Recently my wife sold a few American Girl on Ebay for her mother. While doing the research to find out how to price them she found that they can be hundreds of dollars. I think my wife ended up selling 5 of them for close to $500... used, without the boxes, and some not in the original clothes. Years ago when we were dating, I remember her (much younger) cousins getting American Girl dolls and clothes for Christmas. When looking through the catalog, my wife was taken aback by the outfits that could be $40 or more. Her quip to the girls was, "I hope you get an American job that pays American money for this stuff."
No doubt about it, the entire American Girl entire franchise is expensive. I hear they don't make it easy with each girl having a friend that you have to have and other accessories.
So it was with great interest that my wife came across the book: American Girl: A Smart Girl's Guide to Money. We joked that it must be one page long with only four words, "Don't buy our products!" However, since it was only a couple of dollars, and it qualifies as research for this article, I picked it up and read it.
Yes, Lazy Man, who is going to have a second son (and no daughters), is going to review a personal finance book for teenage girls by a company that sells their products at what I'd politely call a "premium price." Everyone saw that one coming, right?
As it turns out, the book isn't four words long. It's 95 pages, with a bunch of colorful illustrations and big print... the kind of presentation that might be appealing to the target audience of teenage girls. It makes it a very quick and easy read.
For such a small book, it's packed with information. In fact, if you can overlook the fact that it's written for teenage girls, I'd say it's the perfect book for teaching kids about money. In fact, I think I know a few adults who could learn a thing or two. This is saying something, because I really, really wanted to hate this book.
The book starts off pretty slow with pictures of girl's faces showing various emotions about money. It quickly picks up and gives a few girls' opinions on allowance and some tips on how to ask for more (the right time to ask, how to justify it, etc.).
Then it goes into starting a business (so you can afford American Girl Dolls no doubt). This includes giving details on how to identify what kind of business you are best suited for, keep track of profits, marketing, working with partners, pricing product, creating invoices, and ledgers.
The next section is about shopping smart which in several cases makes a pretty good case against buying American Girl products. They focus on needs vs. wants in one paragraph, but another page is the best example of contradicting their doll business. Specifically, it depicts a situation where the girl has a purple plastic monkey that's super "cute" and she knows she's going to regret buying it. (Maybe girls don't regret buying American Girl dolls.) It asks questions of what you are going to do with that monkey. What would your mom say about buying the monkey? Are you still going to be using the monkey a month from now, or is it going to the toy bin graveyard? Imagining life without the monkey would it be any worse? And picture a bike that you were saving for that you will make you happier than the monkey.
The section also deals with how to avoid some basic marketing ploys, using debit and credit cards, creating a habit of saving, and budgeting, balancing a checkbook, and even investing.
The book closes out with a little bit on donating to charity. It also included one page that I particularly liked about how $20 can mean different things to different people and even different things to you based on how you acquired it and what the expectations were. Almost every blogger I know treats the first $100 they make blogging like gold. They should celebrate it. It's extraordinarily difficult to make that first $100. It reminds me of how excited my wife gets when she makes a few dollars flipping an item we found at a yard sale on Ebay. I should mention that she's a pharmacist, so a couple of dollars is literally a drop in the bucket compared to her normal earnings.
The book isn't a complete guide, but it's not supposed to be. For its intended audience, it is pretty close to perfect. It teaches just enough without getting too long that the audience would simply not read it. I had fully planned to give the book away when I was done with it. I still might. However, I'm leaning to keeping it for my sons. Hopefully they won't get made for treating them like teenage girls.
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