Saturday, August 18, 2012

Money and My Kids

One of my dear friends--whose input I love to hear!--commented on the post I wrote about Mary Hunt's book.  She asked if we give our kids allowances.  

We don't.  Not yet.  Chris and I are talking about it this year, but we aren't sure yet what that will look like and we definitely don't think our younger two are ready.  I think we need to decide the purpose of what the allowance will be for and how much guidance we will give her with it.  I know we don't plan on giving her an allowance to cover everything as Ms. Hunt suggests--a  salary.  But, let me digress.  

My friend commented about Ms. Hunt's approach and how it wouldn't be feasible for her family.  Before I start feeling condemned because I can't pull off what another mom or family can, I think about their lives.  It helps me determine what parts of someone's advice might be applicable to my family and our situation.  

So, here are my observations.  Ms. Hunt and her husband had 2 children--both boys.  She tells a story of when her oldest was learning how to manage his allowance.  After blowing his allowance lickety split at first, her son reacted by becoming a miser for quite some time.  She was okay with letting her son give a very small birthday gift (I think it cost $1 or $2), because it was his money and what he chose to do.  1) I believe that Ms. Hunt did not homeschool.  I've never heard her mention homeschooling.  So, I think her kids went to public school.  The expenses involved in each are different.  Responsibilities for kids are too.  2) She had 2 boys.  2 Boys!  2, not 3, 4, 6, or 10 or 1.  The number and the gender makes a difference, I think.  My brother had the same reaction her boys did when given money.  I, on the other hand, was motivated to get a job so I could participate in the activities at school that I wanted to.  So was my best friend in high school. Neither of us had parents who gave us regular allowances.    My brother just chose to fore go the activities.  And not get a job until he had to.  My friends who got allowances didn't get jobs in high school.

Also, having 2 meant that there were things that Ms. Hunt didn't have to consider.  Since my girls wear the same size (no hand me downs between them :( ) and I have only 1 boy, I take this into consideration with purchases.  I don't have to purchase dress shoes that will make it through more than 1 season.  I need sturdy clothes, but I don't need high quality that will last through a lot of kids.  If I get hand me downs that have a little life left, that's great--they only need to make it through 1 season with my kids.  Whereas, my friends with multiple kids always think, "How many kids will this x item last though?"  I don't think a child is going to think that when they're making a purchase.  I don't mean to criticize Ms. Hunt in any way with these observations.  I just wanted to point out a few differences and I think that those differences shape the voice she speaks with and shaped what she experienced personally with her family.

I think she has some good ideas--that worked for her and her family.  But, that doesn't mean that it would be easy for me to take her ideas and use them like a cookie cutter on my own family.  So, I never read a financial book with that thinking.  Honestly, I always seek my friends out with multiple kids (3 or more) when I'm looking for ideas about money and my kids and even how to save money in general.  The more people in a household, the farther things have to go.  In our case, ours has to go 6 ways plus 1 dog.  My husband recently put on an application that he has 5 dependents.  I wondered what people would think.  It also asked the ages of children--which listed 3.  What they might think!  My husband was including my mom, who lives with us and who we provide room and board for.  He does have 5 dependents.  

It's interesting because my oldest daughter, Autumn, is going into 4th grade.  My husband hasn't wanted them to worry about money and how to spend it, so I've been saving any money that's given to them as gifts.  I think he hasn't wanted them to grow up before they have to.  We have seen that often as soon as people have money they become preoccupied with figuring out how they might spend it.  This consume a lot of their time and energy.  He has wanted to keep our kids from this as long as we can.  We both know the time is coming to teach them about having money themselves and letting it go.  

Last week was a first step in several ways for me and Autumn.  

The first situation was when Autumn's Grandma gave her $5 as a get well present--she's been miserable with  an illness.  She wanted to go to Target and look at the dollar section.  So, we did, but she didn't find anything she wanted.  So, we meandered over to the toy aisle.  Sami had plenty of ideas about what she should spend it on.  Autumn was very disappointed, because we had just finished our money chapter and she understood she didn't have enough money to purchase any of the things Sami was pointing out.  She also had wanted to get something to share with her siblings and something for herself.  I explained to her that she could save it.  But, she told me she didn't want to, because then it would eat at her about wanting to spend it.  So, I suggested that she get an edible treat to share and then save the rest.  She could save it for something bigger.  She replied that she doesn't get money so how would she save?  She had a good point there.  I reminded her about birthdays and Christmas.  She replied that she knew that she was supposed to save that for college some day.  I told her that we would give her part of any money she received then (which my husband and I had already discussed).  That satisfied her and we went off to the food section of the store.  She found a back of ring pops for $1.49 (plus tax).  We took them home and she savored her treat.  The rest of the money is sitting in her wallet in her dresser to my knowledge.

