Here's a story I came up with to teach my kids about two important money lessons; 'Keeping up with the Jones' and 'Buy Now, Pay Later'.
My kids have been reading 'Dork Diaries' and 'Diaries of a Wimpy Kid' so I thought I'd come up with my own diary style story for this week's blog. I hope you and your kids enjoy reading Charlie's diary!
The Invisible Slime Story
🗓️ Friday, 19 July
Today was the worst day. After a whole day of driving, we’ve finally arrived at our new house. We have moved to the complete opposite side of the country from everything I know and love. I already miss my friends. Especially as we had so much fun at our school graduation party last week. I’ll admit the new house is pretty nice - my room is massive with a view of the sea. Although, given we moved here because of Dad’s promotion at work, it’s the least I’d expect. Tomorrow I’m going to explore this new town a little bit. I don’t know anything about it. All I’ve heard is that everyone has lots of money but no one really knows why!
🗓️ Saturday, 20 July
I went to check out the shopping centre today. The shops were so different from the shops where we used to live. They all seem to be selling designer clothes, big TVs or healthy foods. It really does seem everyone here has lots of money. Outside of the cinema there was a group of kids about my age hanging out. They were all wearing really nice clothes. There’s no way I could just go and talk to them. They’d all laugh at my boring t-shirt and jeans. I went to one of the clothes shops to see if there was anything I could afford so I could fit in. Everything was so expensive. One of the t-shirts had shiny writing all over it. It cost £95! Who pays £95 for a t-shirt? Then the old lady who worked in the shop came over. It was strange that such an old lady, wearing typical granny clothes, was working in a shop selling cool clothes. The one thing that did make her stand out from your typical old lady were her massive sunglasses. They were the biggest sunglasses I’d ever seen. ‘Why is she wearing sunglasses indoors?’ I thought to myself. Very strange.
“Would you like to try that on my dear?” She asked. I thought there was no harm in trying it on, even though I couldn’t afford it. I went to the changing rooms at the back and tried it on. The t-shirt looked amazing and felt so comfortable. Despite loving the t-shirt, I handed it back to the lady and started to leave when she said “If you don’t have the money for this now, you can give me what you have and pay me the rest later”. I couldn’t believe it. She must be the kindest lady in the world. I, of course, said “YES PLEASE!”. I wasn’t going to make any new friends wearing the clothes I was wearing. She went to the back of the store. I then heard a noise which sounded like an engine starting. After a few minutes she came back with the t-shirt. I put it on and it looked great. Although, it felt slightly heavier than the one I tried on before. I’m looking forward to wearing my new t-shirt and making new friends tomorrow.
🗓️ Sunday, 21 July
I put on my new t-shirt and as expected, my dad tried to be funny. “Nice t-shirt, where are you going? The circus?” he joked. What does he know about fashion, he wears the same boring suit every day. I went back to the cinema hoping the kids would be there again. They were. I was about to approach them when I noticed that they were now all wearing these cool caps. Each a slightly different colour and pattern. I saw those caps in the store I went to yesterday. If I wanted to hang out with these kids I’d need to get a cap like them! I just hoped the kind old lady in the store would let me have a cap now and let me pay her back later like yesterday. At the store I tried on lots of different caps and found one I really liked. Luckily the lady, still wearing her massive sunglasses, let me have it now and pay for it later. Although, it was strange that instead of giving me a cap from the shelf, she would go to the back of the store to get a new one and I heard that engine sound again. Like the t-shirt, the cap felt heavier than the ones I had been trying on. I went back to the cinema but the kids had all gone. Damn it! As it was the school holidays, I hoped they’d be there again tomorrow.
🗓️ Monday, 22 July
Today I finally got a chance to speak with the kids at the cinema. Not without having to first go to the shop again. This time I had to get a new pair of shoes which they were all wearing. With my new t-shirt, cap and shoes, I was really struggling to walk at my normal speed. They were really weighing me down. It felt so strange walking towards the kids at such a slow pace, they must have thought ‘Why is this kid walking towards us in slow motion?’ When I finally got to them, they said ‘Nice swag!’. I had never heard the word ‘Swag’ before but I think it means ‘clothes’. It felt like I was immediately part of the group. I can’t remember their names apart from one girl. Her name was Frey. She was super quiet and had recently moved to the town like me. They asked if I wanted to go to the bowling alley with them. I was so happy to be asked but I couldn’t go as I had no money left. Plus, I was so tired from wearing my new heavy clothes, I couldn’t face walking all that way. They agreed we could all hang out again tomorrow. As they walked off, I noticed they were all walking as slowly as I was. They must have gotten their clothes from the same store.
🗓️ Tuesday, 23 July
Wow, What a day!! I think I just discovered the world’s biggest secret!
