The Twenty Dollar Meal

“87 percent of teens say they know little to nothing about managing money.”

Learning what money actually is can come in many different forms.

It could be a paycheck that can get you the latest iPhone, a tool worth hoarding every dime and penny you can find, or just operate an object you pay no attention too and go about your day.

All three of these are totally ok, but knowing the value of money is superior to each one.

For myself, I’ve always been a hoarder of money ever since I was 10 and I have no problem with being cheap. In fact, as I said in my last post, I love it.

But the thing is, I can honestly say I didn’t learn the true value of money until 2 years ago. Up until then, money was just something I saved from birthdays, Christmas, the tooth fairy and doing the odd chores around the house.

Prior to my story, this was the spring before I started my first job, which was helping my cousin build houses, the lesson this old man taught me, is worth more than anything I could have earned.

The Back Story

It was a weekend in June, and it was abnormally hot, and this is also when all the horse flies and mosquitoes are the worst in the year. I live in the rural countryside so my neighbors are spread far, and everyone knows everyone.

My neighbor, who lives a few miles away, had asked if I could come and help him for a weekend. The job he wanted to help was fencing, which isn’t a small task at all but he said he’d pay me, so I agreed to help him.

He was up there in age so naturally, I wasn’t going to turn him down, either way what we had to do was his cow pasture needed some posts replaced and most of the wire on those posts replaced as well. The pasture itself wasn’t extraordinary big but it wasn’t small either. It was probably half a kilometer by kilometer in length.

The worst part was the posts that required fixing were located on one of the long sides, waist-deep in a slough. A slick, algae-filled slough.

The Outcome

Fast forward to Saturday morning, I pulled up to his house and in 15 minutes we were out working. the posts were too stuck in to directly pull them out, so instead, we put a new post directly beside.

We went about doing this by my neighbor holding the post up, while I had a sledgehammer and was swinging with all my might, driving the new post into the ground under the water.

Another note is if I missed the post and the hammer hit the water, I’d be greeted with a nice splash to the face.

We worked all day long through the sweat, constant horse fly and mosquito bites, all while both of us were wearing hipsters which limited our swatting and movement abilities.

I was hoping we could get it all worked out and done in a day, but to my disappointment, we didn’t. I came back the next day and after about half the day, we got it done.

It had been almost all of my weekend spent driving posts, and I was exhausted. After we got all the tools and stuff put away, and I was ready to get my cash and head home for 2 days’ sleep. (Just kidding).

What happened next shocked me to my core.

He brought me into his house where we had a quick drink and he dug out his wallet and smiled. Then he handed me a twenty-dollar bill.

Yep, a twenty-dollar bill. At that point, I wasn’t going to argue —I was too surprised— so I thanked him and just went home.

The Lesson

The funny thing was, that the twenty-dollar bill changed my life. As the Monday after, at lunch, my friends wanted to go out for lunch at a local Chinese restaurant during our school lunch break. I figured it would be rude to say no, so I agreed and went along.

After I finished the half-decent meal, I went to pay and it came to…….

Fourteen dollars.

Yep, fourteen dollars, I couldn’t BELIEVE what I just did. I used the twenty-dollar bill to pay for the meal that took me ten minutes to eat. I essentially worked two full days for a ten-minute bite to eat that was going to leave my system in twenty-four hours.

This blew my mind. I’m not bumming the Chinese restaurant for having a fourteen dollar meal, they’ve gotta make money too. I’m also not bumming my neighbor for giving me only twenty dollars, he’s got bills to pay too.

It’s the act of me spending that hard-earned money that fast, on something that wasn’t even necessarily worth it that burns me, and that’s totally on me.

I fell into the trap that’s popular with many teens, indulging in overspending. I clearly remember the shock that I felt as I watched my twenty turns into a five and a loonie, and it was then I vowed to do things differently.

I actually have no comments on anything that inspired by that. My neighbor went and taught me one of the most important lessons of my life, either intentionally or unintentionally I’ll never know, and that lesson is something I consider priceless.


Sometimes, a little more detail is required before you agree to do something, and sometimes the best lessons in life come with a price.

With the lesson I learned from my neighbor, it was totally worth the weekend of work for a lifetime of money appreciation. I’ve been told he should have given me more, but as I said

I’m not complaining. That twenty dollar lesson I’d say was priceless.

The final thing my neighbor showed me, was that treating people nice can go a long way.

He’s fairly up there in age, and you could tell that being out there was causing him some distress with his older body.

He was always cheerful while we worked, regardless of how much discomfort and pain he was in. That’s the kind attitude I want to adapt and be able to share with everyone. Loving what I do so much that I head out to work even through the pain.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share this attitude of kindness to others and gratitude to my children in the future.

Comments, Suggestions, Or Questions? Drop Them Down Below. 

© 2019 by Teenagers Money. Proudly created with