# Money

## By David A. Cooper

Doing maths with money is no different from the maths you've done already, except that you need to put a "\$" or "£" sign in front of the answer, and dots between dollars and cents, or between pounds and pence:-

1295      12.95      12.95
+ 545     + 5.45     + 5.45
1840     \$18.40     £18.40
11        1 1        1 1

So there's nothing new there for you to learn, but there's more to money than just adding amounts together: you need to think carefully about how you spend your money so that you don't waste any of it. You also need to think about all the things your parents buy for you, because they can make some very bad decisions about what they think you want without bothering to ask you.
indentParents often have very strange ideas about what you should do with your pocket money: some think you should save it all up until you leave school so that you can use it to help to pay for your university education, but that's not what pocket money should be for. If they want you to save up money for university, they should save the money for you and not put it into your hands only to grab it straight back and post it into a deep, impenetrable vault. No; pocket money is supposed to be spent, though you aren't meant to spend it all as soon as you get it: you should save it up for a several weeks or possibly even a few months at a time, and then you should use it to buy something a lot more worthwhile than sweets.
indentYou should write out a list of all the things you would like to buy and the amount of money you think they would cost. Many of the things will be ridiculously expensive and way beyond your reach, but you should put them on the list anyway. Once you have finished making your list, write it out again with the cheapest items at the top and the most expensive ones at the bottom. Next, you should draw a line through the list over the first item that's so expensive that there's no hope of you being able to afford it until you've grown up: everything below that line can then be ignored (unless you want to do a spot of daydreaming). Next, work out how much money you can save up in a year (including any money you are likely to get for your birthday and any event such as Christmas), and then draw another line through the list over the first item that costs more than the amount you could save up in a year. You should then do the same thing again with three more lines over the first item that costs more than the amount you could save up in six months, three months and one month. Once you have done this, you will be able to make much cleverer decisions about what to save up your money for. If I was a child today and didn't get much pocket money, my list might look something like this:-

• Two blank notebook: £2 (one for designing boats, and the other for making up a secret language).
• Compact binoculars (8x20s): £10 (important note: zoom binoculars are useless - ordinary 8x20s give a clearer view).
• Liquid-filled compass: £10 perhaps?
• Tent: £30 (perhaps more - it needs to be reasonably waterproof).
• Mountain bike with suspension: £100.
• Waterproof camera: £130.
• Laptop computer: £300.
• Video camera: £200, or £800 for a really good one.
• Tornado (extremely fast sailing dinghy): £ many thousands.
• House: £ at least a hundred thousand.
• Wind turbine: £ many thousands.
• Electric car: £ many thousands.
My list would of course be much longer than that, but it gives you an idea of how yours should look. If I then spent some time thinking about my list, I would try to work out whether it would be better to buy several of the cheaper items first or to save up for a very long time and then buy one of the more expensive things. It would probably be possible to get a good second-hand bicycle for as little as £10 by looking in a local newspaper: they have pages where people sell all sorts of old things cheaply, and often they're in very good condition. I would also try to get the notebooks just by waiting until I saw them in a shop and mentioning to one of my parents that I could do with one or two of them: hopefully they would just buy them for me without me having to spend any of my own money, and they probably would, because parents are usually quite keen to get things for you which are likely to improve your mind. I think the binoculars would be the first thing I would save up for, and then I might try to save for the waterproof camera, although there might be an easier way to get hold of that too.
indentThe next thing you should do is try to work out how much money your parents spend on the presents you get for your birthday (and other occasions such as Christmas), because that money should really be yours too: you ought to be the one who decides what it is spent on. There is of course a little bit of a problem with this, because a lot of the fun of getting presents is not knowing what they are until you open them, and there's always the hope that you might get something absolutely amazing that you didn't even know existed until it's right there in your hands, but at the same time there's also a very great danger that you will be disappointed if you're given something expensive that you don't want, or even if it is something that you do want, that the same money might have been able to buy something that you want much much more. For me, birthdays and Christmas were always things to worry about as much as to look forward to: I always knew that when I worked out how much money had been spent on the things I didn't want, it would add up to something worthwhile which I could have had instead. I always wanted a camera, but when I eventually got one it was the wrong kind: it only worked if the sun was out, and all the pictures it took were fuzzy. If I hadn't been given some of the useless stuff which I didn't want, I could have been given a much better camera that took proper pictures, and the running costs would have been exactly the same. Many years of disappointment could have been completely avoided.