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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


A colleague once told me, never buy stuff for your kids in front of them. It makes them think everything can be bought if you fuss hard enough. Buy things for them when they are not observing. A part of me agrees and a part does not. I can imagine kids just loading stuff at random in the shopping bag, expecting parents to pay for them at the counter. Easy!
Why kids, sometimes I feel less guilty while paying via credit card compared to when the bank notes leave my purse. Or when hubby pays for something, I feel less concerned than when I pay for it, even though my money is my money and his money is also my money!
On the other hand, how else one teaches the value of money to kids? Or is it fair to inflict the worries of money matters on the kids? I remember when Dad used to talk of salaries getting delayed I used to worry sick how he will run the family. I remember filling up the annual income in admission forms and back calculating whether it is sufficient to pay for our needs. With limited understanding of savings, I used to worry unnecessarily. I really cannot decide which is the right way to balance it and convey the message that they are secure, they need not worry about issues for which they are too young but also not be totally oblivious to the ways of the world.
That brings me to the subject of allowances. Should I give pocket money to the kids or let them ask and I buy for them, thereby exercising control over where they put their money? Sue wrote an interesting post which talked about how she used her allowances and how thy grew as she grew.
At what age is it right to give allowances? I remember not having regular pocket money because I never felt the need to buy anything for myself. Hubby talks of getting "bus-money" of which he used save some by the weekend due to round figure fare issues and how they used to buy a treat for themselves with it. Does pocket money teach kids how to make that rupee go farther or do they just fritter it away in excesses?
Suppose I go by the principle of buying on request basis. What are my choices?
Do I buy whatever they request or do I ration them out?
Some of the allowed and not allowed stuff I have in mind based on what kids usually ask for would be-
1. Books/ Magazines- definitely allowed but rationed to an extent. First they need to exhaust other options like library- school & local, friends and internet. I will allow a few subscribed magazines/ comics, the rest could be read on the net. Collectibles like asterix, tintin, amar chitra katha, Enid Blytons allowed but I will try to make them hunt for a good bargain. Since I am a book freak myself, I am generous about it but calculated too. I will encourage them to build their own library because I know the joys of reading and re-reading books.
2. Clothes/ Shoes- Allowed not just for birthdays or festivals. Something I cannot control because we both are clothes horses ourselves. We don't wait for occassions but buy as we like it. Most of us have been encouraged to wear clothes/ shoes till they get completely worn out. We were taught to preserve new clothes and use them ultra- sparingly until we realized that it has gone out of fashion or we have grown out of it and we never managed to wear them to our heart's content. Today I realize that is not the best way to do it. Apparances do matter and grooming is important. I would like to encourage my kids to understand that, so that they don't end up being totally devoid of interest towards self-maintenance- kind of "badshauk". I have seen people who wear their ordinary clothes for a wedding or the most out-of-date style regularly because they do not want to give them up. Instead of controlling numbers, I will perhaps focus on getting better bargains, have a fair mix of varieties and keep an eye out for discarding stuff that start "looking old". Replenish on need basis rather than occassion basis. and buy sensible rather than outrageously expensive.
3. Toys/ Games- Heavily rationed unless they are educational- like kalaiedoscope/ monopoly, scrabble or game of skill like carrom, chess etc. I will wait for birthdays to get them as gifts- may be drop heavy hints to allow people to buy them before I take the money out of my purse. A big no-no for game CDs unless they want to make a career out of them. A few allowed as stress- busters but no excesses on that.
4. Food/ Treats/ Chocolates/ Snacks- Allowed - We both are shameless foodies. But here's the deal- no control on any fruit they want, no control on home made stuff- cakes, desserts, snacks, eggs, milk products, home made juices. But serious objection if they are used to substitute the regular meals. As long as they have healthy meals, they can freak out on snacks in-between. Any new snack will be tasted, experimented and judged. Being from the food industry, I want them to develop a taste for and relish all kinds of food so I have no objection for trying any new product. They can select what they want to eat but quantities will be rationed. Chocolates will be rationed on weekly basis, same for packed juices/ cakes. A monthly or fortnightly meal outside with family allowed.
5. Memberships/ Communities/ Signing for Extra curricular activities- Allowed if related to books, sports, quizzing, performing arts, community work etc as long as it does not interfere in their regular activities and is not over or dangerous. If a group of friends want to take off on their own for a trip, I may not allow that unless we are convinced it is worth it or unless they are old enough. Agreed travel widens the perspective, makes one independent but I have to allow that based on thir age and how responsible they are.
6. Music/ Video CD's/ DVD's- Allowed but a few months after the release, if they still want it. I will encourage them to buy the original stuff and not go around downloading because I want thm to enjoy and appreciate quality sound and listening experience rather than listen just for the sake of listening.
They say kids have a lot of pester power in major household purchases. This lot is getting smarted day by day. So how as a parent am I going to match their step and still exercise control is the question.


