The Two Dollar Cookie
When I was seven or eight years old, and my brother was five or six, we were in the mall with my dad one day. We walked by the Great American Cookie Co. kiosk, and like any good kid instantly wanted a cookie.
Dad said we could each pick out a cookie, which let’s face it, makes for a pretty exciting day.
We each picked out our cookie and this is the conversation that followed:
Nice cashier lady: four dollars, please
My dad: oh no, we just want the two cookies, not two dozen
Nice cashier lady: yes, sir, that’ll be four dollars
My dad then laughs out loud for several seconds and hands the lady four dollars.
People. This was the mid-nineties. Two dollars for a cookie was ridiculous. It wasn’t even a boujee boutique specialty bakery with all vegan no sugar organic hand-picked grass-fed etc. etc. fancy things. It was the Great American Cookie Co. in the middle of the mall in suburban-town USA.
The story of the two-dollar cookies has been retold and laughed about in our family for years.
Yea yea yea, why exactly am I telling you this? It’s not that funny…
How Do You Learn About Money?
When I think about how I learned about money, this is definitely a story that comes to mind. I believe it’s a good example of how my parents taught my brother and me about money.
I can’t tell you the exact conversation that Dad had with us as we were eating our Ferrari cookies that day, but I can tell you we had one, and it stuck with both of us.
I can also tell you that we did not get cookies from the Great American Cookie Co. again. Or at least not often. We ate plenty of cookies, don’t get me wrong. But we did not eat Ferrari cookies.
My parents have been happily divorced for over 25 years. They both are wonderful loving parents and co-parented brilliantly, to be honest. However, they were still not married since before I can remember.
It was not always easy and not the white picket fence family situation. But, my mom and dad both taught us how to be fiscally responsible when we were young.
I know that happened because my brother and I are both fiscally responsible, fairly frugal people. We have similar money habits and beliefs.
The reason I bring up my parents’ divorce is not so you’ll feel sorry for me (please, don’t).
I bring it up because two completely separate households obviously cost much more than just one. They were both forced to be good with money whether they wanted to be or not so all the bills got paid and we could play lacrosse and be on the swim team.
Teach By Example
When I try to figure out how my parents taught us about money I think a large part of it was by example. We always had what we needed, and we were able to play sports and things like that growing up, but there wasn’t a massive amount of cash that we didn’t know what to do with, ya know?
We definitely did not shop at Abercrombie & Fitch.
My parents budgeted and were frugal and paid attention close attention to spending and saving. We had conversations about money in normal day to day life. We talked about how some things were more expensive than others, and things like that.
Both of my parents were very open and honest about money and finances and everything that goes along with it.
My parents, like most good parents, never missed an opportunity to convince their kids something that’s actually mundane and tedious was really a super fun game.
For example: like every dad of the nineties, mine had a giant change collection. It was in a drawer in his dresser most normal people probably would have used for socks.
He got the coin wrappers from the bank and convinced Brother and me that rolling up all of his coins was pretty much the best thing ever. Then we’d go to the bank and deposit the loot.
During the process, we learned about the different coins, how much they were worth, how many go per roll, how much a roll is worth, blah blah blah. All the things. Money lesson and math lesson rolled up into one. (ha, see what I did there?)
We also played a lot of Monopoly. But, Dad always took it a step further. He put an emphasis on the money part, we took turns being the banker and learned about taking risks or playing it safe.
These are just a few that come to mind; I’m quite sure there are plenty I’m forgetting and even more I didn’t even realize were happening.
My Own Two Dollar Cookie
When Chris and I were stationed in Hawaii, before we were married, we had our own $2 cookie experience.
Bam! And just like that, I was an adult (in my late 20s).
We had some friends visiting and decided to order pizza on a Sunday night after a long day of hiking and running all over the island.
We tried a new pizza place we’d never gone to before, and I called in a carry-out order to pick up on the way home.
The conversation I had with the gal on the phone from the car was painful. There was some serious miscommunication going on and it took several tries for us to get on the same page and for me to think she had our order right.
When I hung up I told the guys I was going to be very impressed if we actually get what we ordered. Whatever. Pizza is pizza and I haven’t met one I didn’t like.
I ran in to pick it up and sure enough, it wasn’t right. It was good enough though and we were tired and hungry so we weren’t going to send it back.
Then the cashier asked for some insane amount of money for two not-very-big pizzas.
It was like $60.
For two very normal-sized “large” pizzas, that were not, in fact, the size of the moon, as the price would suggest. They weren’t even what we’d categorize as “large”. With a normal amount of toppings on them, not all the toppings on the entire island. That we picked up…they weren’t even delivered. And the order was wrong!
This wasn’t a “fancy” pizza at a nice sit-down restaurant where you’re getting a “gourmet pizza”. This was about a quarter step up from Dominoes or Papa John’s.
Now, you may be thinking that everything is more expensive in Hawaii, and with the exception of pineapples, you’d be correct. But we’d lived there for a while at this point, we weren’t brand new. We knew what pizza cost.
I handed the cashier my credit card, took the pizzas and went back out to the car.
I told them it was the wrong order but none of us cared. Then I told them how much they cost.
I said to Chris I was officially an adult because I now had my very own $2 cookie story (which he was very familiar with already). Our friends felt awful and tried to pay for it. I assured them I was zero percent worried about it and that wasn’t the point at all, but we definitely weren’t going back there.
All that and the pizza was only OK to boot. Sigh.
I called my dad and brother and told them about it the next day. They both laughed out loud with me and we had a nice bonding moment over it.
I talk a lot about value around here. Being fiscally responsible is not about being super cheap all the time and never buying nice things or spending money.
It’s about being intentional. It’s about exchanging money for things you value.
Let me be clear: I value the heck out of a good pizza. It’s my favorite food/meal/snack, for sure.
But $30 for an only ok pizza when I can get one that’s much bigger and more delicious (and closer to our house) for like $17? No brainer. (If you ever find yourself on Oahu in Kailua in need of a fantabulous pizza, you’ve gotta check out Boston’s North End Pizza.)
I don’t value a pizza for $30, even if it is the best pizza ever. If it is THE BEST, then maybe for a treat, not a normal occurrence.
That’s just me. You very well may have a totally different value-scale for your pizza. If you don’t value pizza at all then I don’t think we can be friends… but that’s for another time.
How did you learn about money? Did you learn about it as a kid, or an adult? Are you still trying to figure it out?
Did your parents trick you into doing ridiculous shit like rolling all the change?
Do you have a $2 cookie or $30 pizza story? I want to hear it!