Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Break: The Economics of Fun

Have you ever let your kids plan a vacation?

We spent 3 nights in Branson over spring break.  We always do a short trip for spring break…St. Louis, Dallas…last year we dug for diamonds in Murfreesboro...somewhere within a few hours drive.

This is the first time in 4 years that we do NOT have season passes to Silver Dollar City.  So we decided to head to Branson and try some new things that we haven’t gotten to do because we usually spend most of our time at SDC.

However, this trip was different than any other trip we have ever taken…because 4 kids planned the itinerary!

I sold a bunch of old baby gear and kids clothes in the Rhea Lana’s consignment sale, and made a whopping $564.30!  So this little chunk of change became our vacation money…and I handed it over to the kids!

When they saw that stack of cash, you would have thought they had won the lottery!  Abbott asked if it was enough to buy a car.  Uh…no.  Our new van cost 80 times this amount.  You can see why we need the economics lesson!  Still, when you’re 9, $500 is a fortune.  And that fortune should buy you any thing you want, right?

The hotel and gas were paid for, but all food and fun had to come out of “their money”.  There were only three rules.  1.  They had to buy lunch and dinner each day (the hotel had a free breakfast) 2. All decisions were majority rule.  3. Whatever money was leftover at the end of the trip, they got to split 4 ways and keep.

For Family Home Evening we brainstormed all of the wonderful things we would like to do in Branson.  Everyone wanted to do the Dixie Stampede.  We went there a few years ago and loved it!  Everybody tossed out suggestions, and then mom put a price tag next to each activity of what it would cost for our family of 6.  Dixie Stampede: $276.  Hiking: free.  You get the idea. 

This was exactly the wake-up call we were hoping for.  “Dixie Stampede would cost HALF of our money!” say the kids.  “Yes, it would” says mom and dad.  “Well, there is no way we’re doing THAT” say the kids.  “It’s your choice” say mom and dad.

So the Dixie Stampede was crossed off the list in favor of more economical options.  

They looked over all of the activities and prices and decided which things were “must-do”, and which things they could do with out.  Can I just say how AMAZING it was to see their little frugal minds when they knew they could keep some of this glorious cash if they budgeted wisely?  Yeah…it was great.

And I am pleased to announce, upon completion of the vacation, that they all compromised, negotiated, and got along great!  They would try to talk one another out of unwise purchases, and put their heads together to make choices.  For example, Aiden wanted to go to McDonald’s for breakfast, and the crew talked him into sticking with the free breakfast at the hotel.

So I thought I would post our kid-planned vacation itinerary so you could see how they chose to spend those precious pennies.

Dinner- McDonald’s $19

Breakfast- Free
Swim at the hotel- Free
Watch movie in hotel room- Free
Lunch @ Cracker Barrel (with tip...there's a good lesson!)- $42
Fish Hatchery- $3.50 for fish food

Hike along the lake- Free

Anna was tired of walking so her sweet bro offered a piggy back
Sonic Drinks- $5.50
The Track (Go Karts, Bumper Boats, Arcade Games)- $85

Dinner @ Fudruckers (with milkshakes!) $41
Toys @ Walmart (Everybody got a $10 limit)- $37

Breakfast- Free
Swim at the hotel- Free
Lunch @ Taco Bell $25
Play with new toys in the room/hang out- Free
Dinner @ Sonic- $20
Hamner Barber Magic/Comedy/Ventrriloquism Show- $88 (after coupon- another good lesson!)
Hamner and Barber
Cotton Candy and Popcorn at Hamner Barber- $10
Souvenier googly eyes at Hamner Barber X 4- $12
Krispy Kreme donuts (for the morning)- $9

Breakfast- Free
Shopping- Mom Paid :)
Lunch @ Pizza Buffet- $40 with tip
Machines at pizza place- $1 in quarters
The Track (again)- $20 (half price credits this time- yay!)

Drinks on the way home- $3

I am beyond thrilled with how successful our little experiment was.  We did not hear “pleeeease”, or “why can’t we?”, or “I want this” at all the entire trip.  However, we did dish it out a bit.  At Cracker Barrel, Aaron asked them to buy him an electronic spider and I begged for a ceramic Easter bunny.  They were a little disgusted with us :)  The look of “seriously?” on Abbott’s face was priceless!  We didn’t leave with the spider or the bunny, but I’m pretty sure we made our point.

On the way home I informed them that they had $103.84 left over to split.  Then I asked them if they wanted to stop for ice cream.  Ever hear four kids shout “NO!” to ice cream at the same time?

I think frugality is one of the most important life lessons we can teach our children, and this vacation definitely went a long way toward teaching them the whole “money doesn’t grow on trees” thing.  We will definitely be doing this again, and I think next time I will make them pay for gas.  The fact that gas costs a fortune is a good life lesson as well, and I think it would be good to have them budget enough to get home.  When they’re older we may even let them plan the whole trip, destination and everything.  However, mom will always have veto power.
Divvying up the cash!