I’ve read books on the subject, we’ve consulted with other parents, and of course, have reflected on our own upbringings. I’d be happy for just one person to tell me what the “right” thing is when it comes to teaching children about financial literacy. Because for every expert who says that you should pay for chores, another swears up and down that you shouldn’t. Allowances? Possibly, kinda a good idea, say the experts. Maybe. And then, what are they allowed to do with birthday cash? Spend or save?
Here’s what we do:
The boys get an allowance every two weeks. Two weeks, because that’s the same schedule on which most of us expect to get paid as adults, and they need to budget. Each dollar has a purpose: a portion to the charity jar (the recipient of which the boys choose at Christmas); a portion to savings, and the rest is theirs to do as they please. I find it really hard to remember that their money is just that — theirs — and even though I might think it’s a terrible waste of money when they slap their toonies down on the counter in exchange for YET ANOTHER package of Pokemon cards, I try to bite my tongue.
One thing we don’t do: credit. You want something, you pay for it. You don’t have enough money for something? You just have to save up for it. The calculation of how long it will take to save up for a particular item makes for a good mental math game.
We don’t pay for chores, on the logic that the boys are members of the household and that their contribution is expected, and we don’t pay for grades (yet: I’m of the “hard work is own reward camp” and my husband recalls being compensated monetarily for each A grade. So until we agree, we’re not paying).
We are terribly inconsistent when it comes to impulse buying. The boys know that I’m not generally going to give in to requests for “just one thing” when we browse a bookstore or toy store (see: you want it, you pay for it, above). And yet, there’s a copy of the latest Avengers movie in my purse (purchased 15 minutes after the words “Yes, we can go and look, but don’t ask me to buy anything” left my lips). It’s something I want to be more deliberate about: making them think about what they’re buying and why; I admit to having my own issue with impulse control, so I hope to do better by them.
Oh, and birthday cash? It’s theirs to do with it what they will. If they choose to save it, all the better, but I figure that it’s theirs, not mine, and they should have the final say. And if it gets wasted on this week’s favourite trading card game, then they live with the consequences, not me.