Two Hippos and Ten Euros: A lesson in budgeting.

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


We took a train trip recently from Switzerland to Germany to visit the children’s grandparents (my inlaws).  As part of our visit with them we had the chance to go to one of our favorite places in Germany: Opel Zoo in Kronberg. Aside from the fun, the Zoo outing turned out to be a great lesson in saving, sharing and budgeting for the whole family.

This zoo is really quite phenomenal.  In addition to beautiful and well cared for animals and petting zoo area, it has shady walking paths and three large playgrounds with every slide, tunnel and climbing structure a child can imagine.

Visitng with the sheep, donkeys and goats.

What I love most about this particular zoo is that children have the possibility to feed many of the animals.

Checking out the elephants.

My boys love feeding carrots to the Elephants and to a hippopotamus couple who my three year old, inspired by a book, always refers to as Martha and George.

What I´m not so thrilled about is that  there are additional attractions which are not included in the entrance fee: pony and camel rides, a carousel, a giant trampoline, mini race car track and several other coin operated rides.

In general I am not a huge fan of these extra rides that are coin operated because I feel like they are a money trap and a source of great tension between parents and children. Invariably each visit to the zoo I walk by a parent and child struggling, whining or downright fighting about the “one last euro, just one last one.”

For our family the culprit is seeing the shiny orange race car and being just three and five years old. It always leads to a question I’m sure other parents have heard before in a similar situation: “Can I have money to do that?”

One coin here and one coin there, combined with trying to be fair to all children, and attractions requiring money scattered around the park adds up rather quickly.   Being conscientious of our budget for our trip and also wanting to avoid struggles around these extras attractions I decided to talk to the boys and make a plan ahead of time.

We had a quick family meeting before leaving for the zoo. We recapped our manners and hand holding guidelines and I explained that our budget was ten Euros in addition to our tickets to enter the zoo. Having been to the zoo before the boys were eager to have money for some extras so together we came up with some ideas on how to maximize our budget.

Suggestions from Nicolas, 3 years old:

-Bring a snack from Oma’s house instead of buying one.

-No stopping at the “coin toys” until after we feed the Elephants

Suggestions from Maxi, 5 years old:

-Bring a giant bottle of water and some cups.

-Buy one of the bigger bags of carrots for all of us to share

-Each child gets the same number of coins and then gets to decide what they want to do with it.

I agreed to all these ideas and then to help us stick to our budget I added:

– Once the coins are spent, there will be no extras, no begging, bobbing or pleading.

I have to admit I was surprised with our plan. Not only did we stick to our budget, there were no fights, fussing or whining at all. Even better was how our outing ended.

Getting shoes on after a round on the trampoline.

After seeing the zebras, gnu, giraffes, monkeys, petting sheep and feeding the goats, riding the shiny race cars and jumping the trampolines, the boys wanted to visit their favorite Hippos before heading home.   My three year old realized that he had run out of carrots and coins and his eyes were just about to swell up with tears.

My five year old, reached into his pocket and took out two shiny coins.  I was just bracing myself for the possibility that  he was going to wave them in front of his brothers face and taunt him when I realized he was in fact sharing, completely unprompted, his leftover coins. Together the boys purchased some additional carrots and we headed over to the Hippo exhibit.

The awesome mouth of the Hippo.

Watching the boys say “OPEN” to the hippos and tossing carrots straight into their giant toothy mouths was just so cool.

Watching the boys figuring out their budget, making deals and even sharing all on their own was just amazing!

Enjoying one of the playground contraptions.
Feeding carrots to deer.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also heeds her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having an allowance.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

23 Responses to Two Hippos and Ten Euros: A lesson in budgeting.

  1. I really enjoyed your post, I’ll definitely be following those ideas on future days out as a family, they always end up costing ridiculous amounts otherwise. That hippo’s mouth is incredible, and what a lovely ending with your 5-year-old sharing his last coins.

  2. I despise those coin operated machines!! They DO promote tension between parents/kids. At any rate, I love that your kiddos came up with such creative solutions all on their own! I do try to give Kieran options like that – it’s a great way to trust kids to help with decision-making.

  3. Wow! What a sweet sharing moment! Isn’t it amazing how well things can go with our little ones when there is a plan and they have reminders about how things are going to go! I love that hippo photo! rockin!

  4. This brought tears to my eyes, too!

    What a great plan you had, to budget beforehand. I still have never paid for those dang coin-operated rides. Anyway, yeah, the zoo can be a money-trap. I learned this after a couple of visits. I really try to plan ahead and pack a lunch, and plan for things such as the zoo train, feeding the birds, or some sort of treat (our zoo does not have quite as many extras as the one you went to!).

  5. Wow, what a great, smooth trip to the zoo! I love when kids can do some problem solving on their own in advance, too. It is a lot easier (for anyone) to think of these ideas in advance rather than waiting until the heat of the moment. (Not to mention it would have been too late for things like bringing water from home.)

    We once took our troop of Girl Scout (7 girls, I believe) to another city / state where we visited a few attractions. (We went to a Science Center, Union Station, a Crayola Store and Restaurant, and finally Kansas City Zoo.) Each girl was to bring the same amount of spending money and had to sort out how to spend it over the entire weekend – outside of a specific amount we’d each need to use the zoo transport together. Most of the girls did very well not spending on the first thing they saw. Most of them were able to think ahead that they might want something more at a future stop. I believe they were in 3rd or 4th grade at the time. It is great to watch children learning to be responsible with their spending money and having it pay off, so to speak!

  6. Thank you all for reading and for all the wonderful feedback everyone!! Planning really does make a huge difference for us, for outtings and even for our day to day activities 🙂

  7. I’m sure it’s because I’m all hormonal and pregnant, but the end of your post made tears well up in my eyes. I hope that my kids are that awesome with each other when they’re older.

    I think it’s a great idea to give them their own budget ahead of time. I’ll definitely be using that idea in the future!

  8. Oh how sweet of you! Sometimes I cannot believe how adorable my boys are to each other and their baby sister. We have a few not so nice moments too but that’s amost inevitable I suppose 🙂 thanks for stopping by and good luck with your pregnancy!!!

  9. What a great example of brotherly love! I so look forward to those days in my home! The zoo is a favorite place for my family to visit, but I tell you, it’s more like an amusement park anymore… I just hate how everything is now big business! Love the list of ideas the kids came up with, by the way… I think I’ll have to pull it out next time we visit!

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