Last summer, we started a kids allowance experiment. Each child would receive $1 per year of age and be responsible for a daily chore. At the time, the kids were 7, 10, 11, and 15, so that was $43 every week. We told the kids that for this experiment to work, money had to come from somewhere. I wanted it to be about more than just free money every month.
It was also about teaching financial responsibility. They would now be responsible for some of the things we had previously paid for without question. Oh, we still cover all the basics — food, clothing, and shelter are necessities they never have to worry about — but all the extras? They were on their own.
They soon learned we spend a lot more money than they ever realized. The tiny Frosties we stop for anytime they asked? They add up fast. I still stopped every time, but only the kids who had money left and remembered to bring it could order. They stopped asking rather quickly. There was $5-10/week I saved. Here are the 5 main items our kids were required to pay for on their own, once they had a weekly allowance:
From concession stands to ice cream trucks, our treat budget was a thing of the past. Healthy snacks and meals, I will pay for all day long. But now, if the kids want to buy candy or ice cream or over-priced stadium food, they have to have their own money.
We have never really been big on buying random toys or games or books in between gifts, but now we have a good line for it. “Yes, you can have that. If you brought your own money.” It’s nice to be the yes-mom. Sort of.
Gone are the days of getting a full outfit from Mom & Dad. We still buy the clothes and shoes, but if you want the matching hat, necklace, and earrings, you better save up. They need a little help remembering when this type of “need” will arise, so I try to remind them to start saving before back-to-school and holidays where they may want to dress up.
Our older kids have cell phones, and I won’t debate the merits of that at this time, but we now only pay the bare minimum. One dropped her data plan instantly because, “I don’t want to spend half my allowance on something I can get when I’m on WiFi.” The teen continued to spend most of her money to have internet access wherever she goes. Priorities.
We had gotten into the habit of forking over money for book fairs and spirit wear and whatever other over-priced stuff the school was hawking in any given month. Most of the time, they continued to spend their own money for these items.
Oh, education and field trips would still be covered. That was never an issue. But the movie nights and carnivals and festivals that seem to come up every other week at $5-10/kid? Not a part of my budget anymore. They’ve gotten good at budgeting their allowance as soon as a flier comes home.