Can't come up with an effective strategy for pocket money? Keep buying other stuff for your kids anyway? Writer Jodie Sadowsky shares the technique she uses: an old-fashioned manual ledger.
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I remember one back-to-school shopping trip at The Gap right before seventh grade. I was so excited about the load of cute clothes my mum and I brought from the fitting room to the register — and shocked and devastated when she turned to me in line and suggested we split the cost. I had no allowance to draw on.
My babysitting money would hardly make a dent. Hopelessly dependent on my mother's generosity, I made some agonising choices and left with half of the clothes. This was one of many ways my mum tried to teach me that it was far better to have a few fine things I loved than a slew of one-season wares. I was raised to clean up my toys and room, and to help with dinner and my little sister. I didn't get paid for these jobs nor receive an allowance. I did what mum said and I got what mum got me. Until I started working, she had money and I had none. Not a bad lesson at all. By high school, I already asked for my first raise — 25 cents extra to bring my babysitting rate to four dollars an hour.
To Give Or Not To Give?
Now that it’s my turn at parenting, I wondered if I could teach my young boys the value of a dollar before having to endure a dramatic public meltdown in the toy or candy aisle. Given my background, I was unsettled about giving our kids an allowance until I explored the Love & Logic parenting philosophy, which encourages giving a weekly allowance at an early age.
The allowance is not tied to doing chores — chores are expected ways for kids to contribute to the family. The allowance belongs to your child to spend or save, regardless of whether the chores are finished (there are other consequences for not helping with chores). The theory is that giving kids an allowance allows them to make their own decisions regarding saving, spending and giving. It provides them with experience at handling, managing and making mistakes with money at relatively little cost to the parent.
My husband and I started giving Ryan, age five, three dollars a week this year, and we record it in the back of one of his notebooks. I might have gone with a buck a week, but our Love & Logic instructor urged us to set a meaningful amount that would enable him to actually be able to afford something he wanted in a month's time.
Ryan has been a pretty good saver. He's made just a few expenditures including a four-dollar contribution for a T-shirt purchased at the play Shrek, and a Star Wars book that I didn't want to buy. This is the best part of allowance for us so far: we can say no to Ryan, yet still provide him the opportunity to buy items with his own money. I try to remind Ryan to bring his own money when we got to a show or a fair where I know he'll see souvenirs he'll like. I don't always remember to let him make the purchases, which explains how he has seventy-two dollars saved (including a whopping $20 preschool graduation gift from his Nana Selma).
We have a few simple rules. If Ryan forgets to request or log his allowance for more than four weeks, we don't have to pay him for the "average". I never feel bad when we forget his allowance — it’s his job to remember and do the maths (with some help). If Ryan doesn't call or say thank you for a gift received, he cannot keep it.
You can download my kids’ bank book ledger here.
Allowance: To Give or Not to Give [Love Them Madly]
Jodie Sadowsky is an attorney and mother of two boys in West Hartford, CT. She shares her family's creations and adventures at Love Them Madly.