Today my 12-year-old surprised me. She and my four-year-old finally found something that they both enjoy and my oldest decided she would run with it. 

She asked me to take her and her sister to the store so she could buy them some particular toys to play with together.

I did. I was so proud of her for spending her own money to make this happen, to share this bonding experience with her little sister. Being so far apart in age, they have very little in common, and this made me so happy.

Her sister was elated to have this much attention from her big sister and they excitedly opened their toys sharing smiles and laughs.

It was a beautiful, amazing, and fun time. I wouldn’t give up that experience for the world.

A couple of hours later, though, it hit my oldest that she had impulsively just spent more money than she had intended to on “junk,” and she suddenly regretted her decision. She was in tears – disappointed in the choices she had made.

I sat next to her and brushed her hair from her face, and then I shared with her what I wish someone would’ve shared with me a long time ago: When you spend money, you’re not always buying “things,” sometimes you’re buying an experience.

When you take your kids to an amusement park, you’re not buying the rides; you’re buying the opportunity to see their smiles and hear their squeals of glee. When you buy ingredients to make your family meals, you’re not buying food; you’re buying the opportunity to supply your family with nutrition. When you buy gifts, toys, and clothes, you’re not buying gifts, toys, and clothes; you’re spending your hard-earned money on the honor of providing for your children, your family, and your friends.

I’m not suggesting you spend your money all willy-nilly. As I reminded my daughter, she does not have any monetary responsibilities and was not saving up for anything special. Add that to the fact that, because of her age, she often receives money as gifts, there was no reason not to spend her money like that. I told her that what she did today, the experience that we shared, to me, was worth three times what she had spent.

Maybe I’ve been too money-conscious in front of her. Most definitely the dollar doesn’t seem to go very far these days and I’ve certainly said aloud, “Well, that’s really expensive,” on an occasion – or 15 occasions. 

This made me realize that I need to be more aware of how I talk about spending money. The importance my daughter was placing on money was sucking the positivity out of the experience.  I can only imagine how many times I’ve done that. I don’t want to imagine how many times I’ve done that. 

It must be difficult for those around me to enjoy whatever it is we’re doing/buying thanks to the tension in my face caused by my focus on spending that money. How often have I placed value on exactly the wrong thing?

Again, let me reiterate, I am not suggesting that we all throw caution to the wind and spend, spend, spend. What I am saying is that once our bills are paid, our obligations are met, our charity is given (if we choose to do so in a monetary manner), then it’s perfectly acceptable to spend money to enjoy our lives. 

I believe very little in this life is free (even to play board games as a family, you first have to purchase the board game), and if spending money on something brings us happiness, even in this economy, then let’s do it.