Short Stories About Money | Materialism

Money, or the pursuit of it, is a major element in these selections.

See also Greed

These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.

The Money Box | W.W. Jacobs

Two sailors between jobs want to save their money. They get some money advice from an experienced sailor, and he offers to hold their money for them, giving them a moderate allowance so they don’t waste it all.

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Mammon and the Archer | O. Henry

The son of a millionaire is distressed because the young woman he loves is leaving the country in two days. She’s an aristocrat with a full social calendar, so he can’t even see her and doesn’t think his father’s money can help. His father disagrees.

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While the Auto Waits | O. Henry

A young man strikes up a conversation with a young woman on a park bench. She complains about her life of wealth and luxury.

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After the Race | James Joyce

Jimmy Doyle spends a day with wealthy friends riding in a fancy car, thinking about an investment he made, and attending a formal dinner party.

Read “After the Race”

The Rocking-Horse Winner | D. H. Lawrence

A middle-class woman, successful but perpetually short of money, lives with her two children. She is unlucky, but her son isn’t: when he rides his rocking-horse, he’s able to work himself into a state where he can pick the winner of a horse race.

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The Son from America | Isaac Bashevis Singer

A Jewish man who went to America when he was fifteen returns to his home village in Poland forty years later. The villagers live on very little but they don’t want more and life is simple.

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Dip in the Pool | Roald Dahl

A man on a cruise ship comes up with a plan to win the betting pool. He risked a large sum of money and can’t afford to lose.

Read “Dip in the Pool”

Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse that Helped | Saki

An artist wants to marry the daughter of a very rich man. The man’s fortunes have recently turned as he stands to lose everything from a failed product launch, a new breakfast cereal. The artist tries to redesign the ad campaign to save the man’s business.

Read “Filboid Studge”

Babylon Revisited | F. Scott Fitzgerald

Charlie, a businessman living in Prague, returns to Paris to get custody of his daughter, now living with his sister-in-law. Charlie wasted a lot of money and used to drink heavily. He believes he’s able to care for his daughter now, and hopes he can convince his sister-in-law of it.

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Winter Dreams | F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dexter Green is a fourteen-year-old caddy, working for pocket money. He quits one day when Judy Jones, a beautiful eleven-year-old, treats him as an inferior. Years later he goes into business and becomes a success. He has another meeting with Judy Jones.

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The Jewels (The False Gems) | Guy de Maupassant

Monsieur Lantin is a government clerk. He and his wife are very happy. He is amazed by his wife’s ability to handle their finances. Madame Lantin has two vices: she loves going to the theatre and she loves jewelry – she comes home nearly every night with a new piece of costume jewelry.

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A Cap for Steve | Morley Callaghan

Steve Diamond is given a baseball cap by a pro player. He prizes the cap but loses it soon after. One day he sees another boy wearing the cap. Steve and his father visit the boy’s home to retrieve it, but the boy is from a wealthy family which complicates the situation.

Zelig | Benjamin Rosenblatt

Old Zelig lives in New York’s East Side and works in a cloak shop. He moved there from his Russian village when his son fell on hard times. Zelig is miserly and spends much of his time working.

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Double Birthday | Willa Cather

Albert Engelhardt is preparing for his uncle’s birthday. He meets up with Judge Hammersley, who is a bit embarrassed because the Engelhardts have fallen in the world. The judge sends some wine to Uncle Albert (the protagonist was named after his uncle – they were born on the same day), and his daughter, Margaret, catches up with Albert when he comes over.

“Double Birthday”

The Crocodile | Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ivan goes with his wife and friend, Semyon, to an exhibition to see a crocodile. It swallows Ivan, but he remains alive inside it. There is a discussion about getting him out, but monetary concerns take priority.

Read “The Crocodile”

The Treasure in the Forest | H. G. Wells

Evans and Hooker are on a canoe approaching land. They are looking at a rough map they took from a Chinese man. They overheard him talking about a treasure he had found and reburied.

Read “The Treasure in the Forest”

Everyday Use | Alice Walker

Mama is an African-American woman living in the Deep South. Her daughter, Dee, an educated woman who’s drawn to a traditional African identity and fine things, is coming for a visit.

Read “Everyday Use”

Like a Bad Dream | Heinrich Böll

The narrator and his wife invite the Zumpens over for dinner. Mr. Zumpen is chairman of a committee that awards contracts for housing projects and the narrator wants to win the bid.

Read “Like a Bad Dream”

I will try to add more stories that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle and high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.