Because sometimes delayed gratification can be much more satisfying.

The Cheese Eater has been asking for a Nintendo DS forever, but the last thing we needed in our house was another video game. Besides, he already had a Leapster, an educational handheld, and there was no need for another.

(I’ll agree with my son’s argument that he had outgrown the Leapster, but that wasn’t enough to make me agree with the purchase of a new $129 system, not including all of the games and extras.)

But I felt for him. Telling him to put it on his Christmas list seemed a little silly, seeing that Christmas is months and months away. So I did what any parent in my situation would do: I told him that if he saved the money himself, he could buy his very own DS.

Being fully aware that it would take a 7-year-old forever to save that kind of money, I made a deal with him. Whatever he saved, I would match the amount. We sat down and figured out what it would all cost (the system plus a game or two.) I ended up telling him that–even though it was way under the total amount–if he saved $50, Mommy and Daddy would pay for the rest.

Because here’s the deal. It wasn’t about the amount of money he was saving. The lesson I was trying to teach my son was about instant gratification. We can’t always have what we want the exact moment that we want it. Sometimes we have to wait and save, even if it takes a very long time.

We upped his allowance by a $1, bringing it to $4 a week. I’ve struggled a little with the whole allowance issue. Do you give your kids an allowance simply because they are a part of the family or do they have to earn it through chores and whatnot? We aren’t big sticklers on chores, the boys still being so young, but I told the Cheese that if he didn’t keep up with his responsibilities there would be no allowance.

Long story short, over the past several months, he saved $40 and I knew that the DS wasn’t far away. Then I got a savings account statement in the mail that comes once a quarter.

{Sidenote: In kindergarten, there was a program through the school for the kids to have a savings account through a local bank. We would give him a few bucks each week that he would put into the account. It was supposed to be a great teachable moment about saving money, and I’m sure for older students that can learn how to keep a ledger it is a good one, but for our son it didn’t amount to much.}

So he’s had $60 just sitting in this account. It wasn’t earning any interest so we had stopped putting money into it. Looking at the statement, I realized that he had saved enough money for his beloved DS without really knowing it.

I showed it to him. I reminded him that that was money that he had saved. I then had him add 60 and 40. You’ve never seen a smile so big as when he realized that he had saved $100.

“Does this mean…do I get to…?” He could hardly get the words out he was so excited.

After a quick trip to the bank to withdraw his money, we headed out to buy his DS. His body vibrated as he picked out the color that he wanted and the games he wanted to buy.

The morning after he bought it, he was hovering over my bed at 6:54 asking if he could play with it. I quickly realized that we would have to make some rules about the DS. So now, for every 30 minutes that he reads he gets 30 minutes on the DS. For every 30 minutes he’s outside playing, he gets 30 minutes on the DS. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to be working.

But the financial lesson didn’t end there. Now he’s back to saving. Who knew those damn DS games were so expensive!

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