Tea tins make great banks for kids
This week is seeing us talk about what really matters, like picking up dirty socks, finishing schoolwork on time, and most importantly, $2.50. Yes. A paltry sum to us, perhaps, but an eye popping amount to my eldest, who was shocked to learn that if she actually manages to get some chores done as well as schoolwork with minimal whining and rolling on the floor groaning, she'll be receiving that amount weekly. After some quick mental sums were done her eyebrows met her hairline and she exclaimed, "That will be ten dollars a month!" I nodded sagely, happy that at eight, ten dollars still seems like a goodly number.
I find the subject of allowances pretty fraught with tension. The question isn't just should children get them or not, but how much, how often, and whether kids should get monetarily punished for behaviour or anything else. Some people are vehemently against allowances for children. This seems to be based on one belief- the belief that children don't need money. From there this group splits up. Half think children don't need money because they don't deserve it, not being wage-earners. The other half thinks that it undermines the faith and security children have in their parents to provide them with everything they need. Obviously every parent has the right to decide whether they will give their child an allowance or not, but neither of these reasons seem valid to me.
Yes, children don't need money if you, the parent, pay for their needs. However, at some point you, as the parent, will not want to keep providing your child with money in their 20's, 30's, 40's and so forth. If you part with some of your hard earned cash while your child's most urgent need is the new Artemis Fowl book (we don't have video games, ipods, or mobiles for the kids - thankfully that considerably narrows the cost of the "wanties" down!) there is a chance they will learn to manage their money. So when they're older and actually need money for food or lodging, they have it rather than having to turn to you because they blew their food money on something absolutely fabulous. Yeah, turns out nothing is so absolutely fabulous as having a full stomach. That's what I want to teach my kids.
As for brutally ripping my child's security blanket away from them in the form of giving them their own allowance, thus leaving them with the illusion that they must make their way alone in this harsh world, with only $2.50 in their pocket, until dinner time - I don't buy that argument either. I will always provide what my children need from what I have to give. That would be love, food, clothes, shelter, and an education. I think the fact we intend to care for them is quite clear, even to the two year old. I don't believe that teaching a child how to manage money harms them in any way at all. In fact, many of the people I know who are against allowances, preferring either to buy their children what they want when they want it, or to hand them twenty dollars willy-nilly, are the same parents who are clueless about how to save and budget themselves. I also know that many people my age and older still rely regularly on their parents for money. If, as a parent, it sounds awesome to have your kids beg for money as you near retirement, and you have the money to spare, great!! Honestly, I can't imagine that The Simple Man and I will ever have enough money in our lives to hand our adult children what amounts to an enormous, ongoing allowance. I hope to be able to help in cases of true emergency, when I know that my girls have done everything the way they should have and things are still going poorly. How will I know they have budgeted correctly? Because I plan on drilling it into them until they know in their sleep that they do not even look at something cute and unnecessary until everything else is paid for.
I really believe that this type of ingrained budgeting starts early. My mom was taught money management young and chose to approach it the same way with us. While I do think that there are other ways to teach children good financial habits that will last them a lifetime without giving them an allowance, I also think this is the easiest way for us. Some people want to spare their children the realities of money. They want to provide for them without them knowing the cost. I get that. Money is often ugly and we hate for our children to be exposed to that. For us though, that type of innocence is not a good fit for the knowledge and responsibility we want our children to gain.
I'm curious to know how other people feel about this, especially in light of simplifying, non-consumerism, minimalism etc. What did you do or do now with your children to teach them about money?