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When You Pay, You Play

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You’ve heard this quip, right? It’s along the lines of, put your money where your mouth is and no pain - no gain.  

In plain speak, we tend to take action when we feel invested. 

For example:

Your friend gives you free access to her newest online course and you never login, not even once - even though you know you really need the educational content.


You pay $99 for your friend’s newest online course and watch every single training video because, well - you paid for it!

Now, if you’re really lucky in life you’re surrounded by people who give it 100% because you ponied up and paid for their experience.

Your kid who wears her retainer religiously, outwardly argues when you try to spend money on them, or (say) goes to the gym every.dang.day because you paid for their membership.

Before you stop reading because you think I’m making things up that would never cross a teenager’s mind, let alone - actually happen, I’ll spoil the big reveal. 

It did. 

And, gets even crazier than that! Caroline goes to the gym every.dang.day. 

It's inspiring. It's amazing. It's also a little embarrassing if I'm being honest, that my 16 year old is so committed to her health, to feeling good, to building muscle, to having energy and I’m, well, grateful that zoom only shows me chest up.

But ask her why the idea of missing a day (or two) feels like a personal infraction and she’ll say, “Well, that would be a waste! I mean, you already paid for it, right?”

True, my sweet show off, but let’s do some quick gym math shall we? 

$263 per year / 12 months = $23.61 per month / 30 days = .78 per day.

Sadly, I have no trouble justifying the loss of .78 cents and that may explain why I show my in-need-of-the-gym self at the actual gym two or three times a week.

But this isn't about me and it isn't even really about the gym, except that when Caroline goes there, daily, at the ungodly hour of 6:30am (ready your best teenager voice: “Before school, duh, otherwise I’d never go after) she overlaps with Amanda, the personal trainer.  

In a recent blog post unfortunately titled, I think you're asking the wrong person I spoke of collaborating with my teenage child to make a decision where she was the affected party after getting a phone call asking me to make a choice for her. 

Today, it happened again! But this time it wasn’t her school. It was the gym. Yes - you read that right, the personal trainer at our gym.

One morning, after her crack-of-dawn workout she casually consulted with the trainer, who called me because, apparently Caroline is ready to take her commitment to the gym to, “the next level”. 

Caroline asked her how much it would cost for the ideal number of sessions to get her on the path to meeting her fitness goals. The number is less important than our phone conversation. It went like this. 

Trainer: “Depending on the package you choose it will be X or Y. I think either could work for her 

because she’s so committed but it’s really up to you.”

Me: “Well, actually, it’s really up to Caroline. This is her body, her journey, her health and she’s putting in the effort. 

Trainer: “Wow, yes. You’re right. So which do you want to do?”

Me: “I can’t make that decision for her because my gut tells me she's going to want to pay for some of it.”

Trainer: (laughing on the other end of the phone) “I can guarantee it, based on what she said to me this morning.” 

We both had a good hearted chuckle then shared anecdotes from raising kids that centered around ‘need vs. want’. At one point in our conversation we both said versions of,  my kids have known from their earliest days that we will always provide them with what they need but that need and want are two very different things.

It’s true and when they’re little it’s deceivingly easy to put desires into categories.

We need food. 

We want ice cream.

We need shoes. 

We want $150 high-topped, no-support Converse.

We need safe, reliable transportation.

We want a brand new car with a sunroof, heated seats, remote starter, and ……..

We need a way to safely communicate.

We want the newest, shiniest, phone with ALL the bells and whistles. 

Growing up with a need versus want mindset has allowed a natural progression in our home of choice and who is paying the dollars. Yet, as our kids grow into their more complicated developmental years the need vs. want delineation seems to follow suit.


Like this gym example.

I mean does she really need a personal trainer or want one. Is there a door number three?

Here’s what I know for sure:

  • What she wants is overall health, fitness, and knowledge to maintain it over time.
  • She’s been working independently on her fitness for two years.

Based on these knowns, it's fair to say she's made it about as far as she can go on her own, leading me to the conclusion that, yes - she needs education to keep going.

It appears it is an earned and justified need and so I’m happy to pay for it. 

Time to talk turkey, I mean - money.


Do you talk to your kids about money? 


We talk about money all the time and try to keep it upbeat, light, with a more-than-enough-for-what-you-need energy. But the permeating culture of money in the world sends messages of not enough, not worthy, and scarcity that seeps in our pores like sauna air.

Caroline has resources. She’s worked since 14 years old and comes naturally by Scrooge’s sense of saving and, although she loves spending on other people, rarely deems herself worthy of being the recipient of her hard earned money.

And so, knowing she’d want to pay her own way for a personal trainer, I emotionally balked. She's 16. We're not on a double dutch date. We are her parents. She is our child. We weigh our options and make our choices and get her what she needs and earns. 

And then I started thinking. What if agreeing to going halvsies on this will be a way to empower her to spend on herself? 

What if it will plant a seed that she truly is worthy of receiving value from her hard earned dollars? 

What if this is the catalyst that finally resonates with her that investing in herself feels good. That solidifies an expanding self of self-worth, of ‘I am worthy; I am valuable’ ? When I pay, I play. When I spend my money I put my attention and intention behind it and feel accomplishment when I reach my goals.

Ironically, these are scripts I hear a lot in my own head lately both as a consumer of the world and as a business owner creating options and outcomes for my customers.

I've spent my entire life, giving it all away: my love, my time, my energy, my resources; because it felt good, because I was adding value to other people's lives. Under charging, under estimating and undervaluing myself, so that others could feel valued. 

I'm finally in a place where I understand that where I put my money is where I put my attention. It's where I put my energy, and it's where I make forward progress, and feel achievement, both while working toward and completing my goal.

- - - - - - - - - - - - 

Amanda called me while I was away on a business trip. As soon as I returned Caroline confronted my husband and I with her proposal. It went something like this. 

She stood tall and put on her in the zone face, then said, “I want personal training at the gym. I already did all the research. I know how much it will cost for 6 sessions and… (wait for it) I’m paying for this”, each word pronounced in her no-nonsense, I have spoken way.  

I just smiled, having already seen this scene play out in my mind, having already had pre-conversations with my husband about how we’d react. 

In truth, I was so damned proud of my not-so-little girl for making a choice, doing her homework, and coming to us with such assuredness.  

So, inquiring minds want to know, what did we do?? 

Remember that section in this blog post about owning one’s own worth, and value, etc. and etc.? We had that conversation with her and then, we went halvsies. 

Let’s conclude with some self-worth math. 

I’m 45 and just figured it out.

She 16 with my 16 year old give it all away tendencies.

45 - 16 = 29 years

Whatever I can do to close the learning gap to, well - anything less than 29 years, that’s my mama job!

And so YOU GO my not-so-little-girl.

You pay to play, and learn, and love yourself, and, of course, get those 6 pack abs!


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