Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just buy it

How are you all approaching chores / allowance / teaching the value of money??

We have just started having some of the, "Well, you can just buy it" or "just pay for it, Mom" comments from Ellen when she asks for something and I tell her no. It is time to start working on teaching the value of money, but I'm not sure the best way to approach it all.

I casually asked her if she would like to do some chores, like making her bed or emptying the dishwasher, for some nickels and dimes. She was all about it. I didn't mention anything else, but the next morning she made her bed without prompting and yesterday she came to help me unload the dishwasher. She kept saying "I need to do my chapters. I need to finish these chapters!" and I was so confused ... took me a minute ... "chores??" I asked. Oh, yes, chores. :)

So, I thought I would come up with some casual chart and give her some coins to put in a piggy bank, but the more I researched it for ideas, the more confused I got. Not surprisingly, there are all kinds of opinions on the best way to do this. Here are the challenges I see:

1. Let's be real - I will be in charge of remembering to do this, so it needs to be simple.

2. Some people are very opposed to rewarding "expected" behaviors with money. So, for example, I do expect that Ellen will make her bed and pick up her toys and clear her dishes at some point - those are normal parts of being a human being - but I'm not sure I see a problem with a monetary reward for those activities at age 3.

3. Some people don't want to provide an "allowance", i.e. money that is just given without being tied to a specific activity. They do, however, reward specific tasks, above and beyond the expected tasks, with money. Like working in the yard, or folding laundry, or whatever.

4. A lot of people want to enforce the habit of saving and giving to charity, which I like. But if the monetary reward is 10 cents, how do you split that up into different banks? With pennies?

5. At what point do you let your child bust into their bank and buy something? I think there is value in making decisions about spending money, and even making bad choices so you don't do it the next time, but if Ellen wants a Barbie (which I don't intend to buy her), it's going to take A LOT of bed making at 5 cents a pop to earn a reward. Will she get bored and lose interest?

I don't recall how my parents approached this, but I do think I have a healthy respect for money and savings. I had my first checking account in probably 5th or 6th grade and I diligently balance my checkbook every month. I had an allowance in high school, and I also worked after school and on weekends, and I was responsible for paying for most of my fun and probably some of my clothes. I was never paid for good grades - those were expected - and I had a lot of household tasks that were my responsibility and I lost privileges if I didn't do them. Oh the days of losing phone privileges! I was discussing this with my mom and I think she could see me spiraling out of control and we changed the subject. :)

So - deep breath - this isn't a life or death matter. I think I may start with a small chart with some basic tasks that get rewarded with money. Ellen is young. As she grasps the concept, then I think we can move some of those tasks into the "expected household behavior" category and add new tasks to her list. Once she starts to grasp the idea of money, then I think we can add a savings and charity component.

I did see this idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama on easy sticker charts. It looks simple and I like the idea of just basically rewarding good behavior in any form, but it doesn't involve the money component that I'm looking for. Maybe down the road ....

Tips? Thoughts? Am I too early on this at age 3 1/2??

(Edited to add: another good post on Dinner: A Love Story about some similar issues - my mom and sister were telling me about The New Yorker article, in particular).


distaff said...

Ask Dad about the story he heard of a $500/month allowance for teenagers.

Andrea said...

great timing. nate is desperate for a spider man costume and i'm not quite sure how to approach it. all i know is that i'm not just going to buy it for him. what to do????

The Dreilings said...

I like the Melissa and Doug wall calendar/daily chore organizer. Oh, and how did you skip the barbie thing. It started with the cousin and blew up from there- oh and birthday parties!