Super Chunk

I’m just talking here.

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I am participating in stuff. Right now I am joining a conversation about kids and money.

March 12th, 2009 · No Comments

piggybank_photoLook at me, out there in the blogosphere!

Almost Frugal is hosting a linkathon (Share This Thursday) on the theme of teaching kids about money, and I thought I would chime in.

Adam and Becky are not quite six, and we give them kind of a substantial allowance for their age.  (I didn’t really get an allowance when I was a kid, so maybe it just seems substantial to me.)  At this time, they get $5 a week each, in cash.  Like many families, we have a spend-share-save system: three dollars go into the “operating fund” to be spent as the child sees fit, and they put a dollar each into long-term savings and a “share jar” that is used for charitable donations (of their choosing) and sometimes for gifts.  None of this is tied to chores, for two reasons: We want them to contribute to the well-being of the household as a separate concept from managing money, and we ourselves are not very good at keeping up with the household chores. :)

Obviously, we don’t ask our children to buy their own food or clothing.  But they do spend their own money on toys that we don’t really want to deal with (B is amassing quite a collection of Littlest Pet Shop creatures), sometimes on treats for themselves, and sometimes we’ll ask them to contribute part of the cost of a book-order book.   They each recently contributed a dollar of their own money for an out-of-uniform day at school, with the proceeds going to Pennies for Patients.
We started this system when the kids were four.  (Some recommend that kids begin learning to manage money as soon as they can be relied upon not to eat it.  By that criterion, four was too early.)  After almost two years, we’re starting to see the whole thing bear fruit:

  • Both kids want to “count their dollars” before we go to Target, to find out how much they can afford to spend.
  • Both of them have also said things like, “If I keep saving my money until the Fair, I will have ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS to buy stuff for myself at the Fair!”  (Regular readers will know that the Fair is nearly six months away, and that at least one of my children has fairly poor — though developmentally appropriate — impulse control.) (Also I’d like to note that we will not let them spend $100 on Midway junk, glittery though it might be.)
  • I have heard them tell each other, “We don’t go to [fast food place] very often because the food isn’t good for us and we like to spend our money on other things.”  (Granted, this is direct parroting, but I’ll take it!)

They’re getting the idea that money is finite, that each dollar can be spent only once and then has to be replaced.  They’re also (slowly!) getting the concept of delayed gratification, which is HUGE for this age.  And they’re learning to prioritize their wants; sometimes they have to wait a week to buy the whatzit that they want (and, admittedly, sometimes they can take out a loan from the Bank of Mom & Dad).  We’re still working on “have a consistent and safe place to keep your money” and “don’t leave your wallet in plain sight in the car,” but unfortunately those hard lessons will come in time too.

The goal is not to be super-strict about all this; it’s simply to get our children used to the idea of money as a finite resource, and to give them practice in working with it.  They’re growing up in a society that doesn’t deal all that much in cash, but at the age of five, they really need it to be concrete in order to understand it.  So if you are the person who has to stand behind us at the store while first one child, then another, laboriously counts out dollar bills for the individually-rung-up item s/he’s chosen, thanks for your patience.  We’re going to be a while, but this time is kind of an investment.

(Golden piggybank photo by pekie, via Flickr.  Used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Tags: daily · kid stuff

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