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.