“Mom, I need…” or “Dad, can I have…”
How often do your teenagers start a conversation with you like that? If they are anything like mine probably several times a week. And you love your children and want them to have everything that they want. You also want them to learn the real value of money and how to manage their own money responsibly. It can be a mighty thin line to walk.
I started my kids off with an allowance at a fairly young age. At eight years old I began to give my son five dollars a week for doing a few chores. Mostly just feeding and watering the dog at first. As he got older I increased his allowance as his responsibilities grew. But I was always made sure to remind myself that no matter what he was still just a child.
When he got a bit older and began to do more things on his own and with his friends he also began to spend more of his money. That is when I stepped in to try and help him learn some good money management skills.
After the first few times that he came to me asking for an advance on his allowance we sat down together for a long talk. We plotted out exactly what he wanted to do with his friends on a regular basis and what would be a little more expensive but would only be on special occasions. What would he do if he decided he wanted something special during that vast present void between his birthday and Christmas?
Between us my son and I came up with a system that seemed pretty fair. He would use 60% of his allowance for hanging out with his friends, going to the movies, the comic book store and just being a kid. 25% would be set aside for his more expensive plans like the occasional trip to the amusement park and summer fun at the water park. After doing the math he decided that would give him a very nice bankroll for those trips. He would opt for free games such as Gardenscapes rather than paid ones to cater to his gaming craves.
The last 15% he would save for the expensive things that he really wanted. At first he did not believe me when I told him that those things would be more meaningful if he saved for them himself. When he bought an Xbox with his own money six months later he got my point.
There were some rocky points as first got used to his budgeting program. It turns out my son is a lot like me and does better saving his money if he does not have ready access to it. We quickly decided it would be best to get him his own savings account to keep the 40% he was saving safely out of reach for impulse buying. Out of sight, out of mind.
That was several years ago and his system has served him well. He has kept to it into his high school years and his first job. It has allowed him to buy his first car with no help from me and without going into debt.
My son’s system is very simple and may not work for everyone. But for him it works quite well.