You may recall past posts in which I discussed our son buying plane tickets and cockatiels and our daughter purchasing a hamster. Finances are an important issue for S and I, and we have strived diligently to lead our children by example, teach them the ups and downs of debt, and the ways to avoid it whenever possible. One thing we don’t do is give them an allowance just for being here. We believe in teaching that money is a reward that must be earned. According to Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” In order to teach this concept, in our family, earned allowances start around age 5. They have standard chores that are expected of them, just because they are part of our family “team.” Then, I have extra chores on a list, which they can do to earn some money. The amount of money depends on the type of chore. These vary from easy tasks like emptying a trash can for $.10 to medium tasks like unloading the dishwasher for $.25 to harder tasks like brushing the donkey for $.50 or time-consuming tasks like cleaning our van out for $1. There are some tasks which are reserved for the younger children (to prevent the older ones from doing only easy stuff). Chores are also designated as “Daily” or “Weekly” chores to help the children learn the frequency with which tasks should be completed. On top of that, I periodically offer to “hire” them for really big tasks such as cleaning the van really thoroughly, helping with the younger children in an extra-ordinary way, etc.
We’ve found our children don’t really comprehend the concept of money until around age 5. We allow the younger ones to earn as desired, but just put the money away at first. Around age 5, they show a desire to spend and buy things. At age 5-6, they tend to want to spend the money as fast as they earn it. They are required to tithe 10%, but the rest is theirs to do as they wish. We allow that (within reason) for a short while, just to introduce them to earning and spending, and value therein. In the beginning, they often buy candy or gum, so we try to encourage an end to this phase quickly, and begin encouraging them more toward toys or gifts for others. By age 6, they are required to save and buy a Christmas gift for one of their siblings (usually around $5-$10). When they seem to have a grasp on the concept of money, as well as the fact that the higher-priced items are usually of greater quality than lower priced items, (typically this occurs around age 7), then we begin to encourage them to save up for something bigger (in the $20-$30 range). JR initially chose to save up for a type of toy he had seen. By the time he was 8, he saved to meet us dollar-for-dollar to buy a plane ticket so he could travel with his dad on an airplane. M is a rather content child who wants little. It was very difficult to find something she desired to save for, so saving was more difficult for her since she had no goal. After S and I discussed the issue earlier this year, we decided to really begin challenging the children. We wanted them to not only understand the concept of money, but also to encourage them to grow in responsibility and knowledge.
First, we determined something they really wanted, and as it turned out both children wanted their own pets. We agreed, albeit reluctantly and conditionally. We set rules. They had to save their money. They had to buy all needed supplies. They had to fully care for it. If, at any point, we felt the pets were being neglected, then we had the right to sell them (and give the kids their money back less any “payment” we required for last minute care). They agreed, so we moved forward.
After some discussion, it turned out that JR was very interested in having a pet bird that he could care for. We helped him research to pick a type of bird, and after he narrowed it down to cockatiels, we bought him a book to encourage reading and learning about his new pet. Then, we helped him map out a plan for saving. Eventually, he reached his goal, and got his birds, which, 5 months later, he still cares for completely on his own.
M decided she wanted a hamster. Again, we bought her a book to encourage reading and to help her learn. She read that book from cover to cover to learn all about hamsters. And she saved. Within 4 months, she had enough to buy her cage, bedding, toys, and food supplies. M needs immediate reward at this point moreso than JR, so we went ahead and worked with her to buy those items first, even though she didn’t have enough for the hamster. Once she had those items set up on her dresser and waiting, it only took another 2 weeks, and she had enough to buy her hamster.
So far, S and I are seeing excellent results. JR and M both learned a tremendous amount from their books, and have both worked diligently to train their animals. JR’s birds say several words now, know routines, and let him know when they need something. He has become very sensitive to their needs and desires. Likewise, M selected the tamest of hamsters at the pet store, but it was still semi-wild. She has worked with it multiple times a day, and now “Molly” is a very sweet, gentle, calm hamster that will walk right up onto a hand (especially M’s), cuddle, allow pets, etc. When she sees M walk in the room, she often stands up on her hind legs to greet her owner. It is so precious. Both have had to continue saving, in order to keep enough money in their jars to purchase bedding or feed as needed. JR even went a little farther, and decided to buy a day-time perch/playground for his birds to sit on his desk while he does school each day, just to get more time with them. Not only did he purchase it, but he spent about 2 hours reading instructions and assembling it totally on his own. Talk about boosting confidence! That was one proud little boy the next morning, as he showed off his creation!!
M is pretty happy at this point, so her money-earning has slowed down. JR is beginning to make new goals for his money nowadays. He desires to open a bank account. We have given him a large amount to save up prior to doing so, so he can deposit some, but still have some to keep as fun money. We are also encouraging him to start a 3-way system with his earnings, where 10% goes to tithe, and the remainder is split into 1/2 for big savings and 1/2 for general use. We are beginning to encourage bigger goals for which to use the big savings account–such as his first car or even a house when he is old enough. He gets it. M is not quite ready for that yet, enjoying only this moment of reaching her first goal. I love seeing this though. I would love little more than to see my children grow to be fiscally responsible adults, that manage to begin their adult lives free of the burden of debt. I can totally expect them to take excellent care of their first car because it took them years to save for it. I can imagine them meeting that special someone one day, marrying, and having enough set aside to purchase a quaint starter home without the financial stresses that affect so many newlyweds. JR is also learning more about giving. This year, for the first time, he purchased Christmas gifts for each of his siblings. At one point, he confided to me, “Man, I need to save up a lot more for Christmas next year! Once I start buying for others, I just can’t stop because it’s so much fun!!”
And THAT, my child, is a heart-attitude that will take you far in life!