Allowances for kids are a staple of family life, but they can also be an opportunity to teach children some valuable lessons in money management. Even younger kids can learn.
Self-reliance and responsibility
It’s not the best idea to tie allowance money to chores. These are two separate issues, since children should be expected to contribute to the family by doing basic tasks like hanging up their clothes, caring for their pets and keeping their room tidy. Allowance amounts can vary, depending on the age of the child and the expected use of the money they receive. Allowances can put an end to the “gimmies” when kids understand that the allowance money is to be used for purchases that are not considered necessities provided by their parents. Younger children might use their money to buy small toys, while older kids often spend their allowance on music, clothes or entertainment. In either case, parents should first talk with the child about budgeting, so it’s clear what the money is to be used for. Many parents require that a portion of the allowance goes into savings. In a piggy bank or savings account, the child contributes a certain percentage out of each allowance payment, learning to save for a larger future purchase or a long-term goal.
It’s a good idea to pay allowances on a once- or twice-monthly basis that mirrors the way wages and salaries are paid in the adult world. Kids will then learn budgeting so their money lasts until the next payday. Children’s early experiences with money set a lifelong pattern.
Be a financial role model. You can show your kids how to spend and to save by talking to them and including them — take them with you to the bank when you make a deposit, and explain to them how a savings account works. When you’re stretching the family dollars by clipping coupons or choosing one product over a similar one that costs less, talk about it. You’ll be showing them how you can purchase something special later with the savings you’re working for today. Explaining these decisions and inviting the child to join in the conversation shapes their perception of how to manage money.
If you set limits on your own spending, do the same with your children. Discuss how much you can spend at the store on purchases like weekly groceries, and have a spending limit on particular items or events the kids plan to pay for with allowance money. Overspending should not be an option for anyone, so start them off right. Understanding money takes time and experience, and mistakes are bound to happen as part of the learning process. Children initially learn to make good financial choices through handling their allowance money.
Mark jars to designate allowance distribution — spend, save, charity — so your child can see where each portion goes.
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