Kids and Cash

Got any money?

Got any money?

I do not want to raise spoiled brats.  I want my kids to understand the value of a buck.

But in the area in which we live, this is tricky.  Rampant consumerism is the norm.  My daughter’s best friend has a flat screen tv in his bedroom, a laptop, and is on his 3rd cell phone.  And he’s 12.  We have friends who vacation in Hawaii every summer, have annual passes to Disney,  and eat out 5 nights a week.  Moms bring their kids carmel macchiatos from Starbucks at lunchtime to the grade school.  7th graders get regular mani/pedis and $200 salon dye jobs.   And the competitive party throwing (each kid’s birthday party must be bigger, cooler, more interesting, and BETTER than the last) starts in preschool.

No matter what type of store we go into, my kids want something.  It could be the hardware store, the drugstore, or Kinkos/Fedex- it doesn’t matter.  If there’s something to buy, they want it.

My kids each have a bank account where they deposit Christmas and birthday money and any other money they get throughout the year from pet sitting, extra chores, etc.  They also get a monthly allowance that they deposit on the first of each month.  It isn’t much, but I want them to learn how to manage money, plus I get tired of being their personal ATM.

The problem comes when they want to spend money.  It’s always, “Buy this for me now and I will pay you back.”  I’ve stopped doing this because they forget, or I forget, or they think they’ve paid me back when they haven’t.

My daughter has been wanting this thing called a Zhu Zhu Pet.  It’s basically a battery-operated hamster.  Unfortunately they are sold out of it in our area.  You can get them online at a MUCH higher price, plus shipping.  My darling daughter wants me to whip out a credit card and pay the inflated price.  She will pay me back.  She thinks it’s perfectly ok to pay $23.98 for a toy that normally sells for about $3. at Walmart.  “It’s not that much, Mom, and I HAVE MY OWN MONEY.”  Why can’t she wait until the store gets another shipment?

We don’t have any set rules about how much money they can spend, how much money they can take out of the bank,  or what their allowance is actually for.  This is the problem, and I’m struggling to come up with the right solution.

I’ve read it’s not wise to tie a child’s allowance to chores, but I have heard myself say in moments of frustration, “If you don’t make your bed, I’m docking your allowance!” Shouldn’t the lesson be- “When you do a job, you get paid”?  Or should chores just be something you do because you’re a part of a family?  But if you don’t tie allowance into chores, the child can be a lazy piglet and do nothing around the house and still get his allowance, right?  Maybe another consequence is better, but I know that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.  It seems like a natural consequence.

I want to instill fiscal responsibility.  I want my kids to be generous but also thrifty.  I want them to understand they should work for things, have patience, save up, pay their debts.  I want them to think before plunking down cash for things they don’t really need.  I want them to understand that Mom and Dad are not made of money.  In short, I need help.

So I have some questions for all the parents out there.

  1. Do you give your kids an allowance?  If so, how much? At what age did you start giving allowance?
  2. If you give an allowance, what do you expect in return?  Chores?  General respectfulness?
  3. Do you take away a portion of their allowance as a consequence for misbehavior?  For anything?
  4. What is your child’s allowance intended to cover?  Is it just ‘mad money’?  Can they spend it freely, without consulting you?
  5. Do you separate allowance money from other savings your child might have?

Thanks to any wise parents out there willing to help me think this through!

Expenses

My daughter attended a birthday party last night. The kids gathered at the birthday girl’s house where they had pizza and cake, They wore their Halloween costumes and after singing Happy Birthday, the family took all 12 kids and 8 adults to Disney’s California Adventure theme park, where they did some trick or treating (it’s all set up for Halloween) and then got to ride the rides until 11pm. Most of the kids spent the night afterward. My daughter doesn’t do sleepovers so she called us, exhausted, at 12:30 wanting to be picked up. Having gotten up at 6:45am for school, it was an awfully long day for her!

So, doing some quick mental math- $25 admission to California Adventure (a special rate for Trick or Treating) x 20 people = $500, plus the cost of pizza, cake, decorations (there were tons), breakfast on Saturday, and whatever else, all for a 9 year old’s birthday. That is way too freakin’ rich for my blood!!

In these difficult and scary financial times, with Wall Street having it’s biggest one week dump in history, I’m looking for ways to lower costs and cut corners. I’m walking around behind my family turning off lights, using fans instead of A/C, clipping coupons. We’re driving cars that are 5 and 6 years old (paid for!), taking our lunches to work and school, going out to eat far less. I’m paying cash instead of using credit. I’m certainly not going hog-wild on the birthday parties this year. And Christmas will be a scaled-back affair.

Are you doing anything differently to save money? Or, more accurately, to not spend so much? I’d love to hear your frugal ideas.