November 26, 2015 | By: Laurie Campbell

A young Canadian’s prized essay about love and money gone wrong.

Let’s hear it for Thomas Black and 26 other Canadian high school students. They’re the winners of this year’s Grade 12 Essay Contest sponsored by Credit Education Week Canada (CEWC). Each year the contest provides scholarships – ranging from $500 to $5,000 – to many talented young essayists who answer the question: What is the dumbest thing you have ever done with your money and what did you learn from the experience?

As you will see below, Lethbridge, Alberta’s Thomas Black addressed the question in hilarious fashion. He got the grand prize (care of Capital One Canada) and lots of laughs for his essay, presented at a dinner gala at the Royal York Hotel that rounded out activities of CEWC on the evening of November 12th. It was just one of hundreds of events and activities in Toronto and across Canada promoting financial literacy through CEWC and Credit Education Month, held each November.

Lighten up your day by giving Thomas’s essay a read. While you’re at it, check out the full list of the CEWC Grade 12 Essay Contest winners and sponsors.

The Stuff of Life

By Thomas Black

Grade five, more colloquially known as the grade of love. Okay, maybe not, but personally I’ll forever remember grade five as the year I fell in love with a girl and did something very stupid with a lot of money. Now, if you knew me in person, you’d probably have a hard time believing that I wasn’t always such a cold-blooded Casanova. Truth-be-told, I was once that sad, tubby little kid with the Bieber cut who spent recess trying to trade his Yu-Gi-Oh cards and Mighty Beanz. That’s right, every class has at least one. No, elementary was in fact a very depressing time for me romantically. That isn’t to say that in the fifth grade, I expected to be some sort of Fonzie.

To be honest, I was still at the awkward stage in my life where girls were somewhat icky, and yet also kinda pretty and like, I guess they smelled nice and they were soft and stuff. Considering this, you can imagine how surprised I was to find out that a girl had a crush on me, and not just any girl, but the fastest runner in all of the fifth grade. Somewhat hesitant to fall under her spell, I did the usual recon when interested in a girl, and so I asked my friend to ask her friends friend if she liked me, or if she like-liked me. Astoundingly, it was the latter. 

So what did I do next? I did what any sensible grade five boy would do and I did nothing, other than stare at her uncomfortably at recess. Thankfully, she was very outgoing and decided to approach me first. The initial chemistry hardly made sparks fly. She asked me how I was doing, and I said the first thing that came to mind. I told her I had to pee. She found it hilarious, and in no time we were talking about our interests and passions in life. I told her about how I was a really high-level in Runescape and could totally beat all the other boys in a duel, and she told me about how she loved Webkinz.

What are Webkinz, you ask? Well basically, they’re stuffed animals that you can purchase at most drug stores or anywhere that sells designer birthday cards. But they’re so much more than just a stuffed animal! These special little toys came with their very own codes that you could redeem online to play as an avatar modelled after that specific stuffy. You can imagine how intrigued I was to learn of this toy with which my lady was so infatuated. So the following day I demanded that my mother take me to the store so that I might buy one of these wicked-cool toys.

Much like an addiction, it was a slippery slope from there. I brought my first Webkinz, Taco the Chihuahua, to school to show my soon-to-be wife and she was ecstatic. After seeing the joy on her face, I was hooked. I began to cut grass until my wrists cramped, I washed dishes until my fingers were prunes, I picked up enough dog ordure to fertilize a football field, all in an attempt to scrape up enough cash for my next Webkinz, like some sort of demented, plushy drug. I’d go to the mall and buy Coco the chocolate lab, and the next day at school she’d sit beside me at lunch. On the way home from soccer, I picked up Tarzan the gorilla, and suddenly we were playing together at recess.

The day I showed her Ferret Buler, my black-footed ferret, she took me behind the trees at recess … and we hugged! From that day forward, I was a taken man. Every girl knew that the second they said the word ‘partners’ in gym class, it would be her and I rallying in badminton. I was on top of the world, sharing my locker with her, giving her my Wagon Wheel at lunch, holding hands underneath the slides where no one could see us. One day, I went to her house for a play date and she popped the big question. The only answer I could think of was, “Yes! I will share a Webkinz account with you.”

But like any love story, there has to be a tragic ending. When she grew tired of my faint B/O and my adorable asthma inhaler, she left me to find new love in some dodo-head with a trampoline at his house. I was left lonely and disgruntled, in the hole for over three-hundred dollars in useless stuffed animals that, to be quite frank, weren’t even all that fun to begin with. I guess once you no longer have a girl to play it with, Webkinz solitaire just isn’t the same.

I suppose in the end, I can at least ascertain that Webkinz taught me a lesson. Not only did I learn that you should never spend money on a silly toy just because a pretty girl likes it, but I also learned the necessity of being frugal with your money, and how heart-breaking it is when you’ve wasted the money that you worked so hard for. There needs to be a line drawn in the sand when it comes to spending money reasonably. All I have left to show for my Webkinz days is a verification message sent to an email account that I secretly made to circumvent the parent permission requirement for my accounts activation, and a very large, very soft garbage bag playing the role of Noah’s Ark to an immense diversity of expensive, stuffed, beady-eyed animals.

I think the all-encompassing message of this experience is that a girl might break your heart, but what sticks with you seven years later is the gargantuan sense of buyer’s remorse that you feel every time you accidentally lay eyes upon that big, fluffy bag of wasted money in the corner of your closet, hidden below the remains of your dignity and pride. Also, if anyone wants to buy a bag of delightful, mint-condition stuffed animals, look me up.


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