A Lesson in Loose Change

One day, my 5 year old daughter trotted up to me and proclaimed that she wanted an American Girl doll.

 “You have an American Girl doll,” I referred to her Bitty Baby and Bitty Twin dolls.

“No, I want a BIG American Girl doll. I want Isabelle,” she explained.

“I thought you were going to ask Santa for Isabelle?” I asked.

“But Christmas is SO FAR AWAY!” She said in her most dramatic 5 year old fashion.

“Well, if you don’t want to wait for Santa to bring you Isabelle, you can earn the money and buy her,” I responded.

Her face lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

“You mean, with my own money?” She looked shocked.

“Yes, of course.”

“Mommy, I have my piggy bank. How much money do I have in there?” She asked.

One little tidbit about me, I hate loose change. It’s all over the place. In my cup holder in my car, taking a spin in the wash, etc. Really. No respect I show for loose change. I avoid getting it at all costs. My daughter, on the other hand, is obsessed with change. She’s been collecting ever since she could lift it in her tiny fingers, and she throughly enjoyed dropping it inside her ceramic piggy bank to hear that familiar “clang”. So when she posed this question to me that day, I thought in my head, “How much money could she possibly have in there?”

I told her that I had no idea how much money she accumulated in her piggy bank, but I made her a deal that we can take it to a machine to see, and that if she’s willing to earn whatever else she needs to buy her Isabelle doll, that I’d take her into New York City to the store so she can pick her out herself.

A few days later, we made the trip to a coin machine, with a Ziploc bag full of her change. It wasn’t even all of it because it was just too heavy to carry. After feeding the machine, a receipt popped out. She had over $80 in that one Ziploc bag. I was floored. Knowing full well that we carried less than half of her change to the machine, I was convinced that she had enough money to buy this doll.

After getting home and explaining to her how much money she had, and how much more she needed to buy Isabelle, we made a chart showing her progress. Since I knew she most likely had enough money for the doll, I still wanted to turn this into a bit of a lesson for her. We made an agreement that helping with certain things around the house would earn her some more “loose change”, like helping me set and clear the dinner table, pulling weeds in the garden with Daddy, and helping me unload the dishwasher, can be put towards her Isabelle fund. And every week, we took a little bit of that change to the machine to turn it over.

After a few weeks, she had enough money to buy the doll, with sales tax, and still has a nice chunk of money left over for a rainy day. And Mommy always makes good on her promises.

We took a trip to the store for the Isabelle Movie Premiere last week and made an appointment with Sharon, our personal shopper for the day, so she could hand pick her doll. Sharon was amazing throughout and pulled items for us while we we walked around and explored the store.


Checking out Kaya’s display


Saying hello to Caroline from 1812


Lunch in the Cafe


Even Isabelle got her own cup and saucer



After lunch, we were escorted on a bus to the movie premiere at 92Y. But first, let us take a selfie… (it was Isabelle’s idea, despite me telling her how the lighting conditions were so poor)

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

At the event, they had crafts and a dance jam for the girls in attendance. They also had a red carpet out, with photo ops with the actors from the Isabelle movie and dancers from the NYC Ballet.



A special thank you to Sharon and the staff at American Girl, who truly went above and beyond for us, and gave her such a wonderful first experience that she continues to talk about. I asked her who she wants to save her money for next, and she knew immediately, “Kaya!”

I couldn’t be more proud of her for the dedication and independence she showed to me. Sometimes I still see her as “my baby” and I get these little glimpses into how big she really is, and who she will be when she grows up and I have to remind myself to let her grow and just be. As a parent, it’s the hardest thing, and I struggle with it just as many do. All I know is, I’m going to be a MESS when she goes off to Kindergarten in Fall! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. 😉



Tonya Carney -

This is just precious! What a great day…she bought her own doll and this was the perfect day to get Isabelle. She will remember this FOREVER.