I am the first to admit that I am the ultimate penny-pincher. It’s possible I’ve been called a tightwad once or twice in my lifetime. (Personally, I prefer the term “frugal,” over “stingy cheapskate,” but that’s just me). I have clipped my share of coupons, and my kids’ closets are full of Target brand knock-offs. I annoy my husband regularly with the question, “Guess how much I paid for this?” I may or may not have an extra pantry in the garage for stocking up when there’s a great deal on toilet paper. My kids once categorized a shopping trip as their, “best day ever,” because, for the first time, I let them ride one of those coin operated motorized vehicles at the mall. One time I was with a friend when we saw a grocery store cereal sale that required you to buy 10 boxes to get the discount. “Ridiculous,” she said, “who buys 10 boxes of cereal to get 50 cents off?” Um…that would be me.

taxi

For the most part, I try to make wise choices when figuring out how to “save money,” which can’t be said for everyone. I recently watched an episode of Extreme Couponing in horror as a woman with no children filled her basement with hundreds of packages of diapers, because she hoped to have a family “someday.” (btw, I couldn’t stomach more than one episode of that show…watching people dumpster dive for coupons was just too depressing.) And clicking the, “add to cart,” button online is just Way. Too. Easy. “I have no idea who this Jingle Moose Scarf Knitting Kit is for, but it is 70% off and there are limited quantities, so I must act now!” As Christmas approaches, especially with our four kids and one reliable income, the need to be smart and frugal is more important than ever. Perhaps that is why I connected so much to the family in my picture book selection this month, THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE.

In THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE, author and illustrator Brock Cole does a brilliant job of setting the scene. It features Ma and Pa and their four kids in a nineteenth-century New York City apartment building. Ma sends Pa to the market with clear instructions:

“Now just buy two eggs and a half pound of flour,” she told him. “Remember, Christmas is not far off, and we must save every penny.”

So when Pa returns with a live turkey poult, Ma is less than pleased. But Pa is certain he has made a wise financial decision

”It will fatten up into a fine bird, and we can have it for Christmas dinner. Think of the money we’ll save!”

But Pa has forgotten to factor in a few essential details like, what will the turkey eat ,where will he sleep, and how will Mrs. Schumacher, their downstairs neighbor, deal with a turkey doing his “business” on her balcony? And most importantly, what will happen when his four dear, sweet children realize that this friend they call Alfred is meant to be Christmas dinner?

brock cole

THE MONEY WE’LL SAVE

Written and Illustrated By: Brock Cole

Published By: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011

Topics/Themes: Christmas, Holidays, Family, Turkeys, Finances

Opening:Ma needed two eggs and a half pound of flour so she could make pancakes for supper, but who could she send to the market?”

Synopsis: “When Pa brings a turkey poult home to fatten for Christmas dinner, he assures Ma that it will be no trouble since it can live in a box by the stove and eat table scraps–and just think of the money we’ll save! But it’s not quite so simple to raise a turkey in a tiny flat in a nineteenth-century New York City tenement. Can Pa and the children manage the willful and growing Alfred and keep the neighbors happy until Christmas? Pa finds a solution for every difficulty–until he encounters one that threatens to ruin Christmas completely. How the family joins together to solve this last difficulty makes for a very funny and satisfying holiday story.”

How to Use this Book with your Kids:  This is one of those books that I think initially I liked a little more than my kids, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, the art is what my son lovingly refers to as, “Old-timey.” Yes, there is a nineteenth-century feel to the art that I am seriously in LOVE with. But to our kids, it doesn’t pop like the Disney-Pixar stuff they are used to seeing, so it may not be one that they grab immediately. Also, I think the idea of worrying about money is an adult problem, and one that we generally try to shield our kids from. BUT! This book can be a great conversation starter in talking about the holidays, and presents, and focusing on the things that are truly important. And if you are really motivated, it could even be a jumping off point for a history lesson on the tenement era, or an economics lesson with your kids. But most of all, this is a book that will give the whole family a chuckle, and one that your kids will ultimately pull off the shelf themselves, asking you to read it one more time. And if we can just take a short break from searching for the biggest discount on that dinosaur shaped pillow that lights up, sings the national anthem, and says the ABCs backwards when we lay on it, we just might have time to read it again.

Image Source:// All From Author// Book Cover

Amy Dixon

Amy Dixon

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Growing up as one of seven siblings, the only peace and quiet Amy Dixon ever got was inside the pages of a book. Now a writer, runner, and mom, her first picture book, MARATHON MOUSE, was published in November of 2012. She writes from her home in Clovis, California, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob.