Lessons Learned: Kids and Allowance

by Marinka on December 27, 2008

Last year I decided to teach my children fiscal responsibility by giving them an allowance.  The “teach” aspect of it was a bit fuzzy because I thought that I would give them the allowance and the economic lessons would be self-taught.  This worked on many levels–the children would take the initiative, not unlike what I imagine the young Warren Buffet had to do and it would leave me with more free time to blog and drink.  The only fault with this fool-proof plan is that it didn’t work.  As a matter of fact it was a disaster on every level imaginable, with the exception of the fact that it made all the parents at school hate me because their children kept saying “MARINKA IS A BETTER MOTHER THAN YOU! SHE GIVES HER KIDS ALLOWANCE!”

I decided to give my kids $10 a week, in exchange for their doing some minor chores like putting their dirty clothes into the hamper, taking their dishes to the sink and leaving me the hell alone every once in a while.  My son, six years old at the time, immediately negotiated to $20 a month, because he “likes $20 bills better.”  Because taking advantage of a child’s stupidity, I mean, naivetee is one of the economic lessons that I wanted to teach, I jumped at the opportunity.
But lessons were learned. And I am happy to share them with you.

1. If you spend your money, you can’t get it back.
Things so awry right away. I give my son $20 and he offers to pay for our lunch. “you don’t have to,” Husbandrinka says, as I order extra dessert while the getting is good.
“That’s alright,” my son reassures us. “I have nothing else to do with the money.” Despite the premonitions of him buying everyone rounds of beer flashing through my mind, I am proud of his generosity. The pride turns into a migraine over the next few days as my son comes to grips with the fact that his money is a distant memory and that he will not get another $20 for several weeks. That is SO UNFAIR. I didn’t know that I couldn’t get it back, you never told me. I hate this. I hate you. This is stupid. GIVE ME MY $20 BACK! After what seems like four straight hours of this loop, I give him $20, although to be fair, I would have given him $200 to shut the fuck up for five seconds.

2. One of the certainties in life is taxes.
We get up to the register to pay and my son is enraged because a set of markers that cost $12 is rung up to be $12.99. This is so unfair, he tells the cashier that she made a mistake and that she should be careful. The cashier is in between blowing her bubble gum and talking on her cell phone, so his charm is lost on her.
‘You have to pay tax,” I tell him.
‘Why?” he asks.
‘It’s the law.’
‘I don’t like this law. It’s stupid.’
‘Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s stupid. There are reasons for it.’
‘Like what?’
‘Like what? To..um.. help people.’
‘What people?’
‘People who…don’t have markers.’
‘Why don’t they have markers?’
‘Because they can’t afford them.’
‘Yeah, probably because they can only pay $12 and not the extra stuff she’s asking for.’

3. No one is going to give you an advance.
When I started this allowance nightmare, I told the kids that they would be responsible for buying their own stuff. I would no longer be buying Wii games or Pokemon cards “just because”. We go to Wii Central, where every Wii game costs $50 and immediately my son asks for $30 “from next month”. I tell him that it’s not a good idea to borrow from the future and he says, “So, you’re saying that you want me to steal.” He says this at the top of his lungs, so the security guard stiffens and moves towards us. In an effort to avoid arrest, I advance him $30. Plus tax.

4. You have to work hard to get a raise.
“Hey, how come I get $20 a month and my sister gets $10 a week?”
“Because you said that you wanted $20 a month.”
”But I didn’t know that it was so much less! That’s not fair!”
“It’s what you wanted. My hands were tied.”
“Yes, fine. Oh, and just so that you know—I now want $20 a day.”

5. Keep current on your accounts.
My daughter almost never asks for her allowance, and we ‘forget’. But when she does ask for it, it’s for some mortifying arrears, like the past ten weeks.
“I need $100, at least.”
”What do you mean ‘at least’?’
‘I can’t remember the last time you gave me my allowance. I’m guessing it’s about 10 weeks.”
“I don’t think it’s been that long.”
“Are you saying that I’m lying?”
“No, but-“
“You’re the one who’s always saying how fast time is flying. It may be closer to $200.”
“Let’s compromise at $150.”
“Ok. But I’ll need an advance on the next couple of weeks too.” Thank god she doesn’t know about interest.

So, I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking—I should probably write a book about kids and money. I’ll see if Madoff is available to co-author it with me.

One year ago ...

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Annabelle December 27, 2008 at 1:59 am

Glad to see you are teaching your kids the value of money – your son sounds hilarious! Great blog


KLS December 27, 2008 at 2:38 am

I’ll have to keep these lessons in mind when my daughter is old enough for an allowance. Very funny!


jon December 27, 2008 at 3:18 am

This blog is similar to the conversations I have been having lately with my payroll department.


blognut December 27, 2008 at 3:51 am

We tried this with our kids – and we failed miserably. Now we’re back to shelling out money to them constantly.


