Today after church, we went to the shops with JJ – a regular occurrence which invariably includes some version of “Mummy, may I please have that?”, a sweetly phrased question that I’m certain most parents also hear on a rather regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, JJ doesn’t whine or demand, nor does he request unreasonable things. I’ve been blessed with a sweet, gentle and emotionally generous child that loves to share and rarely complains, let alone tantrums, yet he’s still a little boy who does not yet understand the value of money, and thankfully, has not yet realised that we are not as wealthy as most others that live in our area.
With budgets as tight as ours, I have to say “no” much more often than I would like to. I can easily handle saying no to new Skylanders or expensive, flimsy plastic bits and pieces, yet it becomes especially hard on the heart when it’s lunch at a restaurant or new books that his little voice is requesting. I know in my heart that the sacrifices that we are making are worth it – David has the chance to complete his university education, and to spend much more time at home with us while he works towards our future instead of slogging it out in a minimum wage job that he’d hate, and JJ LOVES having both Papi and Mummy pick him up from school in the afternoons. Despite this, it can sometimes feel like we’re stuck in an unending cycle of “being poor”, and the frugality that was once an enjoyable challenge can become exhausting and extremely stressful.
Fortunately, we can get around the book buying dilemma with regular visits to the rather excellent local libraries, and making healthy treats at home is a daily affair that curbs his desire for takeout but the crux of the issue seems to center around how we as children see possessions, experiences, and their acquisition.
In the beautiful and extremely expensive area that we live in, I so often see children who have absolutely everything they could possibly want. You would not believe some of the birthday parties we have been to, or the incredible play-rooms, toy collections, electronic entertainment areas, lists of extracurricular activities, etc. I wonder how these children will ever learn the value of money, or come to appreciate all that they have when their parents just keep giving thing after thing to their impressionable children. I realise that this is not universal behaviour of the wealthy, and I don’t wish to seem judgmental or uncharitable towards those parents who are doing the very best they know how to do, yet even a trip to the supermarket will inevitably include witnessing screaming children being handed whatever they like from the shelves in what seems to be an attempt to have peace at any cost.
I wonder if I would have done the same had it been an option.
Regardless of how much cash is in the bank, I tend to think that the best way to teach financial responsibility to children is by giving them some money of their own, yet how much pocket money for a little boy?
I remember back to my childhood and remember getting $5 per week when I was around 12. Thing is, that was nearly 20 years ago and inflation is a real thing!
So I did my research.
It seems that the “experts” don’t even know. Every family is different, yet, they do put forward some suggestions that make sense and are worth following.
1. Only pay what your budget will allow.
2. Ajdust the amount of pocket money based on what you expect your children to use it for. For example, if you are expecting your kids to pay their bus fares, put money into savings, and buy their own treats, this will mean adding a little more pocket money to the pot than if you’re just expecting your little one to save for candy once a fortnight.
3. They suggest taking into account how much money your children’s friends receive.
4. Make sure that the pocket money that you dole out is as reward for work. If you children don’t complete their chores, they don’t get their pocket money. This teaches that work=cash=stuff, the story that makes the industrialised world go ’round.
So, right. Well, I settled on $5 a week to spend on treats, contingent on completion of his chores (watering the plants every afternoon, clearing the table after meals, and taking care of his pet rats).
At the end of last year, we also signed him up for a Dollarmite account with the Commonwealth bank through his school, which he has been over the moon about. We are keen to start making deposits through the school, as he’ll receive little rewards for depositing into his savings account. I plan on adding small additional (secret) amounts to his bank account over time, with hopes that each little bit snowballs into something worth spending when he’s old enough to have his own bank card and perhaps even put the contents of the account toward a car. Long term dreams, but hey – there’s nothing to lose but a few $$ per week.