Before I went to meet my new friends, I went back to the store to get another t-shirt, as I couldn't possibly wear the same t-shirt again. I picked a t-shirt and the old lady went to the back of the store to get me something I could take. However, today she wasn’t wearing her massive sunglasses. She had left them on the counter. I couldn’t resist, I had to try them on to see what I looked like. I picked them up, put them on and walked to the mirror. What I saw was shocking. My t-shirt, cap and shoes were covered in a horrible green slime. I thought it was just my imagination. I took the glasses off and, phew, I was back to normal. I then put the glasses back on and again I saw the slime. I ran (well walked fast as these clothes were still really heavy) to the entrance of the store. I saw that nearly everyone was covered in slime. I could see my new friends in the distance. They were covered in slime. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WEARING MY GLASSES?! TAKE THEM OFF NOW!” Shouted the old lady. She didn’t seem very kind anymore. “Why are my clothes covered in slime?” I snapped back. “They’re not. Now give me my glasses back and get out of my store” replied the lady as she started pushing me out of the store.
I now know why my clothes feel so heavy - they are covered in INVISIBLE SLIME!
I went to tell my new friends about this. They just laughed at me and told me to go home. I couldn’t believe it. They were all covered in slime and didn’t know it. I started to walk back home when I heard someone calling my name. It was Frey. “I thought something was funny about that old lady in the shop. We should take these clothes off and investigate," she said. At first, I thought she meant to take our clothes off there and then. I certainly wasn’t going to walk around in just my underwear. Luckily, she followed up by saying, "Let’s go home and once changed we can meet here". As it was late, and I was tired from walking around in slime covered clothes, we agreed to meet tomorrow instead.
🗓️ Wednesday, 24 July
I didn’t sleep at all last night. I was so excited about finding out what was going on in the store. I knew I couldn't just walk in as the old lady would kick me out straight away. So, Frey went in and pretended to be interested in a few shirts. As the old lady was distracted, I ran into the store and out the back. I hid in the big store room behind some boxes. In the store room was a huge machine that had a big bucket of green slime at the top. I stayed there for a while to see what the old lady did. I made sure she wouldn’t be able to see me. Then after a while, the lady came into the store room. “Another child who can’t afford our clothes but still wants them. They will be paying me back forever more” she said to herself followed by a witch's crackle. She then held a t-shirt in her hands and pressed a button on the machine. I could see some of the green slime come down from the bucket but then it went inside the machine. The lady then grabbed a spoon and made a pouring action from the machine to the t-shirt. The spoon looked like it had nothing on it. The machine was making the green slime go invisible and putting it on the clothes.
No one is going to believe me, apart from Frey. I need to get those sunglasses from the old lady. I waited and waited for what seemed like hours but just after lunch time, the old lady sat down on her chair behind the counter. It looked like she was taking a little nap. Although I couldn’t be certain as her eyes were covered by the sunglasses. I took my chance. I ran past her, snatched the sunglasses and headed straight out of the store. Frey was there. She had been super worried as I had been in the store for hours. As the old lady was super old, it didn’t take long before we were out of her sight. We tried on the glasses again and could see how everyone was covered in the invisible slime. Frey was in shock. “I only got the clothes from the store to fit in with the other kids” she said. I told her I was the same. "I’m never going to wear clothes I can’t afford ever again. I’d rather have my plain clothes than fancy clothes covered in invisible slime". What was more shocking was that it wasn’t just the clothes covered in slime, everything was. Turns out that people in this town don’t have a lot of money, they just buy things they can’t afford and don’t realise they are covered in invisible slime. Frey and I have decided that we’ll find out more about where the green slime is coming from but that’s for another day.
Key lessons from this story
There are two very important messages from this story:
Keeping up with Jones’
Stay away from spending money you don’t have (debt = invisible slime)
1. Keeping up with the Jones’
It’s so hard to stop comparing ourselves to other people.
Side note: Neighbours of people who recently won the lottery often end up going broke as they try to keep up with their neighbour's new found wealth!
One of the reasons we shouldn’t compare what we have to others is that we don’t know how others have paid for the things they have. Whilst they might give the impression, they have lots of money, in most cases they are covered in invisible slime i.e. debt.
Teach your kids that whilst debt can help you get what you want now, they’ll be covered in invisible slime. The heavy clothes are an analogy for the heavy burden that comes with debt. Whilst the first time you use debt might not feel too heavy, the more you use it, the more it impacts on your life. When Charlie was covered in slime, he couldn’t go to the cinema with his new friends as the slime was too heavy and he had no money left. This is exactly how people who are overloaded with debt feel. With the increasing popularity of ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’, especially with young adults, we need to do more to make sure our kids understand the dangers of debt and avoid being covered in slime.
Tell your kids this story to help them avoid trying to keep up with the Jones and avoid debt. We live in a world where we compare ourselves to others without realising that the people we compare ourselves too are probably covered in invisible slime. This is super important as our kids are growing up in a world where they don’t just compare themselves to their friends, they compare themselves to everyone their age on the internet (e.g. Instagram).
We need them to know that most people showing off on the internet are covered in invisible slime (you'll have read lots of stories of people renting cars and big houses just to make it look like they have lots of money). This increased social pressure, coupled with more ‘Buy
Now, Pay Later’ options, makes it easy to see how young people can easily get into debt (covered in Invisible Slime). Part 2 of the story: Charlie and the Slime Factory - is now available here Thanks for reading! Will
P.S. If you enjoyed this story then you will enjoy my new book, Grandpa's Fortune Fables, available now.