Pocket money for children; 9 tips to think about

As I discovered when chatting to a group of parents about pocket money, the topic can get quite emotive and there are lots of different views about how much, when to start and whether or not to ‘pay ‘children to do chores.

pocketmoney compressed

Everyone in the group gave their children pocket but the amount was the tricky part. It seemed to be linked more to peer pressure about what everyone else was getting, rather than what the parents thought was appropriate.

This story from one Mum really highlighted the children’s understanding of the value of money.  “It was Xmas and the kids got an envelope with $20 in it from their aunt.  The 11 year old got mildly excited about $20.  The 7 year old thought it was a lot of money and the three year old wondered why his aunt had given him a pretty picture”.

All the parents expected their children to do chores but they were divided about whether or not the pocket money should be linked to doing chores or not.  From my very unscientific research it seemed there was a link between the parents experience with pocket money and how that related that to their children. Those that got pocket money for doing chores expected their children to earn their pocket money and vice versa.

None of them had set guidelines about what the pocket money could be used for, and what happened if the child ran out of money.  Actually when I asked that question I got blank looks, they hadn’t even considered having a conversation with their children about pocket money, they just handed it out.

Bill related his experience with pocket money. He clearly remembers as a child saving all his pocket money as the family were going on a trip to Disneyland.  His brother Sam as usual spent all his pocket money as he received it.  In Disneyland Bill bought himself a toy, very proudly using his own money. Sam wanted one as well and kicked up a bit of a fuss so Bill’s parents bought the toy for Sam.  You could see that even after all these years, Bill still feels bitter that Sam got the toy even though he had no money.

“What was the point of me saving?”he said “Sam was rewarded for spending all his money, and I wasn’t for saving mine”.

So after all this discussion, (some of which got a little heated) this is what I have come up with as some guidelines and food for thought when you consider pocket money for your children.

  1. Think about the age of your child, if they don’t have a concept of numbers and counting, then pocket money won’t mean much.
  2. The time to start giving pocket money is when there is awareness that you have to pay for things. Talk about it on a trip to the supermarket, or movies.  Starting pocket money at school age is a good option.
  3. Give your child a set amount that isn’t linked to chores and then they can earn additional money for other odd jobs that they do.  This is the middle ground around the dilemma of paying for chores or not. Be aware that this takes a bit of planning as  you need to be very clear about what the set chores are and what the extras are, and how much each one is worth, maybe a chart of the fridge could be useful.
  4. One of the reasons for giving pocket money is to start to teach the value of money. So set up a series of jar’s or money boxes, each time pocket money is given a certain amount goes in the savings jar, the spend now jar and the donation jar.  Explain to your children what each of these mean so it isn’t just random.
  5. There are no hard and fast rules about the amount to give, it is entirely up to you and your own personal circumstances.  You may want to talk to friends to get a feel for what they are doing so you aren’t too different from your children’s friends but you don’t have to be bound by that.
  6. As parents we need to be disciplined.  Pay the pocket money regularly; for example the same day each week, don’t miss weeks, and stick to the routine.
  7. In the early stages your child is going to get it wrong.  They will blow all their savings; or run out before next pay day.  You need to let them make these sort of mistakes, and not be the money tree and replace the savings or top the pocket money up.
  8. You may want to set some criteria about what the pocket money can be spent on but don’t be too restrictive, as this is a learning process.
  9. As your child gets older, you will need to increase the amount, make sure you have the conversation about what you are still going to pay for, versus what they are expected to pay for so there are no grey areas.

Hope these points help you navigate the decision process around pocket money.

I would really love to hear your stories about pocket money and feel free to your thoughts to the list.

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment on our blog and we will come back to you.

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