One of the jobs parents have it to teach their kids about money.
The first lessons come when kids (I hope) learn that money is not unlimited. Every trip by a store, to get groceries or into a mall, does not mean the acquisition of a new toy. With our kids this is around age 4 an appeared in the form of a whinefest over some junky overpriced toy (conveniently displayed with all the sugary cereals at the grocery store) OR toy-envy after playdates.
At some point, kids, in my view need to learn to manage their own money. I started getting an allowance in grade 1 and so we decided to start J Boy on an allowance at the beginning of grade 1. But he seems vastly uninterested and far be it for Husband and I to foist our hard earned money on our progeny. So we waited.
In grade 2, the "Can you get me ..." started in ernest and the timing seemed right to give J his own income stream to manage. We started him at $2 per week. We are apparently tight wads as the 'experts' recommend $1 time their age. But $28 per month seemed like too much. Not like we're going to ask him to pay rent or fill the van up with gas.
The downside of the low allowance is it encourages trips to the dollar store. The upside is my kids are starting to learn that a lot of stuff that looks kind of cool in the dollar store will self-destruct before we reach the parking lot.
Still, J has enjoyed his piece of financial freedom. Last fall when his spooky obsession was in full force he acquired quite a collection of Halloween decorative items. We have appreciated giving him an option other than no when asked if he can buy some baby toy that looks appealing. "Do you want to spend your allowance on that?".
He's generally been quite careful in what he spends and never wants his piggy bank empty. After several housewide searches for his allowance stash, he relented and let me keep it in our room.
We spoke to him about saving up for something "big", like that you can't buy at a dollar store, but initially he wasn't interested in gratification delayed beyond next week.
With the high of his birthday (late November) hype of Christmas he seemed to forget altogether about spending his money. Come January, it seems his nest egg had grown to over $75 if one included some birthday money. Well on his way to a Nintendo DS, which Santa had failed to bring and which he decided he would save up for.
Last week on the way home from swimming lessons he mused on how much money he would have if he saved for a whole year.
"Would I have enough money to buy a city?"
"Would I have enough money to buy a house?"
Despite my attempts to steer him towards some version of reality, he convinced himself that if he saved for a year he would have a million dollars. Then he proceeded to decide how to spend it. He wanted to make sure that he spent the money on things the whole family would appreciate:
1. Add 3 elevators to our house so we all have one in our respective rooms.
2.Make the kids' bedrooms both larger and create secret passage between them (he noted that he would also have to make the basement bigger to support the larger 2nd floor).
3. Put new cupboards in the kitchen and hardwood floors in living room-dining room.
4. Build a fake bookcase in his room, which would reveal a secret room when one pulled on the right fake books (Okay, perhaps he is watching too much Scooby Doo.)
Stay tuned for the Great Bakugan Hunt of 2009 in which J attempts to spend some of his accumulated wealth.