It’s often tricky to determine how much allowance kids should receive. Here’s what our family decided was the best amount.
“Mom, have you looked to see how much that American Girl doll costs?” My oldest daughter asked me for the umpteenth time.
“Ah, no, not yet. Let me just finish this first.” I said, wanting to delay the inevitable.
The truth was I knew how much the American Girl of the year cost and I knew my daughter had saved enough money to buy it.
I was proud she had saved enough to make this big purchase. She had even declined a few smaller purchases for this expense. But what I didn’t like was how quickly it had happened – four months.
In order to learn the discipline of saving, kids need to feel some pain, they need to learn to forgo not just one or two temptations but many and over a long stretch of time. Four months was not long enough, in my opinion, and it was my fault she had accumulated so much cash so quickly.
You see, months ago I had read that giving kids only half their age in allowance was not enough, they need more to really understand how to manage money.
So I increased their weekly allowance to their ages – 6 and 8.
I saw only a marginal improvement in my oldest’ ability to save and manage money, but I think this had more to do with maturity than amount. My youngest continues to spend like there is no tomorrow, practically oblivious to the amount she is given.
Getting back to the doll – of course I eventually looked up the price and went ahead and ordered it (thank goodness for a free shipping offer!). But a few days later I told my oldest I would be making changes to allowance, going back to paying half their age rather than the equivalent of their age.
I braced myself for cries of “But that’s not fair!” and, “You can’t go back!” but surprisingly she just nodded and didn’t disagree.
I was shocked and very grateful.
You see, for a long time I thought going back to half their age in allowance would be unfair, but recently I began to realize what would be more unfair would be to keep them flush with cash.
Being able to buy something as expensive, and in my opinion extravagant, as an American Girl doll in just four months was not setting the right mindset of needing to struggle and make difficult choices to reach a goal.
And that’s not to say I won’t at some point go back to increasing their allowance to the equivalent of their age, or possibly even higher. But before that happens I’ll first make sure I’ve also made changes to what they are responsible to buy – like clothing, school supplies, or later car insurance. Allowance is simply a means to turn the responsibility of spending over to our children, not providing them with play money to buy whatever their hearts desire. (And to be fair, this point was most likely made in the article about increasing kids allowance, but somehow I overlooked that message.)
So lesson learned. Parenting is such an imperfect science we’re bound to make mistakes along the way and need to make course corrections. Thank goodness my daughter was so at ease about the change. Let’s hope the same is true when I tell her she can no longer wear the tight fitting jeans she received as a hand-me down.
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