Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Puzzle of Pocket Money

My children love money. They make minute study of the Queen's head and of the date of minting. They rejoice in coins released during their birth year and in coins with an extra polished sheen. They squirrel their riches in a mysterious system of purses, pockets and money boxes and occasionally, after grave reflection, they take a few coins out and spend them.

Ever since my mother handed my daughter a quid and informed her that, at six, she was old enough to receive pocket money, I've sacrificed a portion of my weekly earnings to my babies. For two years it was 50p each. Then, when Haribos caught up with inflation, I recklessly doubled it. Since few of my friends had begun the habit back then, I had no benchmark against which to calculate their dues. I worked on the premise that my 10p a week income in the early 1980s funded a bag of sweets and so my children should be enabled to afford the same.

Swiftly they learned that they could blow their weekly hand-out on a chocolate bar, or else save it for grander thrills. And their prudence could have spared the Greek economy. Small Son, when he can resist temptation no longer, treats himself to packs of J-cloths, lip salve and Post-it notes. My daughter makes an occasional trip to Claire's Accessories and buys hair bobbles. Mostly, though, they bide their time until something large and irresistible in Toys R Us inflames their fancy.

I, meanwhile, congratulated myself on the fact that they are learning the value of money and that my weekly bounty absolves me from random requests for treats on shopping trips. This week, though, I read that the average child receives £350 a year in pocket money. Does this make the average parent irresponsibly indulgent or does it make me a scrooge?

I consulted Twitter and I learnt the following: all of the parents who responded give their children at least £2, apart from the two whose offspring, enviably, expect nothing at all. Teenagers pocket sums ranging from a weekly fiver to £20, with extra usually added for phone credit. One ten-year-old's income is based on the going rate for a hotwheels car; others depend on whether or not they've fed the family chickens or unloaded the dishwasher. For, crucially, almost everyone either added a supplement for chores successfully completed, or deducted sums for inadequacy - 10p per misdemeanour in one household and total withdrawal of funds for slummy bedrooms in another.

There are two revelations here: one that I am a confirmed scrooge; the other that I'm missing out on the opportunity to use the weekly pittance for enforcement.

And so, while the working nation endures a pay freeze, my pair will rejoice in a newly doubled income. Only this time they must earn it. Rooms must be tidied, beds made and cats fed. I shall put my feet up on bin night and overcome the hosepipe ban by sending infants round the borders with watering cans.

An extra £2 from my purse each week is small price to pay for the leisure I shall enjoy and I shall not permit guilt to interfere with this vital scheme for their development. After all, as tweep whose six-year-old does not yet receive pocket-money declared, 'They get food and lodging. What more could a child need?'

Advice please! How much money do you think children should receive? Does your bounty come with strings attached? When did you start doling it out?

26 comments:

  1. The Haribos bit was funny.

    Um, no idea how much kids 'should' get really but the amounts you say you are giving your kids don't sound stingy to me.

    They wouldn't really benefit much from having a bigger increase. Getting them to do it for chores is a decent idea.

    Gets them used to the idea of going up chimneys for tuppence.

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    1. £1 a week didn't feel stingy after our local 99p shop opened. You can buy a ceramic pig with that. But in the general scheme of things it seems I'm short-changing the poor creatures!

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  2. So glad you posted this as we are going through the same dilemma at the moment with O. who has just turned 5. We recently started giving her £3 a week as we got to the stage where we were buying her a kids' magazine each week and these are usually £2.99 ish. Even after we bought her a magazine she asked for other stuff (and occasionally we gave in) so now we give her £3, she can buy what she wants (within reason, the rule is no cigarettes til she's at least 12) and then she can't ask for anything else til her next pay day. If she does we say 'no, you've had your money for the week'. We've no idea if this is the right thing to do but at the moment it's going okay and means we have a lot less of those bloody magazines lying around the house! :)

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    1. Oh dear, I'm way to mean to stump up two sets of £3 quid! I have a gardening addiction to fund. But I think a weekly sum does allow parents a good get-out clause when nagged for merchandise. Mine learned very early on that they fund their own tat.

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  3. A word of warning for when they get older and it's called "allowance". I kept finding the teenagers saying "But mum you haven't given it to me yet this week! Don't you remember you said you 'Had no change'?". Due to my complete ditziness, or advancing age, I occasionally fell for this and paid them twice! Hence the inauguration of the Book in which the allowance (minus fines for swearing and the like) were recorded, and the said "allowance" was signed for!

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    1. My word, I shall never have the organisational skills for that! At what age does pocket money become an allowance, I wonder. And how do I know how much to give 'em?!

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    2. I think it was around 14. It was a larger sum, possibly £20, but was a while ago. The idea was to get them to budget, eventually over a longer period of time such as a month.

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    3. £20 a week? Oh Lordy! Still, I suppose that absolves me from keeping them in clothes and toiletries!

