Allowance for tweens

We haven't (yet) issued allowance to our tweens.  We've read a few rules of thumb about how much "should" be given and helping them make decisions for spending/saving/giving but... we're not consumers.  We buy books at the library bag sale, rarely new. We buy clothes at the thrift store and get handmedowns. We love CL and garage sales. We're not scraping by, we live well within our means but no one in the family wants the latest and greatest. We rarely go (or want to go) to movies. We don't redo the home decor regularly. We pay our bills, buy when something is needed, gets wants at holidays. We are not Starbuckians and Yogurtlandians.

We read "Opposite of Spoiled" which is written to upper/middle class and suggests having kids spend their own money if, e.g., they want soda when eating out, but none of us craves soda, we all happily order tap water, occasionally they will ask for milk. They get money for holidays and it simply gets saved (yeah!), every once in a while one will seek an unneeded "treasure" from the thrift store or desire a between-holidays toy/game/gimmick and then a little is spent.  We tried on vacation to inspire some spending - you have $xx for souvenirs, nada.  We offered special (one-off) chores that they could do for money, no interest.

We don't want to provide an allowance and then need to create artificial means for them to spend to attempt to teach a lesson. We've heard of families setting up a snack cabinet and charging for kids' snacks.  Ours are already happy to grab a carrot even if there's Halloween candy handy.

So how, in a non consumerist family, does one issue an allowance for kids to learn good spending habits?  We talk about our choices and explain how credit cards work and how to think ahead that, e.g., the car will need tires.  They see and hear budgeting happening and financial choices being made, so they aren't blind to financial decision making.  We talk, too, about public budgets: roads, social services, community workers. We donate and involve them in the process.

Does someone else have non-consumerist kids and figured out a reasonable allowance scenario?  The kids "want" an allowance as it's "expected" but also, they agree, don't have needs/wants unmet, not due to an excess of things, but due to a lack of desire for "stuff."

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RE: Allowance for tweens ()

Your kids sound fantastic. Your family sounds fantastic.

Saving habits are just as valuable as spending habits. I imagine that right now their money is invisible to them because the holiday gifts are in a savings account. So if you give them a reasonable allowance (we gave $1 per grade level per week, so $6 per week for a sixth grader), they will have a chance to practice having easily accessible cash and learning not to spend that on a whim. If they never spend any of it, that's totally great -- you definitely don't need to force them to spend it. If they splurge one day on something they don't need and later regret it, that's also great.

RE: Allowance for tweens ()

Sounds like a nice problem to have. Why not just give an allowance that you're comfortable with giving and let your kids decide.  If they don't want or need anything, then they can save it in their bank accounts.  At some future point in college or beyond, there will likely be a bigger ticket item that they want, like a car, or money for an apartment or computer, and they'll have the savings.  

RE: Allowance for tweens ()

We are in a similar boat.  Our kids in theory have an allowance, but we typically forget to give it to them and they forget to ask - for the reasons you note.  As a kid, I always used my allowance on candy and treats, but my kids don't have that interest.  Our kids have used their own money on gifts, like purchasing a gift for a parent for a birthday.   I can imagine that might not work for all, but that's something that's worked well for us. Another thought would be to think about donation opportunities.  Maybe they get an allowance and one portion (or all!) of it is put away to donate and one portion is for them for savings or spending.   Then once or twice a year they get to pick a cause they care about and decide where to donate "their" money.   They might feel more ownership in the donation doing it this way?  good luck!

RE: Allowance for tweens ()

Financial management is an important lesson to learn.  We're a fairly non-consumerist, modest family; however, we have one teen who is and always has been very "have a penny, spend a penny", and one teen who is and always has been a saver.  When the spender started to want more things, like endless Pokemon cards which evolved into frequent requests for money to go to the movies with friends, etc., we started a system where there was a job board with jobs listed and what we would pay for them.  This worked well for a while - both worked, the spender spent, the saver saved.  

Now that they are in their teens, they do get a modest allowance, enough to go out to lunch with friends once or twice a week (depending on where they go), plus opportunities to earn more should they so choose.  The spender, the older one, now also has a summer job.  Parents provide the basics - food, shelter, basic clothing, basic phone and service, family outings, etc.  Teens are expected to pay for their own social activities, and any extras they might want, including things like make up or top label hoodies, etc..  The spender actually saved enough for an Xbox (a bit to my dismay!) and continues to eventually spend everything he gets.  The saver treats herself to lunch or ice cream with friends and decided to splurge on a new iPhone (holiday gifts helped with that, experienced buyers remorse), but also continues to build a savings.  All good lessons.  Your tweens may not desire much now, but I suspect that may change as they get older.  Might as well start laying the ground work.

RE: Allowance for tweens ()

What a great problem to have!  

Have you heard of Mr. Money Mustache?  If you haven't seen his blog I would encourage you to check it out.  HIs kid is younger than yours but addresses a lot of these issues and approaches.  There is also a very active forum with lots of likeminded people sharing their ideas/tips.  He doesn't blog as much as he used to but it is still a good resource.

I thought the approach my parents took with me was useful.  I had chores around the house that were required, I had additional chores I could do to earn money, and I had an allowance that was intended to cover mutually agreed upon categories of spending - eating out with friends (e.g., off campus lunches, burritos after school), clothing, entertainment/movies with friends.  With a mix of categories - some wants and some needs - I was forced to learn to budget .  A snack stand at home is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard, don't do that.  And definitely don't encourage spending - your kids have a great instinct!    

One final note - in high school I read One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch in Econ.  It is such an old book now but it changed my life.  Because of that book (and the good sense of my Econ teacher to teach a bunch of teens about personal finance) I started maxing out IRAs when I was 17 and have always handled my own stock investments successfully.  My parents did offer a $1 for $1 reimbursement for every dollar I tied up in a retirement account for the first few years. Learning the essentials of how $1 today compounds into financial freedom later in life, and the opportunity to pursue your dreams, is a great lesson to teach a tween.