I’m the son of a peddler,  and I grew up impoverished. I didn’t know I was poor, though, because my mom managed to make due on dad’s meager earnings and provide us with everything we needed as kids. My own income as a pediatrician and professor is heartier than dad’s was, but so are our expenses. So we are  very, very careful.

Our kids grew up respecting the value of money and knowing how many different priorities need to be met in the life of a family. We would remind them how many boxes of apples Grandpa Max had to sell to pay for school clothes for us when we were little. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my college senior daughter told me she was stuck at Stella’s. Stella’s is a quaint, Euro-style cafe just off campus where students hang out, study, and Facebook (I believe that Facebook is both a noun and a verb, right?). On a day when she needed to get away from distractions and work on her senior thesis, our little girl took her laptop to Stella’s where, for $1/day, you can get unlimited internet access and nurse a chai for hours.

Accidently, my otherwise tech-savvy child clicked the “5 days for $5” button instead of the “1day for $1” button. She freaked. Well, semi-freaked. “Five dollars is a lot of money! I would never have paid that much on purpose!” she told us from Stella’s, where she is now permanently encamped until “17:54:38, 2/11/12,” as her digital receipt reads.

“Go home, Sweetie – you don’t have to stay there the whole time. Work at home, you have internet at your house. Make dinner, take a shower.”

“That’s not the point, Dad. I paid for it, I should use it. Otherwise it’s a complete waste!” I’ll call when I get home on Saturday.”

I don’t really think Stella’s will let her sleep there till Saturday, but if they did, she might. Actually, she probably wouldn’t sleep for fear of wasting paid internet minutes. In the big scheme of things, $5 is a just a drop in the college expenses bucket. Not so much a bucket, really, as a sinkhole. But it’s a good thing when your kids worry about all the little drops that fill the bucket.

It means they were listening.

How are you teaching your kids to be dollar-wise? Share your tips in the space below. If the box isn’t there, click on the title of this post and the comments box will magically appear.

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