31 December 2009

An early lesson in personal finance

New Year's seems to be a much bigger deal than Christmas here in Armenia, and many people give New Year's gifts to one another. In December, little stands pop up everywhere to sell holiday lights, ornaments, and good luck trinkets for New Year: figurines, mini snow-globes, calendars, stuffed animals, candle holders, and so on. The vast majority of this merchandise is representative of the next sign in the Chinese zodiac, and it is especially common for the animal - this year, it's the tiger - to be shown with money, in the hopes that the item will bring its bearer good fortune in the new year. For example, here's a calendar I bought a couple weeks ago, not only because we needed a 2010 calendar, but also because I found the image rather amusing:

Last January, someone gave us a piggy bank - actually, it's a cow bank, since it was for the year of the bull - and every time we had a 10-dram coin (the Armenian equivalent of the penny), we gave it to Nathan to put in the bank. He enjoyed collecting and counting the coins, and when we discovered a few weeks ago that the bank was nearly full, we had to figure out what to do with the money. A couple days after Christmas, Nathan told me he wanted a police car...he had realized that even though he had so many toy cars, that was one he didn't have. We told him he would have to buy it with his own money, since he had received enough gifts already. So he and Jarred counted all the coins in his bank...the total was 2,900 dram (US$7.67)! We put the coins into a zip-lock bag, labeled it, and last night, Nathan proudly brought it to Mankan Toy Store at 24 Mashtots Avenue.

Amongst the crowd of holiday shoppers, little Nathan picked out his police car. A young, English-speaking store employee was nearby, and when she saw me pull the zip-lock bag out of my purse, she realized right away what was going on. "This is his money?" she asked, smiling broadly. She scooped up Nathan, took the money, and pushed her way through the crowd to the check-out counter. She explained the situation excitedly to the cashiers, and everyone seemed thoroughly charmed, not a bit annoyed at the prospect of having to count all those coins. They trusted the amount I wrote on the bag, so while one clerk happily counted Nathan's change, another gave him a little shopping bag, though he didn't want to use it, of course.

By the time we got home, it was very clear to us how proud Nathan was that he had bought the police car himself. We asked him questions to make sure he understood fully how the police car had come into his possession, and he replied without a doubt that he had purchased it with his own money. He played with it all evening, and even took it to bed! It just goes to show that even a 2 year-old can learn about the value of saving.

At home with his new toy, a wiser Nathan puts his change back into the bank, off to a good start in 2010!

Although I do not yet comprehend why Armenians so unquestioningly use the signs of Chinese zodiac, but do not follow the lunar calendar (anyone care to enlighten me?), I can certainly appreciate their association of the astrological signs with the idea of wealth. Wishing all our friends and readers a prosperous New Year -- happy saving!


Michele said...

What a touching experience for him; No, it's never to early to teach the value of saving! He looks quite proud of his accomplishment & hopefully it will remain a life-long lesson.
Love to all, Granma Shell

Mercedes said...

Excellent learning and a great start for Nathan! It wasn't just explained to him, he actually got to experience the benefit of savings first-hand, with more to put back in the bank. He will treasure the car that he bought himself.

Kudos to all of you - keep it up!