Kids' winning essays on money

Portland Public Schools students Gracie Hackenberg and Avery Butler read their winning essays during the taping of Marketplace Money's live "Financial Futures" show in Portland, Ore.

Marketplace Money worked with Portland Public Schools on a money essay contest. The assignment: Tell about a time when you earned money to buy something that your parents would not buy for you.

The two winners, 8th graders Gracie Hackenberg and Avery Butler, read their essays onstage.

Marketplace Money thanks the Portland Trail Blazers and the Nike School Innovation Fund for their prize donations.

THE WINNING ESSAYS

The Guide To Buying Things Your Parents Don't Want You To Have

by Avery Butler

My little brother and I make a great team when it comes to making intelligent bypasses or pointing out loopholes in our parents' rules. We have a few rules of our own:

Rule #1: Ask Mom first

Most families have a parent that is less strict. For example: my mother lets me get things my father won't like games, or clothes. Usually, though, she will say: "You will have to ask your father about that." This is a bad thing! If you ask your stricter parent first, the inevitable answer to your question will be "No." Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the "Ask your father" trap, which brings me to my second rule.

Rule #2 Avoiding "father"

Some ways to avoid being told to "ask your dad" are: Never ask your question when the person you are asking is preoccupied, busy, stressed, or simply in a bad mood. It is hard to catch a parent who is not experiencing one of these conditions, so try you're hardest to be patient and watchful, for the time will come.

Rule #3 Be prepared!

Like I said before, my brother and I make a great team. We come to each other to approve of our plans, and prepare by gathering a sturdy foundation of information. For example: "If we sell our Nintendo DS's for roughly $60 each, along with the games for $15 to $20 each, we will be able to afford an Xbox 360 and a few games." If you have alternative plans and back-up information, you will be more prepared. For example: "We never play with our DS's anyway. They are obsolete."

Rule #4 Back-up Plan

If by chance your "father" or disapproving parent happens to stumble upon the fact that you want to buy something they don't want you to have, you are most likely going to have to give up. The earthquake that is your parent will crumble any hopes and dreams of you ever accomplishing your objective unless by chance you are able to create a sturdy foundation of convincing information. Tips and hints on making deals with your parents. Always ask for them to pay for half if you think you are able to persuade them. Make sacrifices, by offering to do extra chores or work for your parents to gain your wanted object.


Reach For The Stars

by Gracie Hackenberg

I burst into the kitchen after hours of sitting at the computer, an impish smile plastered on my face. I had been researching, but not for school. I was researching ninja stars. At that point in my life, ninja stars were possibly the coolest toy ever! They looked shiny, and sharp and more exotic than any other toy I had. I broke into rapid conversation about how I had $16 to spend (and that included shipping), strung with many a "PLEASE," and finishing off with an "I love you, Mom!"

My mom said, as calmly as a cow on a sunny day, "No. That isn't your money to spend on anything you want. I'll let you spend it on a book. But ninja stars? Who ever told you you could buy ninja stars?"

Her last words trickled off into an angry mutter, about the same as mine, as I stomped out of the room. Now, my Mom was usually very nice, and good about respecting personal property, but how could she? She didn't own my money, and she certainly didn't own me, and although my confidence was crushed temporarily, I was determined, and she would be hearing more of me.

With the help of my brother, who was now in middle school, I spent the next couple of days writing and researching, and writing some more, until I was totally satisfied with my final product -- a five-page, 10-paragraph essay, with correct grammar and spelling. This was no small feat. For days I didn't do anything besides go to school, eat, sleep, and write about why a responsible kid like me could be safe with a toy like that. Seeing as how I was in fifth grade, it wasn't so much about the content, but about the presentation, and I had a colorful poster board with pictures and an essay which I knew would change my Mom's mind.

At 7 o'clock the next morning, I finally had it all ready, and was about to go present it to my parents when I noticed a small little package wrapped in plain paper, laying on my bed. Curious, I walked over to it. Then I remembered, it was my birthday today. I hadn't forgotten, but I'd been so mad and determined that it was in the back of my mind. I carefully peeled the solitary piece of tape holding this pitiful excuse for a wrapping together.

I caught a glimpse of silver plating and ripped the covering off three perfectly molded ninja stars, all in different shapes. I turned, dropping my presentation tools, to run up the stairs and give my mom a big bear hug. I almost fell over after colliding head-on with my Mom's waist. She was smiling her sweet smile, and embraced me in a warm hug. I didn't say another word about my presentation.

I could feel the tension in my mom the first time we went out to use the ninja stars. I knew exactly what she was worried about. It was not about the money. That was just a fallback. It was about me being too young, and not wanting to bring violence into the home.

I ended up not using them very much. They sat and collected dust on my shelves, but every time I looked at them I thought of how much my Mom must have trusted and believed in me to go against her better judgment (as she liked to say). She gave me the ninja stars anyway. She made me feel trusted and grown up. When I see those stars, I understand my Mom better and it makes me want to reach for the stars.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...