Over the past few weeks, we've been giving our kids more money management tools and lessons on consumerism.
Since they moved in, they have received $10.00 in allowance each Friday. The first $5.00 must be split up however they like between a jar for their bank accounts and a jar for charity. The second $5.00 is for them to spend however they would like.
Letting two children with a deficit in impulse control have $5.00 a week to do with whatever they would please has been a lesson in letting go for us as parents. Sometimes we're better at it than others. We've ended up with lots of non-working dollar store purchases, hideous accessories and other miscellaneous crap like gum, chips and an untold number of items from .25$ machines.
Our families have both asked what our kids have to do to earn money. Nothing is our reply.
Our kids get an allowance to learn how to manage their money. Their allowance is to be used to buy things they want that we're not willing to buy for them. They're learning to save and learning about giving back to the community through charitable donations. Many times they have had to go without something they really wanted because they had already spent all their money.
The kids, however, do have weekly chores that they're expected to do because we're a family and it takes all of us to run a household. They clean their rooms, set the table, clear the table and empty the dishwasher. Over the summer, they'll be picking up a few more family chores. And, when they want to earn more money, they will ask if we need help with something around the house that they can be paid for.
All in all, the system works quite well.
The tool I've been specifically working with them on is delay in gratification. I'd like to teach them to delay instant gratification. I'd like to see them buy something they really want or need, opposed to buying the first thing they see that they have enough money to buy.
I've put some limits around their spending now. Last night, for example, I ran out of sour cream while making potato salad and had to run to the grocery store.
Before the kids piled into the car, they scrambled for their wallets and started to have a discussion on the things they could buy at the grocery store. They were talking about spending their money like they'd never been to a store before.
I then let them know that they were free to spend their money at the store, but they couldn't buy food. I was then reminded of the toy section at said grocery store. This is the scene that unravelled.
Me: Okay kids, it's time to go. If you've got something you're going to buy, come to the check out now.
Bubaloo: I've got these hot wheel helicopters. I want them real bad. I've had my eye on them for weeks.
Me: Do you have enough money for those?
Bubaloo: I DO! (He scans item at self-check out and a price tag of $7.28 flashes on the screen). Mom, it's $7.28.
Me: How much money do you have?
Bubaloo: I have $5.00.
Me: Is that enough to buy the hot wheels?
Bubaloo: No. (Shakes his head in great disappointment).
Me: Well you need to go tell the cashier that you don't have enough money to buy those so that she can clear the scanner.
Bubaloo: (Walks over to the cashier, alone. He mumbles). I don't have enough money to buy this.
Cashier: Oh. (Looks up, and around, and doesn't see the parent. The look crosses her face as to why is this kid telling her this. Is it because he wants her to buy it for him? Is it because he's just sharing the news with her? It's a very clear WTF look.)
Me: (Trying not to laugh.) He's letting you know that he doesn't have enough allowance money to buy it today and would like you to clear the scanner over there.
As we leave the store Bubaloo starts in on a monologue about how he will have enough money at the end of the week to buy the hot wheels, or for that matter, perhaps he'd even have enough money to buy a water gun....or this Nintendo game he wanted...or something from the dollar store....
My learning opportunities are perhaps not going quite the way I had planned.