The second situation began a week ago in Target's shoe section.  I have always bought my girls practical Mary Jane's from Payless or Target for winter dress shoes.  My girls love to run (especially Sami) and I have been so fearful of them in slick soled shoes.   We were at Target and Autumn found some flats that she loved.  They looked so grown up!  I cringed.  My little girl--growing up.  I still wanted to hold on to her and so I stalled.  I spoke with my husband about it and he encouraged me to let her get some flats.  It was time.  I had 2 $10 off $25 or more coupons for Payless this week, so I took the girls there yesterday.  I am very thankful for the Lord's blessing in this--I found these sweet flats that were grown up looking, but had a strap across.  The girls loved them immediately!  Then, I asked them to try on the traditional black Mary Jane's.  I had an idea that I proposed to them.  How about wearing the flats to church on Sundays and the Mary Jane's the rest of the week?  My girls really don't like tennis shoes most of the time and are always asking to wear there church shoes.  It seemed like a good solution and they were thrilled!  They did like the Mary Jane's, but they had wanted to feel grown up, too.  With the coupons and a tax-free clothing week for back to school shopping, the two pairs cost the same as 1 would have cost for each of the girls.  I was very thankful and so were they.  The one thing I'm very conscious of when picking out clothing and shoes for my kids is trying to find a balance between what's best and practical (and modest) and something they like.  My husband tells a story of a pair of shoes he once had that he hated.  I've never forgotten how that experience has impacted him.  I understand that it's good for my girls to have some choice within some boundaries.  I have to remember my budget and they have to get shoes and clothing that will work for our family.  

This Payless story is a good example though of how having only 3 kids changes things for me.  If I had multiple kids and I needed my shoes to last through more than 1 child, I'd probably head to the Stride Rite Outlet and watch for the Stride Rite sales regularly.  The Payless shoes will only last a season, if that.  I had to replace Autumn's Payless sandals in the middle of the summer this year.  I know that her new sandals will get passed on to a friend's child who will be able to use them, though, and that comforts me.  

I'm not sure that this has been much but a rambling post, but I better scoot and wrap up this up.  My kids are off to breakfast this morning with their free coupons that they earned from the summer library reading program!


  1. That was interesting. I did receive an allowance when I was growing up. By the time I was 10 it was 2 dollars a week. Both my sister and I received the same amount. I preferred to save all of my money, minus the 10% I put in the offering plate at church, and use it on my summer vacation. I could pay for horse back riding, candy at the pool, and small special treats from the gift store on trips. My sister (younger by 17 months) would spend much of her allowance as soon as she got it. She did save enough to do the fun summer stuff, but not as much as I did.

    When I was in Jr. High school my parents changed my allowance from a per week amount to $35 per month. At that point I became responsible for paying for all my own personal supplies. I started babysitting in high school and had a job every summer (and Christmas/ Spring breaks) until I graduated college to pay for any activities, clothes, trips, car insurance/gas/maintenance. By the time she started high school my sister had begun to view money much more like I did...a tool to be managed. Which is why so much of what Mary Hunt writes resonates with me. I share a similar outlook on finances.

    I think my whole point is that so much of how we handle money is a function of our own personalities and the models we had growing up. I was, from a very early age, much more like my father. My sister was like our Mom. My parents really are polar opposites on money, so I don't think that either was a totally healthy way to deal with finances. Ultimately, I think you are right that we have to figure out what works for our families and work hard at being good stewards of the gifts given to us.

  2. My story is similar (except without allowance ;) ). I started working in the summers after 5th or 6th for my dad's business doing bookkeeping and worked there until 10th grade when I got a job coaching gymnastics. I also babysat for a family down the street periodically. Then, I started in 12th grade working at the library. So, from 5th/6th grade on, I paid for the things I wanted to do at school or clothes I wanted. My mom did pay for my gymnastics lessons and my dad paid for my car and gas in high school, but I paid for everything else.