What Pet Should I Get? What Dr. Seuss’s Books Teach Your Kids About Money

dr seuss

“I will do it right now. I will do it!” I said.
“I will make up the mind that is up in my head.”

Yes, Dr. Seuss is back, and he’s here to impart more life lessons in one quirky rhyme scheme than most writers could do in an entire career. The release this week of “What Pet Should I Get?” sees a previously lost manuscript from the late children’s author join his colorfully illustrated canon, debuting on Amazon at the number one spot.

Related: A look at Dr. Seuss’ net worth

The book, like every Seuss classic, follows in the same tradition. It can be taken as a simple story about a brother and sister tasked with picking just one pet from the store; or, on another level, it can be a reflection on the difficulty of making the right decisions. Children and adults alike can always learn something deeper about themselves from Dr. Seuss, insights on the value of ambition, happiness, sadness, gratitude or staying true to oneself.

His books can also teach us a bunch about personal finance. Read on to see some of the hidden money lessons that readers young and old alike can use when it comes to saving, spending, investing and financial smarts.

On Being Frugal: “The Cat in the Hat”

“You can find magic wherever you look.
Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”

Dick and Sally are bored, stuck inside during a rainstorm with nothing to do … until the Cat in the Hat materializes to show them that with a little imagination, fun can be found everywhere you look, without spending a dime. We’ve all had moments from time to time where we’ve gone over budget spending too much on entertainment, eating out, or spending too much on vacation. The good news is that there are plenty of creative ways to have fun with friends without breaking the bank. Fun is what you make of it, not how you buy it.

On Financial Literacy: “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Reading is fun, teaches the Cat in the Hat to the Young Cat. Even when it’s about hoses or roses or owls on noses, reading means becoming smarter and more knowledgeable, which can help us make wiser choices in life.

The more you read about personal finance, the more financially literate you’ll become; the better you’ll be able to manage your finances, “the more places you’ll go.” The earlier kids start learning about the importance of good money smarts, and the sooner they begin saving, the better they’ll be with their finances in adulthood.

On Changing Your Financial Habits: “Green Eggs and Ham”

“You do not like them, so you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.”

The narrator of the story absolutely won’t try Sam’s green eggs and ham — not in a house, with a mouse, in a box or with a fox, here, there or anywhere. If his mind was just a bit more open, he might discover that it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted.

People can be just as stubborn with money: we don’t save enough, we spend too much, we don’t budget, pay down our debt or try to build credit. It’s a comfortable financial rut that gets us nowhere if we don’t change our habits. Try some new, creative approaches to managing your money, and you may wonder why you didn’t try them sooner.

On How Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness: “The Sneetches”

“Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up and went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach.”

The Plain-Belly Sneetches are convinced they won’t be happy until they have stars on their bellies. For $3 each, Sylvester McMonkey McBean’s big machine can give them the adornments they want; only when they do, the Sneetches still aren’t happy. So, they keep getting their stars fixed and fixed until they’ve run out of money.

Unfortunately, the Sneetches were trying to keep up with the Joneses, going broke just to maintain a false appearance. It can leave you financially bereft and unhappy. Stay true to yourself, and remember that happiness can’t be bought; it comes from within, free of charge.

On Giving vs. Greed: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

“It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all 

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

After swiping Who-ville’s Christmas presents, the Grinch has more than a change of heart; his heart grows three times larger, enough to realize that sharing and selflessness can overcome greed and selfishness.

It’s easier to base our happiness on acquiring and keeping material things, like expensive possessions or money — but like the Grinch, that only makes us grouchy, miserly and miserable. Donating your money to people who need, volunteering your time, or just being there for a friend or family member in need — at Christmas or anytime — can make us happier and healthier.

On Retirement Planning: “You’re Only Old Once!”

“When at last we are sure you’ve been properly filled,
then a few paper forms must be properly filled

so that you and your heirs may be properly billed.”

After some health issues later in life compelled him to visit “the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square for Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair,” Dr. Seuss was inspired to reach out to the adults in his audience, writing this tome on aging and the setbacks that come with it — best handled with a healthy dose of humor. But retirement planning and medical care is no laughing matter if you don’t have your finances in order; the last thing any parent should do is pass their money problems onto their kids. Talk with your children about estate and funeral planning; pay down your debts; cut back on spending; and make use of your investments.

On Success After Graduation: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“Will you succeed?
Yes you will, indeed!

Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”

It can be kindergarten, high school or college: every graduation is a proud moment, an achievement, a milestone that opens up a world of opportunities. But, like our protagonist, standing around in “The Waiting Place,” passing the time until success lands in our lap, is counterproductive and time wasting. You’ve got to make those moments happen for yourself, or else life will pass you by.

It’s pure truth in life and in money: sitting around waiting to be financially prosperous won’t yield anything. Find a career path you love, work hard at what you do, and be careful with your money. Save it, invest it, spend wisely — “And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening, too.”

Photo credit: Julie Clopper / Shutterstock.com