This morning, we took the kids to see Toy Story 3 in a movie theater. It was the first time my four and a half year old has been to a movie. (Hey, my husband and I haven’t been since we saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock in June, 2009.) My nearly eight year old got to go to the movies every Friday with his summer camp, so he’s not nearly as deprived.
The main reason we don’t go to the movies? Quite simply, the price. Just to get in to see the movie in the evening will cost $31.50 ($22 for a matinee). Then, if they order refreshments, you can count on another $20 (at least). So, for a family of four to see a flick, we’re looking at $42 at a minimum. It’s hard for me to pay that when, if I wait just a few months, I can often get the DVD for less than $25.
But Toy Story 3 got us. Their genius marketing and commercials all over TV had the desired effect: the kids begged us to pleeeeaaase take them to see the movie, with their big sad eyes and Buzz Lightyear and Woody toys in hand. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of the word “no”, in fact, it’s my first response to any request when we’re in a store. But I caved because they should be able to go see a movie once in a while, right?
We took $22 out of our grocery money and headed to the theater. There were a few conditions, though. We had to see the show before 4PM, at which time the carriage turns into a pumpkin….oops, sorry, you get to pay more to see the same movie. There would be no concession purchases (what’s wrong with the king size candy packs they just bought at the grocery store for 88 cents? Why buy popcorn when we have 32 packages of microwave popcorn purchased from Costco in the cupboard? Why soda when water is so much better for you anyway – especially in the desert heat?)
So, in my biggest purse, I loaded up four bottles of water, a Hershey bar and a package of Whoppers. We paid our admission and I avoided eye contact with all of the employees, because if I looked at them, they would know I smuggled in candy and I would be searched and subsequently removed from the theater and humiliated.
As I reflect on this, I realize that I unwittingly taught my kids two lessons (three, if you count that frugal people have trouble raising children). Today, I taught them that there are times when it’s okay to be dishonest and sneaky (you’re not supposed to bring your own refreshments). On the other hand, I showed them that we can alter our spending to afford the luxury of a movie in a theater once in a while and not spend needlessly on overpriced goods (i.e., concessions).
Now, since blaming others for our own shortcomings seems to be in vogue, let me toss this out there: if they didn’t mark up the price of concessions over 300%, my moral dilemma wouldn’t have happened in the first place.