I am the mother of three rabid consumers. They were exposed to consumer culture early and often, via heavy doses of commercial television and multiple sets of over-indulgent grandparents. When pressed for introductions, we frequently just call them “Gimme 1”, “Gimme 2”, and “Gimme 3”. Their collections of “stuff” fill up all the room in our moderately sized home that we, pre-children, wondered if it might be impossible to ever utilize fully.
Unfortunately for both our wallets and our little super-shoppers, giving birth to children with a strong desire to ACQUIRE MORE STUFF did not magically cause our financial status to change to comfortably-wealthy or come with their own little money tree where we can pick perfect hundred-dollar bills each morning to use for our spending sprees.
Learning to bridge the gap between want-to-have-it and do-you-need-it is an ongoing life lesson for the Chen family. Teaching our three kids the value of work and how to adequately control spending is important to us because we do not want them to become adults who fall into serious trouble with debt or who value possessions over people in their lives.
We have instituted an allowance plan that is helping the kids see the link between the money they have and the things they can purchase. Each child gets weekly allowance in an amount equal to the years of their lives. Our 9 year old gets $9 per week, for example, while the 4 year old is only given $4 as her weekly allotment.
From that allowance, each child must place 1/4 of their weekly total into long-term savings and at least $1 into a charity-giving account. The rest is used at their discretion to purchase snacks not covered under the family’s grocery budget, toys, and any type of extra-special treat that has not been previously budgeted for as a family expense.
We have a set list of things that are covered under the “Family Budget” rainbow. Comfortable and well-fitting clothing are a family expense, but clothing from specific brands or in specific designs that costs more than the average article must be paid for from allowance. Fruits/veggies/healthy snacks are a family expense, but candy, chips, or trips to McDonalds must be paid for via child accounts. Most books, school supplies, and hygiene items fall into the Family category, but special art supplies intended for single-child use, fancy bath or hair products, and the seventy-millionth new box of markers (bought because unnamed lazy children have left the caps off all the older markers and they’re no longer viable) are paid for by the kids.
Teaching the kids to take advantage of sale prices, plan ahead and save for major purchases, and think twice about impulse buys has taken some of the sharp edge off of their consumer hunger. We will continue to explore more ways of becoming conscious spenders, and I am excited to see what the folks over at the Parent Bloggers Network have to say on the issue.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about making wise financial choices can check out the MoneyWise Learning Tools sponsored by Capitol One.