Readers of this blog would know that I am a Mom. My children have been my greatest joys and my best teachers since the day they were born. And - if I’m being totally honest – they have also been the biggest financial commitments I have ever made.
Spoiler alert: having children is expensive.
In the early days, it was mainly the cost of diapers and daycare. As they have grown, it has evolved into activities and education savings plans. I recall an incident when my husband and I were first married, in the days before the kiddos came along. We were having supper at a local restaurant and I observed a family of four at the table next to us. “Imagine having to pay for ourselves and two other people each time we ate out,” I naively commented. Funny how something I could not imagine then has become my totally accepted reality now.
When the kids were younger, there really wasn’t much they could do to contribute to the family resources. Clearly, I don’t support child labour! So the added expense of paying for both their basic needs and all of our family entertainment was just part of the job of being their parents. They are still too young to have part time jobs, but I firmly believe they are both at an age now whereby they can be included in the process of how our family funds are allocated.
Since roughly the age of 8, my children have been receiving a weekly allowance tied directly to their contribution to the household chores. Simple things like unpacking their book bags and hanging up their jackets to more difficult things like making their beds and putting away laundry have been included on the “chore chart” over the years. More recently, my 11 year old son has added mowing the lawn to his list of responsibilities. They typically have 5 daily chores each listed on the whiteboard in our home office, chores they are involved in selecting. They check them off daily from Monday to Friday and weekends are free. After all, even adults get a break from work now and then! Friday evening they receive their allowance. If they fail to complete their chores on any day, the allowance is reduced accordingly. This last point is key. At the onset of implementing this system, we talked about how most adults make money. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid. Real world lesson number one.
The age you start an allowance system will depend on your own child and the system you chose to put in place. Experts say as early as age 5 you can start to give your child an allowance. However, since our system is chore based and tied to successfully meeting weekly goals, we decided to wait a little longer before implementing it.
As with everything about parenting, consistency is key. In this regard, I’ll admit I have failed. My hubby is much more likely to stick to his guns and to a routine then I am. He teaches junior high so these skills have really been key to him surviving the classroom! I’m more inclined to cave on giving them the full allowance when they have not done all the work. I am also more likely to let them skip chores and weekly payments during holiday times. These lapses have not sabotaged the system, but I do feel it works best when we are consistent.
As with everything in life, it’s also important to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish. Are you giving them money just because you’ve heard allowances are a good thing? Are you still using your own money to buy them treats each time you visit the dollar store? Your list of intentions (and you should have some) will vary, but our “Top 5” included:
- Teaching our children to value money. They want a treat, they pay for it.
- Teaching them about delayed gratification and patience. I don’t have enough to buy it today. How many weeks do I have to save?
- Helping them understand the correlation between effort and reward. Skip a day, lose the pay!
- Helping them understand the cost of the things they want in life. One week’s allowance, does not a BMX bike buy.
- Reinforcing the difference between wants and needs. Do I really need to spend four week’s allowance on one PlayStation game?
An added bonus of our system is that it has made our kids appreciate their parents a little more. Grasping what things cost and the effort that goes into earning money has led to many conversations about how their Dad and I earn an income and what it takes to provide the lifestyle that they otherwise may have easily taken for granted.
If an allowance can foster gratitude, I figure that’s money well spent.