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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Total Christmas Spending for 2008: $3.20

KB Toys: Out of BusinessI don't like KB Toys. There's one in my local mall, and whenever I would go in there with my daughter, she would want to play with everything. She's five, and that's what five-year-olds do. In other toy stores, kids play with everything, and the employees / managers don't care, which is the way it's supposed to be. In KB, however, my daughter would play with stuff, and within five minutes the manager would walk by and give me a stern look like, "hey, buy something you deadbeat! Your daughter needs to stop playing and start buying!" Needless to say, I never opened my wallet in that store. Even if that grumpy manager turned into Snow White, I doubt I would have ever spent money there: the prices at KB have never been competitive.

My daughter spent Christmas Day with her mother. When I called to wish her a merry Christmas, I promised that we would go shopping when I picked her up for her usual every-other-Saturday visit; I told her that she could pick out a present for herself. She was very pleased with my plan, and I was pleased about the prospect of taking advantage of after-Christmas sales.

So, earlier today, we visited the local mall and started window shopping. When we reached the KB Toy store, she tugged at my hand to signal that she wanted to go in; she also added, "Daddy, it's a going-out-of-business sale. Let's check it out!" I was surprised and delighted that she understood the significance of a going-out-of-business sale; could it be that she understood that a going-out-of-business sale meant that her raison d'etre -- toys -- could be obtained at a great price? Does she really understand value? I asked her, "why is a going-out-of-business sale a good thing?"

"Because, Daddy, they're going out of business," she replied in a very frank manner.

Oh well. I tried to explain why it was a good thing, but I don't think any of it registered. She was already locked into full toy shopping mode.

We browsed the isles a few times. Most of the store shelves looked like a tornado had hit them. There were plenty of employees around so there was really no excuse for the mess. Then again, how could I expect them to care when they all knew that KB was about to close its doors forever? Bottom line: I believe in professionalism, right up to the very end. If I was forced to go out of business, I would provide my clients or customers the best products or services until the last second of my business's existence.Noisy machine gun: $2.99

My daughter eventually ended up with two items in her clutches: a very cheesy replica of a star wars light saber ($2.99 after 50% off), and a plastic machine gun that makes lots of noise but doesn't fire anything (also $2.99 after 50% off.) I told her to choose one and she chose the gun (pictured.) I handed her some cash to pay the cashier (she really likes handling such transactions) and we were on our way.

Some people might think it strange to buy a toy gun for a five-year-old girl. But what does it matter? If that's what she wants, then why not? She likes playing with toy guns, but she also like playing with baby dolls and other "girly" toys. Her mother doesn't like her playing with toy guns, so I suggested to my daughter that she keep her new toy at Daddy's house, and that we keep the toy as our little secret.

My daughter has been asking for a Nintendo DS handheld gaming system for a long time, but it's too expensive considering that she would either break it, lose it or fall out of love with it in no time. I was seriously considering buying her one of those battery-powered cars that we sometimes see in the park. Too expensive for my current financial status, but I knew she wouldn't lose it or lose interest in it, and I'd be with her every time she played with it, so I was thinking it could be worth the (gulp) credit card purchase. I was also highly motivated by a very embarrassing and excruciatingly ignominious (for me anyway) episode from my daughter's life in which she chased a young boy -- a complete stranger -- who owned one of these cars (similar to the one pictured below) and was having a ball with it in a grassy field next to the jungle gym at our favorite park. My clueless daughter decided that it would be a good idea to run alongside this car and plead for the driver to stop so that she could join him in his fancy ride (it was a tiny Cadillac.)
battery-powered car for kids
He didn't stop.

It had been an easy, fun and sun-drenched fall day in the park until I had to chase my daughter down, pull her away from that bewitching situation and give her a lesson in dignity.

I will buy her a similar car as soon as the weather warms up. She's a good kid and she deserves it. Would Suze Orman approve? No way! If I was a guest on her show I'm certain my plan to buy my #1 girl a $250 car would be met with a resounding DENIED! But that's TV, and I live my life according to my own philosophies (and Suze has no kids, so how can I expect her to relate?) Yes, this recession has hit my business hard, but I'm not broke, and I have a lot of confidence in my strategy to increase my income during 2009. For me, striving for a picture-perfect financial profile is important, but it's not my top priority. Childhood years should be fun and full of happiness. Over the years, I've noticed that the well balanced, well adjusted adults I've come to come to know well all had one thing in common: a happy childhood. Does a $250, battery-powered car = childhood happiness? Of course not! But I know my daughter quite well, and I'm quite certain it's a gift that she would really enjoy. Besides, I like the idea of keeping her busy with something that I can easily keep my eye on (I'll buy one with loud, obnoxious colors) while I sit on a park bench and listen to Marketplace on my portable radio.

So, all in all, it was a good day. We spent the rest of the day at Dave & Busters playing skee ball, air hockey, pool and other games. I am glad I spent less than $5 on my daughter this Christmas. No, not because I'm stingy. It's because I was able to buy my daughter a present that made her happy, and her contentment had nothing to do with how much it cost. I will buy her that car when spring arrives, not because it's Christmas or her birthday. I'll buy it for no other reason than I like to see my daughter happy. That's a good enough reason, isn't it?

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