What A Shark Tooth Necklace Taught Me About Saving Money on Souvenirs

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis. Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband, he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

I’m not a sight-seeing kind of person,  I’m not a shopping person, and I’m definitely not a  souvenir buying person.
On a trip to Mexico with friends and family, we decided to spend an afternoon shopping at an open market.   Although I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, we all went as a group activity. While others loaded up on cheap t-shirts and trinkets, I just walked up and down the isles of vendors glancing at the products each was selling.  Nothing piqued my interested until I saw a gentlemen selling shark tooth necklaces.
I had always wanted one, and I thought a shark tooth necklace from Mexico would be a wonderful souvenir to remind me of a really fun trip.  The price was about $50, and although I am horrible at haggling, I negotiated the price down to $20.  I was quite proud of how much I was able to get the seller to come down, until I got back to our hotel and I found that they were selling shark tooth necklaces at the gift shop for about $12.  Admittedly, I didn’t like the style quite as much, so I was still happy with my purchase, and had a great story to go along with it.
Ever since then, I use the same methodology for souvenir shopping whenever we go on a trip.  I have the perspective that there is one thing that I’m going to buy to remind myself forever of the trip.  I don’t know what it is, or where, or when I will find it.  I just believe that I’ll know it when I see it.
I’ve tried to pass this same mindset on to my children.
We went on a family vacation to Florida several years ago with some good friends.  My then ten year old son had saved $15 from his allowance that he brought along in case he found something he wanted to buy.   Before we left,  I shared with him my story of the shark tooth necklace and how I searched and searched for the item I wanted to purchase.  I tried to imprint on him that a souvenir shouldn’t just be a mindless piece of junk, but something special that makes him instantly think of that particular trip.
As we went through the first several days of our vacation our friends bought their kids countless towels, T-shirts, hats, light up glasses, and every other piece of tourist junk that they begged their parents to buy.   Finally, they told their kids, “That’s enough, no more souvenirs!”
Yet, Tristan hung on to his $15.
On the second to last day of our vacation, we were walking through an amusement park when we ran across a vendor that was selling something that caught my son’s eye.  The item  was $14, and he asked if he could use his money to buy it.  Knowing that he had been looking diligently for just the right item, I simply asked him, “Is this what you’ve been looking for?”
He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and nodded slowly.  I was so proud of him for not giving into all the temptation of all the souvenir stands that flooded his vision during the trip, and for not blowing his money on the first piece of junk he saw.  He handed his money to the vendor, who placed the item into a small plastic bag and handed it to my son.  Tristan instantly took it out of the bag, and put it on.  He wore it for the rest of the day, as well as the plane ride home.
He continues to wear it today on special occasions. Every now and then he asks me if I remember where he got it.  We remember together our trip to Florida, and the $14 he spent on his very own shark tooth necklace.
How about you all?  How do you decide how many souvenirs to buy on a trip?  How much do you spend on souvenirs when you go on a vacation?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


    1. Fantastic post and a touching one at the same time!.. It taught me a good lesson…

    2. What a great story, Travis :-). I think we'll work to pass this method of souvenir shopping on to our kids on our next vacation. I just love that his well-thought out purchase is now a constant reminder of a great vacation. A much better memory than a bunch of goofy trinkets that'll simply take up wasted space.
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      • Thanks so much, Laurie – and that's my point exactly. Our neighbor's kids got all these items that they may or may not use, while Tristan (and myself) bought a single item, that reminds us every time we use it of that trip. It's something special and unique that has meaning! Thanks so much for stopping by!

    3. We travel with our kids every year, and normally our only purchase is an item that we can hang on our Christmas tree. We rarely find actual ornaments, so together we choose a keychain, small toy, pick up a beach shell, or find a fridge magnet that can be put on a ribbon. Every year when we decorate the tree we relive our family travels, and then we pack them away until the next year. We don't want our house cluttered up with things that looked okay in their natural environment, but look ridiculous in our house. This way we are reminded of our trips on a regular basis and then get a rest from it the rest of the year.

    4. That's a fantastic idea, JMK! My family and I look for an ornament each year for our Christmas tree that helps us remember that holiday season…..but I never thought of getting some sort of little object during trips (that's not specifically an ornament) that could be used to decorate our tree. Thanks for the awesome idea!
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