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  4. You see? You're getting others to do the cleaning somehow! God works in mysterious ways - but hey - you know that more than anyone! Good on you!

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    1. Trouble is they don't do it half as well as I do!

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  5. We're not at this stage yet as the toddler is only 2 and a half. But I can already tell we're going to have challenges. My husband got money whenever he asked for it growing up. Whereas I got a very limited amount. My parents had a rule 5p per year of age until you were 10, and then 10p per year of age after that.

    But now I am reasonably good for budgeting, whereas my husband is atrocious at it. Yet he feels that when the time comes for pocket money he doesn't want our son to want for anything. So we've discussed it at length and agreed that when the time comes for pocket money we will do it on a "wages and fines" basis, assigning each chore a "wage" and each disciplinary measure a "fine". We'll have to see how it goes!

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    1. Sounds sensible. A lot of kids I know get everything bought for them whenever they want it. Ipads at aged 8 and the like. It means they have no sense of the value of anything and nothing is a treat. The things my kids have saved up for and bought themselves are so much more chesrished because it was their own achievement.

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  6. Oh my god. You scare me. Twenty pounds - a week! That's shocking. Mine are getting paper rounds. They can do that when they're six, right?

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    1. Hopefully, if it's £20 a week you're absolved from all other costs like clothes and phones. Or at least I shall make sure I am. And I'll charge 'em rent!

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  7. This is a fascinating topic (and, as always, beautifully expressed).

    I started giving mine pocket money as a way to stop them nagging for tat. They get £1 per week to spend on said tat (and my part of the deal is that I make no comment), and another £1 to save for something better (namely something that I approve of).

    But then it gets more complicated, as I pay my 9 yr old for piano practice (he's doing Grade 8, so needs encouragement to plough through several gazillion scales). I probably pay him £1 per week, as I normally forget to pay him. He can spend his piano money on whatever he likes - so he normally spends it on odd things like nail varnish remover (he also has pyromaniac fantasies). He wants to buy a camping gas cylinder, but I won't let him.

    Daughter spends hers in Poundland, then spends the rest of the week moaning about having no money.

    Given that my payment to Son is attached to piano practice, I don't feel I can pay Daughter for doing domestic duties as it gives a Bad Message about gender. So nobody does domestic duties. Maybe if Mr Maid paid me, I'd feel more like doing them.

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    1. Grade 8 piano! My 9-year-old is nowhere near Grade 1. I did bribe her to practise for 2 weeks with a Horrible Histories DVD, but maybe an extra £1 a week is the way to go.

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    2. Ah yes. He is ever so slightly obsessive (also a cathedral chorister and bassoonist). It is very annoying when he is supposed to be getting dressed - though since I have unearthed a key to the piano room door, life has improved in the mornings.

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  8. Ha! mine get 50p - when I remember,

    and when I need bus money I tend to 'borrow' it back!

    I am a terrible mother, terrible *pours gin*

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    1. Yep, I borrow from mine too when I need parking coins. *gimme a sip of that gin*!

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  9. When the kids were young, we as a family did not have a lot of money and we also didn't and still don't believe in allowances. Instead if the children needed money for a special event we would happily give them some. The children always helped with chores around the house and received hugs and thank you's from us. Maybe we are Scrooges but the children still learned the value of money. If someone asks them to do something they never ask for payment or expect it. Just recently, my 19yr old was asked by my brother to babysit his 7yr old daughter, she readily said yes and when he asked how much he should pay her, she said nothing and this is for a weeks work.

    Our children learned at a young age, that money does not buy happiness, it only pays bills, and yes they realize payment is needed sometimes but not always.

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    1. What a lovely comment. And how wisely you have reared your babies. I, on the other hand, have fostered two mercenaries!

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  10. We don't actually do pocket money as a regular thing. They get money for sweets at the cinema now and again or a treat if they do well at school. But any money they have is from family for birthdays etc.

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    1. I reckon the main ting is that kids don't have money on tap. I went the pocket mney route because I thought it would teach them about budgeting.

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  11. Mine is too young for pocket money but when the time comes, I expect I will grant him a small sum..in return for doing his share of the chores. I think it's good for children to learn that money doesn't come for free - and I actually like the idea of incentivising them to do the chores to a certain standard.

    My parents never gave me pocket money when I was growing up so at age 13 I got a job washing up in a local pub and then from age 14 spent 16 hours each weekend waitressing.

    Yes, I had money, but I did spend an awful lot of time working at weekends. I'm not sure that I'd want my son to spend that amount of time working - I think I'd rather he had plenty of time to do his homework/ play with his friends. So for that reason too, once he's older I will probably give him an 'allowance'. Hopefully he will learn to manage it wisely.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. That's a good point. We need to strike the balance between earning their dues and preserving the heady freedom of childhood.

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