I grew up in a very small town in North Carolina. We were just your average, middle-class family of four – dad, mom, son and daughter (and a handful of assorted pets). Economically, we were middle of the road, too. There were plenty of families that were wealthier and plenty of families that were poorer. As my Mom would say, “We weren't rich on money but we were rich on love.”
One summer, we decided to have a huge yard sale. My mom and dad sold most of our living room furniture and the plan was to use the money from the sale to go toward the purchase of a new sofa and recliner. That was a fabulous plan – until life intervened and one of our cars broke down. My parents had to use the furniture money to fix the car. Suddenly, we had no furniture and no plan for getting new stuff any time soon.
My brother and I had bean bags that we had gotten for Christmas. I still remember my bean bag. It was shiny and red and awesome! My mother made a huge bean bag out of some extra denim cloth and bought Styrofoam pellets to fill it. It was big enough for her and my Dad to sit in together. These bean bags became our living room furniture for the summer. That summer turn out to be one of my best childhood memories. We would all flop on our bean bags and watch TV shows like “Wild Kingdom” or “The Wonderful World of Disney”. Some nights we would scoot them together and play cards or board games.
Looking back on that summer, it would have been easy for my parents to get frustrated or negative about their circumstances, but they didn’t. I don’t think that they realized the powerful message that they were sending to my brother and me. Life isn’t about the things that you “want”; it is about what you do with the things that you have.
We eventually did get our new living room furniture and were very proud of it. What I find most interesting is that I remember the excitement of the bean bags much more than the new furniture that we got at the end of the summer.
Now that I am a parent, I see how easy it is to fall into the mode of thinking that “things” will make my life easier. For just $10, this gadget will make dinner time less hectic. For just $40, this game will teach five years of math skills in one week! If it is easy for me to get caught up in this way of thinking, it is certainly understandable how my kids can get caught up in it as well. I want them to develop the understanding that spending money on “things” doesn’t always add up to the most exciting, coolest adventures ever. I want them to have memories of the things we do together, not the things that we buy.
Two of my boys have bean bags, one red and one black. The boys get to keep the bean bags in our living room. The Beanbag Budget is moving on to a new generation.