My 13-year-old, Tori, casually mentioned that an acquaintance had balked at spending $5 on a lunch. She said, "Wow, $5 is nothing!"
Five dollars is "nothing" only when it's someone else's five dollars! We are raising a new generation of young people who have no idea how to value or manage money.
My kids do chores and I give each a small allowance. Somehow I get nickel and dimed (or rather 5- and 10-dollared) to pieces anyway. "Mom, can I have money for the movies?" "Mom, can I get that new Justin Bieber CD?" "Mom, can I buy lunch at school today?"
Sure, I say "no" as often as "yes." But it's still the case that sometimes there's nothing left for mom anyway.
I like the approach of a friend of mine. She and her husband asked their child to work out a monthly budget. Clothes, movies, lunch with her girlfriends or at school, haircuts and hair-care products, makeup, iTunes purchases, everything. Together, they figured out what was reasonable. At the beginning of the month, she receives that month's stipend in her bank account. She has a debit bank card to access the funds or get cash, but either way she can't spend more than is in there.
Their child can use the money to splurge on a pair of jeans but be sorry when her friends are going to the movies and she can't. The budget is reasonable but not overly generous, so that she has an incentive to earn money where she can, too.
Yes, mom and dad will occasionally treat the family to dinner or a night out at the movies. And no, the child is not asked to cover her part of the mortgage! But wow, is she learning some great lessons.
That's what I'm determined to do for my kids, starting with the older two.
Tori actually is responsible with money and thoughtful about her purchases. But she really likes nice jeans. Older brother Peter is almost 16 and has very little interest in "stuff" of any kind. He's going to caddy this summer -- his first job -- and it will be interesting to see how earning money affects that view! Maybe he'll just invest his monthly stipend in Microsoft.
I've added a provision that the kids need to help support a charity of their choice, but how much is up to them.
My children seem excited about the idea. Frankly, I have a feeling they don't know what things actually cost. I'm waiting for the proposed monthly budgets to be turned in from each of them. I'll share what happens in a future column.
If I could just put myself on a more accountable budget plan, we might really get somewhere. I'm hoping my kids will inspire me. I'll share what happens there, too!