Heinous December 27, 2008 at 5:06 am

Nice work. I’m pretty sure you taught them how the US financial system works.


Vodka Mom December 27, 2008 at 5:47 am

um, could I have my advance now? pretty please???


Madge December 27, 2008 at 6:39 am

#5 is my personal nightmare. i started paying my son allowance a couple of years ago, but i get so far behind i have no idea how much i owe him, so i just sort of make something up and hope he doesn’t figure it out…


Jeanne December 27, 2008 at 6:42 am

Too funny. I thought about sending this to my daughter, as a warning for when her son is old enough for an allowance, but decided it would be more fun to watch what happens….


Smart A$$ Mom December 27, 2008 at 7:04 am

for starters, when Vodka Mom comes to NY can I get an invite?

And, you are way generous. I layout 1 dollar in quarters when laundry needs to be put away. You get .25 deducted for: 1)bitching 2)doing a bad job 3)negotiating with a sibling or the maid for them to do it.

Or when it’s my turn in Quarters and I am out.


Comedy Goddess December 27, 2008 at 8:09 am

We have sporadic allowances around here. Because I am the last person to teach money awareness to anyone.


PsychMamma December 27, 2008 at 9:18 am

Hmm….maybe I’ll just avoid the whole allowance thing and buy myself an iPhone. I’m so glad that I have you to advise me about these things!


Temple December 27, 2008 at 9:22 am

I’m having flashbacks to my first experience with the “allowance” thing…my lil’ sis and I thought it was GREAT…at first…then we learned these lessons…and just for the record back in 1982 a grassroots riot was in the makings against the evils of sales tax, to be led by a 10 year old girl with scraped knees, a pony tail, and a super wicked sling shot aim.


Charmaine December 27, 2008 at 9:43 am

Yes, a book. Puleez!!!!

Oh and, based on my long history of raising children (Uh yea) I think 6 years old is too young for an allowance.

It’s ok for the older ones to get one. The wee lad can be advised he will get one when he is older. I read that in a book somewhere.

But of course, now it’s too late. He’ll probably grow up to be a bank robber, “Give me all your money, plus tax” he’ll say.


Heather December 27, 2008 at 11:08 am

Thank goodness my kids are too young but I have heeded your advice.


derfina December 27, 2008 at 11:09 am

I think SOMEONE is learning some valuable lessons, maybe just not the kids. I loved that the only GOOD thing about them getting an allowance is that now all the other parents hate you! Glad I saved you for my bloggy dessert this morning! Too funny.


K.Line December 27, 2008 at 5:52 pm

OMG – I give my kid 1 dollar a week and I get the same crap!


Nicole December 27, 2008 at 6:51 pm

My plans back fired on me too! Only the totally opposite way. My kid gets 7 dollars a week to do 2 chores a day. He says screw the chores and could care less about the money! Whats wrong with that kid?????


Anna See December 27, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Aargh! I just keep stealing, ok borrowing, from my 7 yr old daughter’s change purse. I owe like $67 by now. I don’t feel like paying it back b/c of the whole feeding/clothing her thing, but I know I should.


Magpie December 27, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Oh lordy, this scares me.


Imogen Lamport December 27, 2008 at 10:29 pm

This is great – you have put me off giving my kids any allowance for years to come.

A lesson was learned, maybe just not the one you were hoping for!


lili11 December 28, 2008 at 3:00 am

Kids are marvellous. Boy.. do we love them.


Beth December 28, 2008 at 5:09 am

So funny! I love reading your blog!

Some time ago, I started checking accounts for my boys that were linked to my checking account. That way they could pull money from my savings (as if!) to cover their mistakes.

Sadly, it has been used the other way around a couple of times.


Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub December 28, 2008 at 7:58 am

I got some great LOL moments out of this post. My favorite– “$500 to shut the fuck up.” I’ve been doing the allowance thing since my kids were about 4 y.o., even though it is a pain in the ass to keep track of it all, it has worked out well, I think, and definitely better than just buying them stuff when they ask for it. 😉


Deb December 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm

I am so in arrears with the allowance. If my kids knew better, they would initiate foreclosure proceedings. But, they’re too naive. Hehe.


Z December 29, 2008 at 7:53 am

I have learned MY lesson. My future kids? No allowance. None. GAH! 😉


the mama bird diaries December 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm

If you don’t mind, I’d love an allowance too.


Iheartfashion January 1, 2009 at 10:19 am

I’m relieved to read I’m not the only one having these sorts of ridiculous negotiations with my kids every week.


bernthis January 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Phoebe got five bucks for Hanukkah. I put it towards the light bill which enables her to see that she got five dollars.


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