Josh Has Many Wants
Personal Finance Economics K-2 Pocketwise copyright NCEE

Sitting in the car next to Mom, Josh dreams of all the things he can buy with all the money he now has. As he dreams, he hears Mom say that she needs to stop at the grocery store to buy some food.

Josh walks next to the grocery cart as Mom picks up bread, apples, a cucumber, milk and hamburger meat. Today she is spending money for food the family wants. Josh is very quiet because he is still thinking of all the things he wants to buy. He wants to go to the school carnival; he wants some baseball cards for his collection; he would like to go to the movies; but he really wants a pet hamster.

As he follows Mom down the grocery aisle, Josh sees his favorite candy bar on the shelf. He tells Mom, “I want a candy bar. May I have one?”

“Josh, I am buying food for our meal tonight. If you want the candy bar, you can use some of your money," says Mom.

Josh quickly decides. He picks up the candy bar he wants and walks up to the checkout counter, pulling a dollar out of his pocket. He tells the clerk, “My neighbor gave me money for my birthday. I want to buy this candy bar with some of the money.”

As the clerk hands Josh the change from his dollar, she says, “Enjoy the candy bar. Have you decided what to do with the rest of your money?”

“No,” says Josh, putting the change in his pocket, “but I’m having fun thinking about all the things I want to buy with the money. I want so many things.”

By the time Mom and Josh get home, he has eaten the candy bar. At the dinner table, Josh tells his Dad about his trip to the grocery store. He tells Dad about spending some of the birthday money to buy the candy bar. Dad asks, “Have you decided what to do with the rest of the money?”

Josh shakes his head no and says, “All day I’ve dreamed of ways to spend the money. I want to go to the carnival or a movie. I want some more baseball cards for my collection, but I really, really want a hamster.”

“Sounds to me like your money is burning a hole in your pocket!” exclaims Dad. Josh touches his pocket and looks puzzled. Josh’s Mom and Dad laugh. Dad explains, “I mean you want to spend your money NOW because you have so many wants. You wanted a candy bar. You want to go places, but it seems like a hamster is most important to you. You seem to want so many things, but a hamster—“says Dad. “What makes you want a hamster?”

“Well, Nicholas has one, and he is always talking about playing with Scamper. Scamper is the name of Nicholas’ hamster. He says that Scamper eats out of his hand. Scamper has fun running around in all the tubes in the cage, and Scamper even has a ball to run around the house in. Nicholas says hamsters have pockets in their cheeks. I have decided I want a hamster too.”

Dad smiles, “I know you do, Josh. You have wanted a hamster for a long time. Hamsters cost money, and that means you have to plan before you buy one. Hamsters are fun, but to have a hamster you must make plans to take care of it. You should find out what a hamster needs before you buy one. You should find out how much you would have to pay for a hamster, its cage, and its food. And, you should think about what you cannot have (that is, the trade-offs) once you decide on a hamster.

Josh looks at Mom, “Mom, may we go to a pet store tomorrow?”

“Yes, Josh.” “We will,” says Mom.

As Mom and Josh pull up in front of the pet store, Josh feels excited. He has learned about hamsters’ needs and what those needs will cost. When he walks up to the pet store, he sees a large picture of goldfish on the door. “Look Mom, goldfish. See, that word says S…..A….L….E. What does S…..A….L….E spell?” Josh asks.

“S…..A….L….E spells sale, Josh. The sign says ‘Goldfish on sale. Buy one and get one free,’” Mom explains.

Josh gets excited. “Gee, Mom, a goldfish might be fun,” he says.

“But Josh, I thought you told us last night that you wanted a hamster? Now this morning you see a sign that says SALE and you think you want goldfish. Are you sure about your decision, or has that sign changed your mind? You don’t have enough money to buy a hamster and a goldfish.”

“I know.” Josh replies sadly and opens the pet store door.

“Hello young man, I saw you looking a the Sale sign. Do you want to buy some goldfish today?” the sales clerk asks.

“Well,” Josh hesitates, “I came here to find out what a hamster costs. Now I don’t know what I want – a hamster or a gold fish. Making money choices can be difficult. My wants go on and on and on..”

It seems Josh must make a decision. He needs help. What do you think Josh should do? Does thinking about “trade-offs” help?