My dad taught me my first lesson in personal finance before I even had a real job. He required that I save 60% of any income earned, even if that meant putting $3 of my $5 earnings for a couple hours of babysitting when I was 14.
From that mentality that I created an allowance system for my own kiddos. As frugal as I am, I struggled with the idea of giving my kids some of my hard-earned money when they still don’t know the difference between a penny and a quarter, let alone how much each of those coins can (or cannot) buy. Ultimately, I decided that I could sacrifice $40 each month in hopes of teaching my kids money management from an early age.
If you want to consider giving this gift to your kids (and the world!) as well, here are just a few of the things to consider.
1. Why bother?
Providing structure for teaching kids about money helps them learn several things that some adults haven’t even mastered yet:
- A dollar doesn’t go very far
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
- You don’t have to spend every penny you make on yourself
- Money helps us achieve goals, but it isn’t everything
- Planning ahead with your money almost always pays off
2. What should I require of my kids?
Before I started giving an allowance, my kids were already expected to clean up after themselves, put their clothes in the dirty clothes hamper, have good manners, brush their teeth after breakfast & before bed, and do their homework (among other things). So I came up with a couple little things they could feel responsible for that had not been a part of their regular routine before the money showed up.
This chore chart helps me keep track of the couple chores that rotate between my daughters – setting & clearing the table and loading the dishwasher. They know they must make their beds and get dressed before they even come downstairs on school days. My girls are only 6 years old, so we’re starting small. Only you know your family and your household well enough to come up with what would make the most sense for you and your children, but there are lots of website with suggestions for age-appropriate chores if you want some guidance.
My girls know they have to do their assigned chores each day or they lose $.50 of their allowance that week. They also know that they don’t get paid for each and every thing they do because nothing has changed about our expectations that they behave and generally contribute to the household.
*Note: we are not Michigan fans in the least; it just so happens that my daughters’ selected blue and yellow as their “lucky” colors!
3. How much and how often should I pay them?
I’ve read that kids should earn $1 each week for each year of their life for their allowance. I only have my kids 50% of the time, so I figured I’d do that divided by two. Each 6-year-old daughter gets $3 each week so they see the result of their hard work every Friday morning on their payday.
4. What do they do with their money?
I love the idea of teaching them how to use money they earn, so I went to the bank to get a bunch of quarters and $1 bills to be able to give them their weekly allowance in three buckets. Each kid has three labeled piggy banks (mostly Tootsie Roll banks from Easter candy). For the girls, that means $.50 (about 20%) goes into their “Give” piggy banks, $1.25 (~40%) into “Save,” and the remaining $1.25 into “Spend.”
They get pretty excited about giving their own money at church on Sundays, and they already seem to grasp the freedom that having their own money gives them to buy toys or snacks they want.
I love that my kids are learning to count money, understand what things cost (because they ask!), and become less tolerant of waste when they know money paid for everything we have.
I admit that we don’t always move the magnets onto the chore chart, so hopefully you have a space somewhere more visible than I did to display something to track what they do. I’ve also already learned that 4 seems to be too young to start this – at least for my boys; they don’t care about paydays and aren’t quite to the point of grasping that their money could buy them a new action figure just yet. I clearly don’t have it all figured out just yet, but I’ll keep modifying as necessary to make sure my children know how to handle a credit card and a checkbook by the time they graduate from high school. Here’s to creating future financial planners!