Lessons Learned: Kids and Allowance
But lessons were learned. And I am happy to share them with you.
1. If you spend your money, you can’t get it back.
Things so awry right away. I give my son $20 and he offers to pay for our lunch. “you don’t have to,” Husbandrinka says, as I order extra dessert while the getting is good.
“That’s alright,” my son reassures us. “I have nothing else to do with the money.” Despite the premonitions of him buying everyone rounds of beer flashing through my mind, I am proud of his generosity. The pride turns into a migraine over the next few days as my son comes to grips with the fact that his money is a distant memory and that he will not get another $20 for several weeks. That is SO UNFAIR. I didn’t know that I couldn’t get it back, you never told me. I hate this. I hate you. This is stupid. GIVE ME MY $20 BACK! After what seems like four straight hours of this loop, I give him $20, although to be fair, I would have given him $200 to shut the fuck up for five seconds.
2. One of the certainties in life is taxes.
We get up to the register to pay and my son is enraged because a set of markers that cost $12 is rung up to be $12.99. This is so unfair, he tells the cashier that she made a mistake and that she should be careful. The cashier is in between blowing her bubble gum and talking on her cell phone, so his charm is lost on her.
‘You have to pay tax,” I tell him.
‘Why?” he asks.
‘It’s the law.’
‘I don’t like this law. It’s stupid.’
‘Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s stupid. There are reasons for it.’
‘Like what? To..um.. help people.’
‘People who…don’t have markers.’
‘Why don’t they have markers?’
‘Because they can’t afford them.’
‘Yeah, probably because they can only pay $12 and not the extra stuff she’s asking for.’
‘I’LL PAY THE TAX! JUST PAY YOUR $12!”
3. No one is going to give you an advance.
When I started this allowance nightmare, I told the kids that they would be responsible for buying their own stuff. I would no longer be buying Wii games or Pokemon cards “just because”. We go to Wii Central, where every Wii game costs $50 and immediately my son asks for $30 “from next month”. I tell him that it’s not a good idea to borrow from the future and he says, “So, you’re saying that you want me to steal.” He says this at the top of his lungs, so the security guard stiffens and moves towards us. In an effort to avoid arrest, I advance him $30. Plus tax.
4. You have to work hard to get a raise.
“Hey, how come I get $20 a month and my sister gets $10 a week?”
“Because you said that you wanted $20 a month.”
”But I didn’t know that it was so much less! That’s not fair!”
“It’s what you wanted. My hands were tied.”
“Yes, fine. Oh, and just so that you know—I now want $20 a day.”
5. Keep current on your accounts.
My daughter almost never asks for her allowance, and we ‘forget’. But when she does ask for it, it’s for some mortifying arrears, like the past ten weeks.
“I need $100, at least.”
”What do you mean ‘at least’?’
‘I can’t remember the last time you gave me my allowance. I’m guessing it’s about 10 weeks.”
“I don’t think it’s been that long.”
“Are you saying that I’m lying?”
“You’re the one who’s always saying how fast time is flying. It may be closer to $200.”
“Let’s compromise at $150.”
“Ok. But I’ll need an advance on the next couple of weeks too.” Thank god she doesn’t know about interest.
So, I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking—I should probably write a book about kids and money. I’ll see if Madoff is available to co-author it with me.