred, he went knocking doors. I had helped him create a door approach: "Hi, I'm Alex Fish and I would love to mow your lawn for $5. I have my own lawn mower, and if I don't do a good job you don't owe me anything. Can I mow your lawn?"
Sure enough, he was able to get work from two neighbors. They didn't need their lawns mowed, but they had him sweep their driveways and sidewalks. Would you believe it? The kid earned a whopping $10.30 his very first earning day.
As he was mowing our lawn, four of his friends came to the house and begged him to play. Wanting him to understand the choice, I explained that for every day he missed, it added $5 to the next day, so if he missed today, tomorrow he would have to earn $10 to make up for it, etc.
You could see how torn he was. He wanted to play with his friends so badly, but he chose to stick with it. He's learning that commitment entails sacrifice.
Then, as we were getting ready for bed, he came to me and said, "I get so scared to knock on doors and say what you taught me to say. But when I get scared I just think of my commitment and it helps me to just do it."
Like I said, the kid is amazing.