By Heather Christie of heatherchristiebooks.com
Money is a touchy subject. Like politics and religion, it’s not a topic that’s discussed in polite company. Often times, we don’t even talk to our children about it. Should they know how much money I earn? What my husband makes? How much we have saved in the bank?
This is ignorance is bliss for kids.
And that is a dangerous thing.
According to the money.CNN.com, the average cost to raise a child in the United States is $245,920 (and as high as $455,00 in the urban Northeast). This does not include the price of college. If you want all of CNN’s brutal facts, click here.
When I was pregnant with our son, I was too excited about starting a family to truly consider the financial implications. I had a vague understanding that kids cost a lot, but in the beginning it felt pretty manageable. And then our daughter was born and reality started to set in. As a toddler, she had immediate fashion and decorating sense. She wore ruffled skirts that twirled and jewelry that sparkled. She adorned her room with many, many stuffed animals.
Fast-forward fifteen years: big kids = big money.
Did CNN include multiple weekly trips to Mama’s Pizza, last-minute snow-tubing tickets, and got-to-have-it concert tickets in the calculation? Lulu Lemon? Vineyard Vines? No longer can a hundred dollars purchase enough presents to fill in around the Christmas tree. I’d be lucky to buy half an iPod. And now everybody has a phone with a phone bill. Soon my son will be driving and he’ll need gas money and insurance.
The real kid-raising amount feels closer to a million dollars!
Who has an extra million sitting around?
Who is really paying for all this?
The kids argue, Everybody’s doing it—we must, too!
About two years ago, my husband and I were slipping dangerously in this money-sucking parent trap.
The buck had to stop.
Otherwise, these kids were going to send us to the poorhouse. And we surely weren’t teaching them about the value of a dollar and hard work. We were perpetuating a reckless, money-grows-on-trees myth and creating money-ignorant kids.
We called a family meeting and explained that the money faucet had run dry.
In its place, we implemented a formal chores-for-cash system.
In exchange for basic chores like feeding the cats, taking out the trash and recycling, making beds, setting the table, cleaning up after dinner, and keeping the mudroom tidy, each child would receive twenty-five dollars per week. We agreed to pay for all of their necessities and special family events, but if they wanted to go the movies, out to eat, or rock-climbing, whatever, they needed to budget for it and pay their own way. And if they didn’t complete all of their chores, they’d be docked a few dollars. Click here for an allowance calculator.
Over time, their money personalities emerged: Our son is The Saver. The Saver likes money so much that he’s started three businesses in the last year: grass-cutting, snow-shoveling, and one-on-one soccer tutoring. He also worked at my sister’s Christmas tree stand this past holiday season for extra moola. The Saver bought a safe in which to store his money. The even better news is that he’s paying for his social life!
Our daughter, not surprisingly, is The Spender. Money burns a hole in her pocket. And watch out if there’s a Marley Lilly flash sale online. She’s mastered how to take an advance against allowance-to-be-earned and has found herself in debt more than once and begging for a reset.
She has argued, “It’s not fair. Why do we have to learn about the real world now?”
But I think things are starting to sink in. After having to decline a movie with friends because she was broke, The Spender booked her first babysitting job.
Now both kids pay for most of their own activities. They make decisions about what’s important and what’s not a necessity. They are taking baby steps toward financial responsibility. My goal is for them to understand how money works in the real world.
Sometimes they still moan and complain about not having enough cash to do this or that. But I’ve noticed they’ve started to pay attention to clothing price tags and costly menu items. And even when I’m treating, they choose the more prudent option.
Money is no longer a taboo subject in our family.
A version of this post was originally published on heatherchristiebooks.com.
About the Author
Heather Christie is a wife, mother, writer, real estate broker, new knitter, amateur cook, exercise freak, and avid reader. When she’s not selling houses, she’s writing books and blogging about family, food, & philosophy.. Follow Heather’s Sunday Morning Blog at www.HeatherChristieBooks.com and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.