By KATE HUNTER
When I was a kid, my father’s pocket money program worked thusly:
On Sunday evenings, children would receive ten cents per year of their age every week, as long as all jobs were done, behaviour was acceptable, and Dad remembered. And had the right change.
Still, more often than not, we were paid our pocket money, and a ten year old in 1977 could buy an ABBA single (on vinyl) for a dollar.
Not being a whiz at maths, I was thirteen before I worked out that on Dad’s system, I’d be twenty before I cracked the two dollar mark. Helpfully, I pointed this flaw in his system out to him.
He replied by saying that by the time I needed more than $1.50 a week I’d be old enough to get a job and earn it myself.
My kids are 11, nine and six years old. I use an updated version of my dad’s system. I halve their age and they get a dollar equivalent of that figure. So Ben gets $5.50. I pay it after our Sunday afternoon ‘hour of power’ when the tip that is our house is blast-tidied in preparation for the week ahead. What they do with that money is largely up to them, but I do encourage them to save a bit, spend a bit, give a bit away.
My friend Lou, a teacher and the mother of four sons is the person I turn to for advice on such things. When I asked her about pocket money, she said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let them hoard it while you buy them ice-creams after netball. If they want a snack at the shops or something beyond the minimum you want to pay, they have to cough up.’
‘Really?’ I said, ‘What about saving? Shouldn’t we be all about saving?’
‘They can do that too,’ Lou said, ‘But you don’t want them to be sitting on savings of hundreds of dollars and still pestering you for a Slurpee when you stop for petrol.’
There are a couple of questions swirling around how should I manage my child’s pocket money. No one knows the absolutely right answer to any of them, but they’re interesting and important to talk about.
At what age should pocket money begin? My thinking is when they start school. It’s a bit different for the youngest kids if they see older siblings slashing the cash, but as soon as they are aware of money and that you need it to buy stuff, it’s worth starting the conversation. Of course every family is different – some might not have the means to give kids a discretionary income. It’s okay to say, ‘No, not yet.’ Don’t be swayed by teary tales of what everyone else does.