Most people know that I am the BUDGET QUEEN. If I'm buying something, I often like to find the best bargain I can get. So, this story is all about making your pocket money stretch as far as you can - and about realising that money isn't anywhere near as important as spending quality time with people you love.
As always, this story is also available as a podcast.
Evie And The £1 Shopping Spree!
"That is the sparkliest pencil case I have ever seen!" Evie shrieked, gazing at Charlotte's latest purchase. "It looks like it's silver, but when the light catches it, I can see pink, green, blue, purple, gold..." Her words trailed off as she admired it.
"I bought it with my pocket money," Charlotte cooed. "And these scented glitter pens, too."
Evie sighed. "It would take me ages to save enough," she replied. "I only get a pound a week."
"A pound?!" Charlotte gasped. "You can barely buy anything with a pound!" She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "I get five pounds a week and sometimes, I save it for a whole month and then go on a shopping spree!"
Evie's cheeks flushed red. She and her mum didn't have a lot of money. Her mum gave her a pound most weeks, but sometimes she couldn't even manage that, what with the baby needing nappies and Evie's dad not being around, anymore. She swallowed, hard. "I buy myself a chocolate bar and I share it with Mum, whilst we're watching telly in the evening," she explained. "It's our weekly treat. We call it Chocolate Friday."
Charlotte laughed out loud. "Chocolate Friday?! What good is that? A bar of chocolate only lasts a few minutes, especially if you only get to eat half. You can't get anything special with a pound."
Evie thought about that for the rest of the day. When the bell rang for the end of school, she trudged out of the classroom, to see her mum waiting, with baby Jake in his buggy. Mum immediately frowned. "What's wrong, sweetheart? You look ever so sad. Have you had a bad day?"
Evie felt bad about telling her mum what was wrong. She didn't want her to be upset. "It's nothing," she sighed.
Her mum bent down and pressed a shiny £1 coin into Evie's hand. "It's Chocolate Friday," she reminded Evie. "Are you ready to go and buy a tasty treat?"
Evie clutched the pound in her hand. "No," she said, a little more crossly than she meant to. "You can't get anything for a pound. At least, nothing special."
Evie's mum looked sad. "Who told you that?"
Evie gazed over her shoulder, to make sure none of her friends could hear. "Charlotte says she gets five pounds a week and sometimes, she saves it for a whole month and goes on a shopping spree. She laughed at me for only having a pound a week."
Evie's mum thought for a moment. After a while she let out a long sigh. "Right," she said. "We won't get any chocolate, tonight. And then tomorrow, we'll go on a shopping spree of our own. I'll show you that you can get something special for a pound."
Evie wasn't sure, but she nodded her head, anyway. It was strange not having their weekly treat in front of the television that night, but Evie went to bed feeling excited about the next day, all the same.
The following morning, after everyone had eaten breakfast, Evie's mum told her to put on her coat. Evie rushed to get it; she was excited for the shopping spree to begin, although she still wasn't sure how she was going to end up with something exciting, like a sparkly pencil case, with just a pound to spend.
Evie and her mum and brother headed for the newsagents, first. "Okay Evie," Mum said. "If you've got your pound, then we'll practise your counting, together. See if you can count twenty penny sweets to take with us on our day out."
Evie did what she was told, filling a little paper bag with chewy cherries, fizzy cola bottles and jelly beans, until she had twenty.
After they left the shop, Evie asked: "What are we going to do, now?"
"Anything you like," Mum replied. "Why don't we go to the park for a bit?"
At the park, Evie played peek-a-boo with Jake, then she ate some of her sweets and went off to play on the swings and the slide for a while. Soon, she spotted some older kids, flying a really cool-looking remote control plane. Mum noticed and said: "Did you want to fly a plane, Evie?"
"Can I?!" Evie asked.
"I think we could make some paper aeroplanes, ourselves," Mum replied. "But we need to buy some paper. Are you ready to carry on shopping?"
They headed to the town's big supermarket. In the stationery aisle, Mum picked up a notepad. "Here you go," she said. "It's from the basics range. Only 49p!"
Evie frowned. "Isn't that a bit small for making aeroplanes?"
"We could pretend they're really tiny ones, made especially for fairies and elves," Mum grinned in reply.
Evie paid for the notepad and together, they all headed back to the park. Mum taught Evie how to fold the little sheets of paper into aeroplanes and they had lots of fun, throwing them and watching them glide on the breeze, rising high into the sky, then falling softly to the ground. They flew their planes for ages, laughing and chasing one another, until the air started to turn chilly and Evie started to shiver.
Evie took some coins out of her pocket and counted them, carefully. "31p."
"Let's get a new toy on the way home, then," Mum said.
"A toy?!" Evie exclaimed. "You can't buy a toy for 31p!"
Mum smiled. "I know a place where you might be able to," she said. "Follow me."
Evie's mum took her to a shop that Evie hadn't been in, before. "They sell lots of things in this shop," Mum explained. "And they're all second-hand. That means they used to belong to someone else. But now, they can be re-sold, and the best thing is, the money you pay for the things you buy here, goes to help people in need."
Evie's eyes widened as she glanced around the shop. There were clothes hanging on a rack, lots of books and DVDs on shelves and, over in the corner, some toys!
Evie went over and looked at the toys. Many of them cost more than she had left in her pocket, but then, Evie spotted a jigsaw puzzle, with a picture of two very cute puppies in a plant pot on the box. "Aw, look how cute these puppies are!" Evie grinned. "I like puzzles. And hey, the ticket on the box says 30p!"
Evie paid for the puzzle and walked home with her mum and Jake. When they got inside, everyone was feeling a bit cold from the Wintery weather, so Mum made mugs of hot chocolate for herself and Evie, and a nice bottle of warm milk for Jake. Then, she and Evie spent some time putting Evie's puzzle together, chatting about their day as the picture began to take form. "Thank you," Evie said, as she slotted the pieces into place. "I really like this new puzzle. And today has been really special."
Evie's Mum gave her a big hug. "I know it wasn't much of a spending spree, really, but..."
"It's not important," Evie said, smiling. "Charlotte was wrong. A pound can buy you something really special." She pulled out the backpack she'd been wearing on their trip into town. Inside, there were several dented paper aeroplanes, and the rest of the penny sweets she'd bought earlier. But it wasn't the things she'd bought with her pound that were really special. It was the fun they'd had in the park, throwing the planes around and laughing together, and the time spent all sat around the table at home, doing Evie's new jigsaw. Evie had realised that she might not have a new, sparkly pencil case, but she had something worth a whole lot more.
"So... Do you want to save next week's pocket money for another spending spree?" Mum asked.
Evie shook her head and smiled. "No thanks," she said. "I think we'll snuggle up on the sofa and have Chocolate Friday, like we usually do."
Evie got up to go and play, before turning, suddenly. "Hey, Mum?" She dug into her pocket. "I still have a penny left." She held it up. "Why don't we save it in my piggy bank, along with the change from the chocolate next week? And in a couple of weeks, then we can have another £1 spending spree?"
Evie's mum grinned. "Great idea," she said.
And that's exactly what Evie did.