When I was a kid, I loved money. Who am I kidding? It’s not like I hate it now. I hoarded so much cash as a child, I could have been the star of an A&E episode. Get $5 for a birthday? Time for my dad to pay out allowance? Ca-ching! I popped those sweet bills straight on top of the pile I kept hidden in my bedroom.
While most kids my age took their fancy $1 bills to the candy shop and blew their single-dollar wad on 100 Swedish Fish or something like that, I sat on my money waiting to spend it on a truly special occasion. Like what? I had no idea, but I always had faith that I would know when the time was right. Apparently obtaining a Cabbage Patch Kid wasn’t special enough – I didn’t offer a red cent for my red-headed doll, despite throwing god knows how many panick-induced tantrums to get her.
A day didn’t pass where I wasn’t actively hustling to make an extra buck. I would take any money I had at the end of the day and add the coins to my piggy bank. And add the dollar bills to my secret stash. I’d lock my bedroom door, make sure my brother and/or parents weren’t hiding under my bed to find out the location of my hiding spot, take out the roll of money, and count it. Every. Single. Night. I liked the security of knowing I had more than $100 to fall back on, should any childhood emergencies arise.
Every day of the school week, my mom and dad gave me some money to buy lunch. In those days, $2.25 got a kid a carton of milk, a sandwich and a bag of Herr’s Sour Cream N’ Onion chips. I loved those chips. But I loved money more. Four days out of the week, I’d sock away the extra cash I earned by forgoing the chips and Ca-chink! I popped those two quarters into my increasingly heavy piggy bank.
In 1985, kids beat each other up over vigorously traded one another Garbage Pail Kids cards. Those cards were no joke – talk about a massive craze. Every kid wanted every card. But some of those characters were rare gems, hiding in a sealed pack of cards at the store. I’m not going to lie – I would have probably busted into my life savings to buy a pack of Garbage Pail cards if it came down to it. But fortunately for me, my dad added the disgusting and vulgar trading card renderings of the Cabbage Patch doll he’d just spent inordinate amounts of time and money obtaining to the list of things he spoiled me with.
I had loads of Garbage Pail Kids cards. But there were an elusive few that I HAD. TO. HAVE. How does any of this relate to making money? There were some kids at school whose parents forbade them from owning the coolest trading cards ever known to kid-ness. And our grade school actually banned them, which made them that much more in-demand. So, I took my obsession with buying new packs of the trading cards and added other kids’ desperation to the mix. I’d open the pack my dad bought me, take any of the cards that I needed and then sell the others at an inflated rate to my classmates. There were a lot of kids going without lunches those days. Ca-ching, ca-ching! This money-making venture only lasted a few days; my dad found out what I was doing and shut the entire operation down immediately. I remember him being pretty pissed when he found me going through the cards, crouched on the floor in the narrow space between my bed and the wall. I might as well have been wearing one of those green, plastic poker visors.
I bounced back quickly; I started pet-sitting for neighbors to make cash. My Nan owned a bar and occasionally brought me big ol’ sacks of quarters from her Pinball machines. My dad gave me a weekly allowance of $5 per week to do my chores. Even as a kid, my love of money was eclipsed by my disdain for housekeeping. I paid my mom $2.50 a week to do my chores for me. So basically, I made $2.50 a week for doing nothing. This arrangement only lasted for a few months. I’m sure my mom and dad both knew what I was up to. But my mom stayed at home all day while my brother and I were in school, and maybe she was looking for something to do. Who knows?
I saved and saved and saved, working odd jobs in the neighborhood and anticipating birthday cards from far away, practically unknown, relatives. My Pop Pop always aimed to impress on birthdays and usually came up big with a brand new, stiff $20 bill.
When I was about ten years old, my family took our second “real” vacation, including an airplane ride and everything. We packed our bags and flew to sunny Bermuda. That special occasion had arrived. In my carry-on bag, I had $300 rolled up, about one third of my net worth. $300 exactly, and nobody in my family knew I had brought it. Our hotel – a hotel! I had never stayed in one before – featured a gift shop, and I planned to buy something that would forever remind me of my first non-DisneyWorld vacation.
Except, because I had told nobody in my family about the cash, nobody told me about the safe in the room. I hid the money when we went to the beach. When we came back, half of it was gone. Somebody stole some of my money. I knew immediately, because like Golum, I was obsessed with The Precious, and I made counting my cash the first order of business after getting back from the beach. Like any good Irish person, I bit my lip, swallowed my devastation, said nothing and went on with the rest of the vacation. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
When we got back from vacation, I asked my dad about getting a bank account and if he could teach me about investing in stocks. I read The Westing Game during our vacation and was in the midst of an “I’m going to be like Turtle” phase.
I often wonder where my exploitative entrepreneurial spirit drifted off to (and where it came from in the first place). I guess I should also wonder where my laser focus on saving went. I’m much more of an instant gratification girl now. I keep my money in banks these days, or in investments. It’s not nearly as fun as making it rain or holding a big roll of cash money, but it’s probably way more responsible and – for my husband, anyway – far less creepy than taking money out of the freezer every night to count it.