parents

KATE: ‘Why does it matter if the lights are on?’ my daughter asked.

This is a sponsored post brought to you by CBA.

By KATE HUNTER

It’s official I’ve turned into my father.

I’ll wander through the house, flicking off lights, muttering, ‘This place is lit up like a Christmas tree.’

My kids look at me blankly. No, it doesn’t. There is no tinsel, no glittery angel. Our house is not in the least Christmas-tree like.

‘Why does it matter if the lights are on?’ asked my daughter.

‘Because it costs money when lights are on – and when we use the heaters or the air conditioning and charge the iPad.’

‘Really?’ My daughter was about five at the time, and I could almost hear her mind whirring. ‘How could it cost money to turn the lights on or use the iPad? Are they like the rides at the shops – where do you put the coins?’

‘I’ll explain it when you’re older. But for now, if you’re not in a room, turn the lights off.’

‘But why?’

‘Because I said so.’ With that, I knew I’d become my Mum too.

So, what age should I talk to my kids about money and bills and family expenses?

No one wants to burden children with adult worries– they should start thinking about money by playing shops and charging ‘fifty eleventy dollars’ for a banana.

But when they start asking for things that cost more than an ice-cream, or calculating how much money they need if they’re to buy a video camera, then I think they’re old enough to know that someone pays for the broadband that will upload their videos to You Tube. And that the person that pays is the person with the power.

It astounds me the number of young teenagers who have smartphones paid for by their parents – many I speak to have no clue what kind of plan their phone is on. They just have it.

And that’s fine – until the time comes that they have to pay for it themselves, or they go way over the data allowance and a not-fun ‘family meeting’ is called.

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This is where I think it’s important for teenagers to be able to earn their own money. An allowance is just that – something you’re allowed. It’s a gift – perhaps with a few conditions. But a job, with a roster and a wage, or even helping neighbours with babysitting, lawn-mowing or tutoring, gives a kid their own money in the true sense of the world. If you earn it, you’re entitled to use it as confetti – but it’s unlikely that you would. If you earned that $16.15 cleaning the barbecued chicken rotisserie, you’re not about to waste it.

I think it’s okay for parents to ask for a contribution towards things like electricity, mobiles, and even petrol if it’s the kids that’s cranking up the costs. Or if the unmissable party is 50km across town. Petrol is pricey and I think a $5 contribution is reasonable.

Same goes for presents for friends, the latest jeans, hair styling fancier than a trim at the local barber and, fines – how hard is it to get that DVD back to the video store?

In my opinion, there’s no reason parents should bankroll 100% of those discretionary expenses.

Paying for things yourself is how you learn to care what they cost.

It was unreasonable to expect my five year old should care about my power bill, but when she’s 15 I’m hoping that even if I don’t ask her to contribute, she’ll understand what it is.

As Australia’s leading financial institution, the Commonwealth Bank is committed to helping young 

Australians develop strong money management skills and form sensible saving habits that can last a lifetime. Along with a range of savings accounts, including one designed especially for under-18s, and their well-established School Banking program, they offer a diverse range of initiatives designed to promote financial literacy. For more information visit their site.

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When do you think kids need to start thinking about bills and expenses? 

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