Teaching your child to be a savvy spender

The Six-Year-Old has been getting an allowance since she was four. In setting it up, we linked it to her age (she gets one dollar per week for every year of her age)–not to the number of chores she completes around the house. Although The Six-Year-Old has tried several times to convince us to pay her for her work, so far we’re holding firm. The Six-Year-Old is expected to help out around the house because we are family and everyone pitches in to take care of the family.

We also set the expectation from the beginning that she would save a dollar every week, set aside another dollar to give to the charity of her choice, and spend the rest of it anyway she liked.

It’s that last bit that’s giving me trouble. It’s really hard for me not to set limits on how The Six-Year-Old spends her money. When she wants to spend fifty cents or a dollar on a cheap vending machine ring that’s going to break before we even get home, more often than not I stop it. When The Six-Year-Old comes home from a shopping spree and tosses the money she didn’t spend carelessly on the playroom floor, I tell her to pick it up and put it away so she doesn’t lose it.

But according to parent educator Vicki Hoefle, if I want my child to become a savvy consumer I’ve got to stop doing things like that. In her article, How to Teach Children to Be Savvy Consumers: Let Them Spend, Hoefle argues that the best way to teach The Six-Year-Old to manage her money wisely is to let her spend or lose her money with abandon now, before it really matters.

Once the money is handed to the kids, micromanage as little as possible. Part of my Duct Tape Parenting methods stresses the less-is-more approach. Avoid the urge to “helicopter parent,” and let the kids lose or forget their money or blow it on impulse purchasing.

….

If they leave their money lying around, toss it into a “vacation jar.” Allow them to see how money can collect over time, teaching them to be more conscious and take better care of their earnings.

I’ll admit it. I’m struggling with that. It’s really hard for me to simply let The Six-Year-Old waste (or lose) her money.

Do you give your kids an allowance? If so, what expectations have you set around it?

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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5 Responses to Teaching your child to be a savvy spender

  1. Jeanne says:

    As a mom of 4 children (ages 9 – 18) I would like to encourage you to give what Vicki Hoefle suggests a try. I started practicing this advice when my oldest was 5 and while it was difficult to watch him buy plastic junk or candy at the drug store, the experience of not having money for something he really wanted or the disappointment he felt when the toy broke in the car, was so much more valuable than anything I could ever say to try to influence. Both of the oldest children have purchased their own cars, pay their own insurance, pay for their cell phones, and have held part-time jobs, since they were 14. They are thrifty consumers, generous donators and hard-working young adults who understand the value of a dollar. It is a painful short-term experience that will teach them life-long lessons.

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    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Jeanne. My own 5 as well as the thousands of kids who were given a chance to experiment and learn about money from this technique have, for the most part, all become intelligent, thoughtful consumers who have developed a healthy relationship with money. It’s worth the initial pain when you consider the long-term benefits.

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      • Shala Howell says:

        Thanks, Vicki, both for visiting and for your comment. The 6YO clearly enjoys the relative independence that having an allowance gives her. And I enjoy the ability to say, when she asks me to buy her a toy, “you can use your allowance for that,” instead of simply no. Short-circuits the argument, because The 6YO has a two-year track record of being able to save up for stuff and buy it herself.

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    • Shala Howell says:

      Thanks for visiting and for your comment, Jeanne. I definitely want the 6YO to be a savvy consumer. I’m glad to hear it worked out that way for your kids. Whenever I find myself tempted to say “no, you can’t use your allowance for that,” I’ll take a deep breath and remember your experience. Your kids sound exactly like how I want my 6YO to be. Congratulations!

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  2. Pingback: Teaching The Eight-Year-Old to be a savvy spender, Part II | CATERPICKLES

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