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Sunday, September 16, 2012



So many things taught to young people in school have nothing to do with students learning how to cope when they go out to live on their own.  One important skill is how to handle money so when this week when a friend brought up the subject of children’s allowance, I thought it might be useful to write about what proved successful for us.

I am totally convinced that we can only really learn is from our own experiences   so we used our children’s weekly allowances as a means for giving them some experience with handling money matters. We only started when they were 8 or 9 years old and were ready to earn the money by doing some routine chores like keeping their rooms tidy and/or helping with meals by setting the table and helping clear up after it.

We used to keep accounts and no money changed hands but the books were open for them to see at any time and they could draw out money when they needed it.  The amount they were given depended on their age and was generous enough that they could save up and buy something they really wanted.  If they couldn’t wait until they had enough saved, they could go into debt but that meant they were charged interest on the amount owing and that came out of their next allowance. They could also earn money by doing extra chores.

We found the system really worked – there were consequences when chores weren’t done and it made us a more cohesive family with everyone pitching in to do their share of the housework. As well, there were possibilities for negotiating for a higher allowance if a good case could be made for it and that was fun with everyone usually gathering around the negotiating table and getting involved. 

The system turned out to be especially useful when we were asked for money to buy things we could well afford but they didn’t really need so before we hit on the allowance system, it was often difficult and arbitrary to turn down a plea for money.  By the time they were 14 or 15 their allowance was large enough for them to budget for more costly items like winter boots and coats.  I attribute our girl’s ability to sew well directly to their fiscal restraints – they had enough to buy everything they needed but not enough for all the clothes and shoes etc. they wanted.

I have read that in this age of so many broken marriages, a parent often doesn’t have enough time to spend with their child or children and that they give them money to assuage their own feelings of guilt. That’s understandable but studies tell us that your children want more quality time with parents not more money. It may not be too late to negotiate an allowance and that is bound to open up some interesting dialogue.           Rie     

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