Let's talk about money for a minute, shall we? Specifically, money for the children.
My husband and I both grew up in households that didn't provide an allowance for the children. In both families, some of the now-grown children are very careful with money and others have had an extra share of money problems--mostly due to their own lack of money smarts, so to speak. Neither of our parents had much money.
My own experience was that while I knew we didn't have much, I never had the impression that I was any worse off than any of my friends. I knew that Mom made most of our clothes, I knew that tending the garden and animals were important (though I didn't know we often relied on them), and I knew that we shopped for groceries at the discount store. But, though it wasn't frequent, we did go to the movies, we did go camping and we did do other fun things as a family. Mom and Dad worked very hard to make sure we were protected from the financial frustrations they were experiencing. The only clue I had regarding that was on bill-paying day; when Mom was at the table with stacks of bills all around her and her checkbook in front of her, everyone knew to be quiet and stay out of the way!
My experience with Dad and the money came when it was time to ask for lunch money or extracurricular money for things like an ASB card or a yearbook. Each time I asked for money from Dad, he would begin to inquire about the cleanliness of my room or what extra things I had done to help the family that week. It was frustrating because, first of all, I wasn't very clean, but also because I never knew what was expected. Yes, I worked with the family, but was it enough for a yearbook? Yes, I had done the dishes that night, but was it considered extra since Mom had to ask me to do it?
On the other hand, I had friends who's parents were completely open and transparent about the money. While it could be argued that it was important for the children to know that frivolous purchases were just that, was it necessary for the children to bear the very grown-up burden of financial hardship?
When I left home, I felt wholly unprepared. While Mom and Dad were open about generalizations--stay out of debt, make sure you balance your checkbook, don't write a check if you don't have the money in the bank--I didn't know a thing about how to run my finances. I didn't understand how to, or the importance of, establishing credit. I didn't know much about budgeting or making a long-term plan. But, I'm a smart enough person that I knew I needed to study and figure things out. I am naturally frugal so luckily I didn't get into crazy trouble while I was figuring!
When Justin and I saw our children beginning to be motivated or enticed by money, we tried to find a happy middle ground between telling them nothing and telling them too much. We found it rather tricky! We tried to use phrases like, "Not in our budget," or "Don't want to spend our money that way." We tried to seek out and follow good advice from both experts and other parents. Going to school frustrated some of our efforts because we didn't have any pennies to spare. It became difficult to reward the children with money because we didn't have it! We felt the need to teach them more about saving and giving, but we couldn't be consistent and worried that we would make things worse by giving sometimes and not others.
Now that we are done with school and taking in regular paychecks, we are taking another look at how to teach our children about money. Dave Ramsey, who has been with us from the beginning of our marriage and whose advice made going to school possible in the first place, suggests giving children a commission (basically, work based allowance). In General Conference over the weekend, two different speakers suggested an allowance to help children learn financial responsibility.
I like the idea of an allowance of some kind and really like the idea of letting the children know it isn't going to be automatically given. As long as we establish and communicate our expectations, they will know how and how much they can receive. However, having not come from this background, I'm unsure how to proceed!
What do you do in your family? What did your parent's do? What do you wish you had done? How much are we talkin'? What should we expect the children to buy (popcorn at the movies, birthday presents for friends or their own school clothes)? Do you have a program or a book that you use?
Anxiously awaiting your advice,