| Pete's Candy Store, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These days a quarter doesn't go very far. Not like it used to when I was a kid. The sales tax on my typical fast food purchase is usually way more than a quarter. I'd never think of leaving a quarter tip on the table in a restaurant. A quarter might give you a few minutes of parking on the street meter, but you'd better be prepared to have a whole lot of quarters if you're staying long--now many meters even take credit cards. Hand a homeless person a quarter and they might take it as an insult.
When my mother first started giving me an allowance in 1960 it was twenty-five cents each Friday. It was amazing how far I could stretch a quarter. A bottled soda was a nickel or a dime and you could turn the bottle back in to get some of that money back. A candy bar, a pack of gum or Lifesavers, or a small packet of peanuts was five cents. A quarter would reap a tidy harvest of goodies that could last a couple of days.
Of course I'd find other ways to get more money for more goodies. I'd do additional chores for extra pocket money. Cleaning out drawers, rummaging through the car, or digging under the couch cushions was usually good for amassing a pocketful of jingling change. Add to this the several dollars I might get at birthdays it seemed that I was never broke for fun money.
A bit of wheedling my mother for special treats when we were on shopping expeditions always provided some return. It didn't take much begging on my part since my mother was generous when it came to her kids and she was always willing to do that special something to make us a bit happier than we already were. And we were happy. There were always more things I'd like to have, but I wasn't lacking in much.
Not that we were living a life of excess--frugality was a lesson taught well to me. But I had enough toys, books, candy, and other things to add more pleasure to my life. After all, I was usually dealing in fractions of dollars rather than multiple dollars. My mother probably wasn't dealing with too much more. Yet we had our treats as well as good meals. I was dressed decently and our housing was comfortable.
I'm not sure how much money my father brought home each week, but apparently it was enough. We weren't rich, but it often felt like we were. At least kind of rich as my unknowing mind would perceive wealth.
Now that I think back on my childhood I realize that wealth doesn't have as much to do with how much money we have, but more to do with how much we can do with the little money that we do have. The same principle applies now, though now a quarter doesn't last long at all and a five dollar allowance would be considered small by many standards.
When I had five dollars as a kid I felt like a wealthy man. I could enjoy that money for weeks. These days you might as well hand over the five dollars at the door of a business establishment and be prepared to leave with not very much.
Quarters add up, but by themselves they are pretty meager in our time.
How much allowance did you receive when you were a kid? What were some of the ways you made money when you were a child? What would you typically spend your money on when you were younger?