Hip Grandma said...

All is fine as long as it does not amount to over indulgence.The times when you grew up were different and parents did not have money to splurge.Not being paid salaries on time was quite common in Bihar/Jharkhand and my children grew up feeling the pinch.

Kodi's Mom said...

man, you have it all figured out, don't you!!!! I haven't even got past the concept of having an allowance!
the only policy, or some semblance of it, that I have in place is on food. and that mirrors yours.

Itchingtowrite said...

Hipgrandma- agree with u. the cost of living was much lower in those days, choices were less and kids were not involved in buying decisions. but now there are choices and kids r exposed to them via TV, internet so as parents we need to devise ways of exercising control. in those days even a picnic or an occassional outside eating/ icecreams was a splurge and all of us did hav a fair share of that.. the bar of splurge has movd now and that is my point of the post.
K's mom- me too not sure whether an allowance will be given. will play it by the ear. i am more worried abt th tantrums that will come on every store visit

Sue said...

My father outlined the limits of our allowance with the years. He would buy us our school needs, and we were bought books within a certain amount every few months (it was not a fixed amount but we knew that when our parents said something was too expensive that it wasn't worthwhile pestering them for it.) He would also buy us all the clothes we needed. When we went out as a family he paid for all meals and shopping. In other words, as long as parents were around, they paid, and they also had the final say on what was bought.

Treats we wanted, outings with friends, gifts we wanted to buy for others, school canteen expenses, those were paid for with our allowance. We could also make some extra money by washing the car, taking care of the garden. (Housework was not paid for.)

That was the basic breakup.

If I may be allowed to say so, buy the kids all the clothes/shoes/books/toys you're willing, but do so within a fixed budget, say so much per head per month, so that they never fall into the trap of thinking that money is easy come by. Also, it'll give them the fun of saving up for a month or two for special treats.

Itchingtowrite said...

sue- that was a nice idea...u teach them how to save and also set limits- the piggy bank culture. I love piggy banks and remember saving coins that we used to get from the offerings ina puja or the money that people used to give us as shagun etc or fine that we used to collect from Dad whenever he used a swear word (we were mercenary). Also the idea of making money by doing chores always appealed to me - the way we read in enid blytons. indian culture never supported the thought of pride in any kind of work... that's why no one is ever encouraged to do errands at home/ for neighbours & collect money like they do in the west.

Inder said...

isn't it simple?
save a percentage of whatever you get for the future. spend the rest as you want. this way you are happy in the present and will be happy in the future :)

Itchingtowrite said...

inder- problem is when u over-save and hav no liquidity and under-save and hav nothing left for oldage. either way no guarantees. when u want to enjoy u hav no money as u r busy saving when u grow old, u hav lot of money and no on to splurge on becoz all your kids hav flown from th roost.. and it's only u and the spouse

2Bs mommy said...

I started giving allowance to the older one when his demands were getting a bit too much to handle. he manages it very well now, and if he sees a new toy/PS game advrt on TV, he prioritise his 'needs' if he wants to buy that less expensive remote control new car just because he liked it( and already has a couple of those) or he would rather not buy it and save money for the new game he really really wants. I found that its helping him learn the value of money and teaches him priortising his requirements.

Itchingtowrite said...

2b's mom- that's great. good that he can manages his expenses so well!

Banno said...

I give Dhanno pocket money. But she hoards it, and gets me to spend on all that she needs, including birthday gifts for her friends, and me!!

I'm not sure rules can work, unless you use them as a guideline only. Your kids may not want to indulge in books, CDs, films, food, any of the things you think worthwhile, and may want to spend their money on miniature porcelain shepherdesses or some such thing.

I think as long as they don't get used to getting whatever they want, the minute they want it, whatever the cost, and learn that there will be times you will say no to them, they'll learn to balance their needs.

artnavy said...

i tend to agree with Banno....

and also earn your allowance is a good concept-worked well with me

Itchingtowrite said...

banno- that's cute, she enjoys saving money and feling rich. may be u cud encourage her to use it..u r right abt the rules as guidelines and yes, I may reframe them as I get to know what they tend to spend on
art- earn your allowance is something I always yearned for but never got paid!!