Kids and Money

Contributed by Jody McVittie

Do you have questions about how to teach your children about money? When do you start allowance? Do you link it to chores? How much do you give them? How do you teach generosity? The simple answer is that YOU get to decide. Here are some suggestions – and you get to choose how to make it work for your family.

Why give children allowance? To teach them how to make mistakes with money. That sounds funny but it is a helpful thing to remember when your child wants to buy a small toy that you know will break within minutes. Let her make a mistake (and don’t be an “I told you so.”) It also teaches responsibility and gives your child a sense of autonomy.

When do you start allowance? As soon as you know that the child (or their siblings) will not swallow it. If you have younger children around that might mean that you have to teach the older ones about being especially careful with coins.

Do you link allowance to chores? No. Family members do family work because it is the right thing to do – not because they get paid for it. It may seem harder to initiate chores when there isn’t a carrot hanging out in front – but long term it is important that children (and all of us) learn that we don’t “get something” for everything we do.

How much allowance? This is a harder decision. It depends a little on what you expect your children to do with their allowance. The “spending money” portion should be enough to cover needs but not all wants. Small children don’t have any financial “needs” but can have wants. Older children may have quite a few needs. Does the allowance cover school lunch? Does it include clothing? Cell phone money? What is a need and what is a want? These questions are great material for family meetings.

How do you teach generosity? Generosity is learned by observing others and through practice. Many families decide together each month or year how they can offer some of what they have to others. Some families have each child put their allowance in different jars (examples include: saving, spending, charity, identified needs). For one family’s story check out this link.

Other ideas:
If your child sees something at the store that he wants you can simply ask, “Do you have your money?” If your child does not have his allowance with him, you can tell him to bring it the next time you are both at the store. Setting this as a routine and allowing disappointment helps children learn that you are not their bank.

One family decided to make their weekly “house cleanup” a way to “earn” money for the community. They decided to pay themselves $25 an hour as they worked together to clean up the house. Every few months they took their wages and donated it to a different organization in the community.

Another family offered to include the cost of three school lunches in the weekly allowance. The teens had the option of making their own lunch and keeping the monies for more of their “wants.”

Do you have a special allowance technique that is working for you? Please let us know!

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