Six months ago, we decided to give our kids money. More specifically, an allowance (pocket money in the Queen’s English). You may be wondering, given our stingy frugal Scottish links, why we decided to give our kids an allowance? And are we regretting it?
Our allowance system
Here’s a summary of our system (LINK to original article):
Why have an allowance?
To help our kids learn about money, including making mistakes while it doesn’t matter. And so that we can tell them to use their ‘own’ money if they are bugging us to buy them something.
€0.50 per week multiplied by their age. Enough so that they can buy some cool stuff if they can exercise delayed gratification for a couple of months. For example, an 8 year old would get €4.00 per week (8 x €0.50).
Every Saturday morning at breakfast.
Cash or bank transfer?
100% cash. Our kids are young and need the visual incentive. Plus it helps them understand and count physical money.
How can they spend it?
Put something in each of sharing and saving, and then allocate the rest however they want.
Any loans / advances?
No, no, no.
How do we encourage saving?
Interest of 5% per month on their savings.
De-linked to chores
WHAT??? In our view chores are part of being in a family and deciding to forgo an allowance in order to avoid chores is not an option.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
I can’t believe that it has been six months since we started giving our kids an allowance. There’s a summary of how the first two months went HERE. But we have learnt just as much from the last four months.
What did they do with the money?
Before getting into what we’ve learned – here’s a table summarizing what our eldest two did with their allowance, starting with what they had four months ago. Mrs C did wonder if the reason I suggested giving our kids an allowance was so that I could set up another spreadsheet. She is probably right.
Kind of galling to find out that in six months we’ve paid out about €200 in pocket money and interest! And that’s just to the older 2!! There goes my budget for personal finance books…
The other income relates to money gifts from their grandparents. It’s not my place to highlight who the more generous grandparents are… But to be fair to Mrs C’s parents, they have got twice as many grandkids!
So what about the good the bad and the ugly. Rather than repeat what we learned in the first two months of this experiment (see HERE) – I’ll focus on new issues.
Allowances are still valued
I wondered whether the novelty might start to wear off. That’s DEFINITELY NOT been the case. They still look forward to receiving their cold hard cash and counting it to make sure I’m not short-changing them (which I try frequently – and am not ashamed to admit it).
One of the best things to see has been Leia’s generosity. Her school has a weekly bake sale to raise funds for charity. The baked goods cost €0.50 each. Leia takes her wallet and often gives a friend some money if they have forgotten theirs.
“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.”
Leia and Yoda have also been responsible for buying birthday presents for siblings / friends – and they seem to make more thoughtful choices when they also consider price. Or at least Leia does. Yoda still bases his presents on what he would like.
“No Yoda, Granny Chaos does not want Ninjago for Christmas.”
There are alternatives to money
Leia has also started to appreciate that the value of gift is not based on cost. For the last 2 birthday parties she has attended, she has made earrings for her friends instead of buying a present. And her friends loved them. She’s realizing that by thinking outside the box, she can save money and give a more meaningful present.
Reducing our expenses
Although allowances have cost us €200 over the last 6 months, we have made some savings. That includes not having to spend money on the weekly school bake, presents for friends / siblings, or drinks when we go out to eat. We “buy” water as the default drink when we eat out, and they can use their own money if they want something else. Though not Jack Daniels. For obvious reasons.
There are also the intangible savings. When our kids ask for something at a store, we tell them to use their own money. And the asking stops and there is no whining. Not really a saving – but I would pay cold hard cash for this outcome.
Then there are savings on the difference between what we think our kids need and what they want. I recently bought slippers for our kids. I found pairs that were the right size and would keep their feet warm. Leia wanted a slightly different pair – that happened to be more expensive. So she used her money to pay the difference. We paid for what she needed, she paid for what she wanted. Everyone was happy.
Interest and compounding
Leia is now more excited about getting her interest at the end of the month than she is about her weekly pocket money. She can’t believe that her interest (€3 for March) is now almost as much as her weekly pocket money.
The 5% interest per month we are paying has really started to add up. This is the miracle of compounding interest. Which is incredibly powerful to harness when working in our favor, or difficult to master when working against us – like with credit card interest, or even a pandemic.
New containers for pocket money
We ran into two issues with our Lego allowance boxes. Firstly, they used up valuable building blocks. Secondly, they were full and we had no more space for their allowance. This, in part, led to some weeks when we deferred the allowance – see the Ugly below.
So Mrs C, Leia and Yoda used some icing sugar containers to make new allowance boxes. These were cheaper than the Amazon alternatives, gave the kids an afternoon of creative fun, and freed up Lego pieces to fight over during playtime instead!
And for anyone jumping to the conclusion that we use way too much icing sugar, I’d point out that we have three birthdays in our home in February and Mrs C’s love language is making cakes.
Cause and effect
One of our principles is that allowances cannot be withheld as a punishment or for failure to complete chores. But, if our kids destroy / damage something that we have to pay to replace, then we will consider making them contribute a nominal amount towards the replacement. This is in more extreme cases where there was intent to damage and where they had previously been warned.
Leia, Han and Chewy have all had to make contributions. Han Solo’s offence was not the time he tore up a whole roll of toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet during a nationwide TP shortage. It was the next day when he decided to try the same trick again having been warned that there would be severe repercussions. Fortunately, we caught him before too much of our (weirdly) precious commodity had been flushed…
A failed wallet solution
We realized at the 2-month mark that we often had to ‘loan’ our kids money when at a store as they didn’t have their money with them. And they were less restrained with borrowed money rather than their own. Perhaps there’s a lesson here on credit cards. So we resolved to buy them wallets. Santa dutifully obliged, though in his old age (Mrs C blames me even though Santa was clearly the culprit), he bought our four year old twins full size wallets. Which are WAY too big for them.
Not tracking spending
I want our kids to get into the habit of tracking their spending. It’s such a powerful process (see HERE). Our eldest should be able to do this. She already loves playing with spreadsheets which makes her my favorite means we can double up on her learning. But it will take some dedicated time. If only we had more time at home together to work on projects like this…
Payday stopped being a habit
We went through an 8-week period where we didn’t pay an allowance. That wasn’t because we didn’t want to. Rather, a number of circumstances created some extra friction and our habit stopped being a habit.
The friction came in several forms including starting to eat breakfast in the kitchen instead of the dining room where the allowance jars were kept – and losing the visual reminder they provided. The Lego jars were full as noted above and we needed another solution, and there were a couple of weeks when I did not have the correct change. And once you’ve missed a couple of weeks, it is easy to put it off as you need to calculate back pay as well.
Both Mrs C and I would point out that our biggest frustration with our families’ allowance systems when we were growing up was a lack of consistency. And here we were doing the same thing.
Anyway, we are now caught up and back in our regular routine. The Lego jars have been jettisoned, my daughter now has enough savings that I can swap bills for her change, and we have cleared a space in the kitchen for the allowance jars.
What’s your process?
I’d love to learn more about how others run their allowance systems. Please let me know what works for you and what doesn’t!