For a year and a half, my little sister, Talya, has been saving up to buy a laptop, it’s been her dream. She’s doing very well and already has over £200, not bad for an 11 and 3/4 year old! Last night we talked about which one she wanted to buy, yet having saved diligently, actually she didn’t know. Like most people the vagaries of what a 1500Mhz Celeron processor is, or the difference between RAM and the hard-drive are lost on her.
Don’t think I’m being harsh, but it’s actually quite important she does understand. In her life, this is by far and away the biggest consumer decision she’ll ever make, akin to an adult getting a mortgage. She’s had a focused, disciplined, admirable determination to save, and once she spends the money a bad decision will send all of that down the drain.
So I came up with a deal, “When you’re ready, I’ll send you a newspaper ad for a computer, and we’ll discuss it together. If you can explain to me what all the technical stuff is, and how it fits in with what you should be looking for, I’ll give you £50 towards the laptop.”
As Tal knows, I’m very strict. When I say ‘talk and explain’ this means she has to understand it and be able to explain properly in detail or there’s no cash being doled out – much tougher than a teacher, or our Dad, for example. So I gave her a warning; to hold off on her impulse to do a quick read on the web and call me the next day. She needs to learn properly and only have the test when she’s ready.
Thankfully the prospect of a huge £50 was very exciting, so she’s into the Deal, importantly giving me the chance to explain to her why I’m doing it. I told her “the most important thing people can learn about money or buying things, is to do some research and make a rational decision. The reason I want you to learn about the laptop, isn’t to learn about the technology in itself, but so you can learn how important it is to understand what you’re buying and how it works, and realise that if you make a mistake through a lack of info, you’re the only one who’ll pay, not the company you buy the laptop from.”
If the lesson works, £50 is very cheap!