As a kid, I was enamoured with the idea of an allowance. In the 80s, there were plenty of happy families portrayed on television tossing the word allowance around casually. I think what I liked most about it was the idea that you could get paid once a week, or every two weeks, just by virtue of being a kid. It seemed like this was the norm for any happy well-adjusted family. I recall getting an allowance now and again—my parents would start a system that would work for a few months, and then inevitably it would fall off the rails. Somehow, I imagine our haphazard approach to pocket money was the norm rather than the exception. And let’s just say, my money-management skills later in life certainly seemed to follow suit…
Now with kids of my own, I have waffled about giving them an allowance. I have never felt that rewarding them for participating in the upkeep of a household is necessary. And given that they have never needed money for much, they seemed satisfied with gifted birthday or Christmas money to spend on the few things they wanted. However, as teens, they seem to need more, definitely want more, but while they are more capable of earning money, they have less time. Encouraging them to work hard in the sport that they love, keep up their grades, occasionally volunteer, and then participate in our family with the time they have left, seems to be all-consuming. Taking on babysitting jobs, or working part-time is difficult to fit into the open time blocks that are left.
Every parent I talk to has a different approach; some pay their kids weekly or bi-weekly and others don’t at all. While we don’t give a set allowance to our kids, we have gradually started implementing rules or guidelines for what we expect them to pay for themselves. For example, we give them a certain amount for their cell-phone, and if they want something more than that, then they have to pay for the rest. While they don’t necessarily have a lot of time for jobs, both kids took on side hustles over the summer like house-sitting, watering lawns, and as much babysitting as they could in order to pay for the extras. Things like specialty coffees after school or their coveted favourite celebrity-YouTuber-endorsed makeup is their own expense. Learning that their hard-earned dollars don’t go very far has made a lot more must-haves into I’m-gonna-think-twice-before-I-buy’s.
Teaching your kids the value of money is a life-long process. Many times I remind my kids to ask themselves, ‘Would I rather have this, or save for something more important to me?’ As my husband and I have slowly started moving away from valuing ‘things’ and towards saving and spending money on experiences instead, I am hoping that they too learn to value what they purchase.
And funnily enough, I have noticed that my daughters are doing the laundry much more carefully—not haphazardly throwing everything in the dryer—now that some of their clothes are being purchased from their own money earned.