Allowing for Allowances
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Work-for-pay chores, on the other hand, are about teaching the life skills that are required to run a household.
“For little teeny ones, that could include dusting, setting out napkins on the table, or even setting the table,” says Godfrey. Older children could help vacuum, do laundry or perhaps help a parent file paperwork. The goal, overall, is to teach children budgeting skills and empowerment through earning.
The Four Jars
She believes the visual aspect is important and suggests you label four clear plastic jars or pouches as follows:
1) Donations. Children put 10 percent of their total allowance in this jar and give it to a favorite cause.
The rest of the allowance is divided into three equal parts that go into the three remaining jars:
2) Quick Cash. Your kids are free to spend this on whatever they like (though you can set parameters, such as no toy guns). You have to grit your teeth and keep quiet if you see them blowing this money on candy or cheap toys; they will learn from their mistake when the toy breaks after a week.
3) Medium-Term Savings. This is the jar that teaches kids how to defer instant gratification. They use it to save for something specific. For a 4-year-old, this might only be for a week or two; for older kids, it could mean saving for a bigger item, like a bike. Consider offering a matching plan.
4) Long-Term Savings. Open up a bank account with your child and visit once a month to deposit this share. This money is for truly long-term goals — college expenses, for instance, or a Eurail pass.
The Nag Factor
What can parents do when their children moan that their friends get more allowance, or that they don’t have to do any chores? “It’s the Nag Factor,” says Godfrey firmly. “Tell your children, I’m sorry, but these are the house rules. Nip ‘It’s not fair’ in the bud.”
Impressed as I was, I also noticed an instinctive resistance in me — perhaps to the extreme structure of Godfrey’s plan, or the commodification of our family’s domestic relationship? On the other hand, my own financial education was shaky at best, and I do want to teach Ben good habits. So I think we’ll try it out.
Meanwhile, Ben and his father took the $20 on a shopping trip — and came home with Gordon’s two express coaches, for which Daddy had to dip into his wallet for an extra dollar. I guess the financial lesson will have to start next week.
KIRSTEN DENKER is a freelance writer living Brooklyn with her husband and two children, Benjamin and Caroline.