Bluey inspired six-year-old Charlie to sell lemonade to save for a boat, teaching him vital money skills too

  • In short: Some regional South Australian children have found creative ways to make money.
  • These include selling homemade lemonade, horse poo, and watercolour greeting cards.
  • What’s next? A university professor says it’s important for children to learn about money and finances as early as possible to help them later in life.

Charlie’s dream is to buy a fishing boat. 

“A blue one,” said the six-year-old from Tanunda, in South Australia’s Barossa region.

“So I can catch some fish in Whyall — tuna, salmon, mackerels and some marlins.”

A few months ago, his parents, Luke and Sam Varcin, told him they wouldn’t be able to fund it.

Shortly after, the then-five-year-old watched a Bluey episode, Stumpfest. Right at the end, Bluey held a lemonade stand.

When Charlie saw Bluey selling lemonade in an episode, he was inspired to set up a stand (ABC)(ABC)

It sparked an idea.

“I’m making lemonade so I can get my boat,” Charlie said.

Since then, Charlie has been running a lemonade stand every few weeks.

He makes the drink with his dad, and his mum joins the pair to help run the stand.

Saving has been slow, with his lemonade selling for $3 a cup, $5 for a 750-millilitre bottle or $5 a litre for customers who bring their own bottle.

A boat stand at his lemonade stand, decorated with yellow and green flags.

Charlie sets up the lemonade stand at the end of his street. (ABC North & West SA: Viki Ntafillis)

But it has been worth it, according to Mr Varcin.

He said Charlie was learning numeracy skills and the “facets of business” as he saved for his dream boat.

“His maths has certainly gotten a bit better,” he said.

“I’ve been actively pushing for that, trying to make sure that he’s the guy that deals with the money box and trying to get him to actively work out how much change it comes out to.”

Mr Varcin said he got most of the ingredients and bits and pieces needed for Charlie’s first lemonade stall.

“As for his second lemonade stall, I made him take money out of his first lemonade stall to go and buy the ice, because it was a 35-degree day and people don’t want a hot bottle of lemonade.

A boy fits a lid to a cup of lemonade at a lemonade stand.

Charlie Varcin sells his homemade lemonade at a stand at the end of his street with the help of his parents. (ABC North & West SA: Viki Ntafillis)

“If you want to make money, you have to spend it as well sometimes.”

Mr Varcin said the community’s reaction to Charlie’s efforts had been “overwhelming really, and quite humbling”.

“It’s incredible to see how many people have come out, not only with donations in support of him, but letting us come into their backyards, pick lemons off their trees, with no expectation,” he said.

“I think most people these days are keen to see someone little or anyone having a go at it.”

A girl in a colourful outfit stands in front of her market stall, with homemade keyrings, watercolour cards and a picture book.

Olive Cotton crafts her own watercolour cards and resin keyrings. She has also created a picture book, which she sells at markets.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

Dreaming big

About 430 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, 12-year-old Olive Cotton, from Mount Gambier, sells handcrafted watercolour cards and resin keyrings. She’s also illustrated a picture book called The Cat Surprise.

She said it had helped her reach her saving goals.

“Some of it I save, some of it I spend, and some of it I give,” Olive said.

“I spend it on supplies for my cards and keyrings. I usually put more in my savings, so that I can save for something like a car when I’m older.

“I got a really big Lego set. I’m also saving up to go to Katherine to see my cousin.”

A girl with brown hair and glasses holds open a pink and orange picture book by a desk with art supplies on it.

Olive Cotton has illustrated a picture book called The Cat Surprise.(ABC News)

Turning horse poo into cash

In Barmera, roughly 230km north-east of Adelaide, 11-year-old Teal Inglis has been putting the poo from her horse, Leo, to good use.

“Horses do have a lot to get out of their system, so I decided to start bagging some poo to get some money to go to a horse expo,” Teal said.

“I’ve made almost $3,000 with the horse poo, but I also run a little business called Leo’s Lane, which is the name of my horse, where I sell cards that I make.”

Girl on farm crouches down next to bags of horse manure, a sign says the bags are three dollars each.

Teal Inglis has been selling her horse’s poo to raise funds for her admission to horse exhibition Equitana.(Supplied: Kirby Inglis)

Teal said it was important for children to learn the value of money and how it could help their futures.

“It’s also important to spend little bits at a time. Otherwise, you’ll just get bored of making the money,” she said.

“They should just try whatever they love, and see if they can move their money forward, and try their best.”

Teal’s mother, Kirby Inglis, said the experience had made Teal “more mature” when spending money.

“If she’d like to buy something when we’re out, we say, ‘Of course, you can, it’s your money’,” Ms Inglis said.

“And it definitely makes her stop and think twice about if it is something that she wants and if it’s really worth the effort she had to put in to raise the money.”

A girl in a blue shirt rides a brown horse around equestrian jumping obstacles, another girl rides a light brown horse behind.

Teal sells horse manure from her horse, Leo, and has named her small business after him. (Supplied: Kirby Inglis)

Ms Inglis said it had also taught Teal maths she could apply to her life.

“When you go through schooling, most of the time now your maths is about algebra and things perhaps you’re not going to use again,” she said.

“For Teal now, she’s definitely got an understanding that the money is sitting in a bank and that bank is actually paying her compounding interest.

“We had to learn mostly through the hard way growing up, so if we can assist our kids earlier on so they don’t make some of the mistakes that so many are making … it’s only going to be easier for her as an adult.”

Letting kids spend, save and make mistakes

Susan Stone, chair of economics at the University of South Australia, said it was important for children to learn about money from an early age.

“It’s a skill they’re going to need for their entire lives,” Dr Stone said.

A woman with dark short hair and glasses smiles at the camera as she sits a desk with two computer monitors, holding the mouse.

Dr Susan Stone, Credit Union SA chair of economics at the University of South Australia, said it was important for children to learn about money from an early age.(ABC Adelaide: Lincoln Rothall)

“It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling to make ends meet or if you are making good money, you still need to budget, you still need to be aware of where your money is going and being responsible.

“And it’s been shown that the earlier kids are introduced to these concepts, actually the better off they do, the more comfortable they are budgeting … when they go off on their own.”

Dr Stone said some strategies parents could use to teach their children about money were opening up a bank account for them, giving them an allowance or taking them grocery shopping to show them how much things cost.

She also encouraged parents to let their children make mistakes, including purchasing things they may later regret buying.

“It’s tough to see your kids so disappointed when they’re so excited, but it is a good lesson for them to learn to really think about what it is they want and what is going to make them happy,” she said.

“They can spend some of it how they want, but insist on them having some part of whatever allowance you give them saved.”

How many lemonade stands?

While Charlie may not yet be close to his boat aspirations, his dad said he’s on the way.

“We’re looking at a second-hand boat. I haven’t even looked at a first-hand boat because that’s well out of our price range,” Mr Varcin said.

A man and woman hold their son, who is drinking a cup of lemonade from a straw, in their backyard.

Charlie has been able to run the stand with the help of his parents, Sam and Luke Varcin. (ABC North & West SA: Viki Ntafillis)

“He’s after something with reasonably high sides and probably with a fibre glass hull because most of his fishing is offshore. I think something in that $15-20,000 mark.

“Charlie jumps on Marketplace and looks at boats, and his common question is, ‘How many lemonade stands do I need to do to get this boat?’. I think that’s his benchmark for success now.”

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer