99¢ Challenge

Many of you already know, but for those that don’t, Coaching with Grace is run by a mother-daughter team. I’m the daughter, Amanda. Most of you know that we’re super passionate about working with survivors of Domestic Violence, but you may not know that it’s because we are survivors ourselves. MaryAlice has found her voice in the last ten years, but I’ve still been hesitant to share my story. My parents were married for 15 years. My father abused my mother for all 15 of those years. Once my brother and I were older, we became his victims too. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell you when the abuse started. Most of my memories surrounding my father involve abuse of one kind or another, and if it wasn’t actual abuse, it was fear of. What I can tell you is that domestic violence then was a whole different beast than it is today. We didn’t have the abundance of women’s and DV shelters that exist today. On the rare occasions that a neighbor called the cops, we were told to keep the noise down. It wasn’t something we talked about. We cleaned up the mess, made sure our clothes covered the bruises, and held our breath until the next blowup.

If you’re still with me, you may be asking what this has to do with this week’s challenge. Stay with me, I’ll get there. The number one thing DV victims and survivors hear is “why didn’t she just leave him?” The easy answer is, it’s not that easy. Even today with the abundance of shelters and support leaving is never as easy as those from the outside think it is. But that’s a topic for another day. According to various DV resources, the average victim tries to leave seven times before leaving is successful. My mom’s first attempt that I was old enough to be aware of happened somewhere in 1997/1998, which means I would have been 7 or 8 years old. We fled a foreign country and moved back to the US where we stayed with friends until we could get on our feet. We then moved into a two-bedroom trailer, where we all shared one room because all we owned was a bunk bed. My mom and I shared the bottom bunk, and my brother slept above us. My mom had unknowingly been a victim of financial abuse on top of the physical and mental, which means we fled with little to no money and mom had very little education and work experience to provide what we needed. But one thing that my mom prides herself on, is that my brother and I never knew just how poor we were. We were living paycheck to paycheck, and likely one minor emergency from collapse, but we didn’t know this until we were much older.

With limited resources, we shopped at Big Lots a lot. As a kid, I just assumed that was my mom’s favorite store. As an adult, I realize that Big Lots sells quality items up to and including Sealy mattresses, for great prices. Now my brother and I loved Big Lots because we played this game. We’d ask mom, “can we do the 99¢ thing?” So this finally gets us to this week’s challenge. What is the 99¢ thing? If mom said yes, my brother and I each had 99¢ to spend. And you best believe we scoured that store making sure we got the best deal for our 99¢. Sometimes we combined our money and split the ‘prize’ and other times it was fend for yourself. Now I know this was just a game to keep my brother and I occupied while mom did her shopping, but a few months ago it dawned on me that this was my brother and I’s first introduction to the value of money. We had our money, and we knew we weren’t getting any more. We had to weigh if what we wanted was worth it. Did we want this pack of Skittles that would give us a few minutes of satisfaction, or did we want this jump rope that would give us hours of entertainment? Maybe, I wanted a box of chalk, but it was $1.50 so I had to convince my brother the value to him.

For the challenge this week, we’d like you to play this game with your kids. Obviously 99¢ went a LOT further in 1998 than it does today so you’ll need to change the amount, but you still want to make it a challenge. Give them a dollar or two and see what they do with it. This is a game that can be played over and over again, and as it took me almost 20 years to catch the lessons it taught me, you can be teaching financial literacy while having fun!

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