It used to be when our three children were all under the age of 10 we gave them an allowance based on their age and ability to perform certain household tasks. It was meant as a way for them to understand the value of earning and saving money and paying for things out of their own pocket.
What we soon realized was they needed another way to have a more positive relationship with money. And I do mean relationship. If my husband and I taught them anything it is that money, while inanimate, can have a positive or negative effect on how you live your life.
The first thing we did was stop giving them an allowance from our own pocket. We cut that cold turkey. First of all, what did that teach them? That we were their bosses? That taking out the trash and doing regular household chores has a dollar value? As a mom I don’t get paid for cooking and cleaning, why should they?
So the next thing we did was help them find ways to earn their own money based on their age and level of responsibility.
My 12-year-old was able to find babysitting jobs immediately. Fortunately we live in a neighborhood full of young families. My daughter’s reputation grew and soon she was babysitting for five families. She was making much more than the weekly allowance we used to give her. She was also discovering her earning potential and felt proud that she was doing something her friends we not, creating a little business for herself and watching her bank account go up and to the right.
Our two younger children were always begging me to get a puppy. I always said “No” to that request because I knew I’d become the main caregiver. One day I realized that if I kept saying “No”, they would miss out on a great experience. So it was during this time that we all came up with the idea to create a neighborhood pet sitting service. Not only did we have a neighborhood of young families, but it was also a neighborhood with lots of pets.
At the time my two youngest were seven and 10. That may seem young, so I was very involved at the beginning and supervised most of their jobs for the first few years. We developed marketing tools, balance sheets, client forms and even business cards. We learned through some mistakes what to do better the next time. For instance always carry the house key on a lanyard around your neck so you don’t accidentally leave it in the neighbor’s house and lock the door behind you. That was our most costly mistake because we had to break a back window (and pay for it) to get back in.
Their experience taking care of pets taught them to be responsible and they learned how much they really wanted a dog of their own. So when they earned enough money they were so proud and excited to get a Golden Retriever puppy. All three of them chipped in with their hard earned money. They even paid for the veterinary bills and the food!
My children are now 13, 16 and 19. They all have a great relationship with money. They have learned that they can create their own small business doing the things they love and make money in the process. They save a lot, spend a little, and we also make sure they donate to a good cause once a year. My eldest has saved up enough money to pay for her first year of college. That would never have happened had we continued giving them an allowance.
Start small. Jot down some hobbies that can be turned into a small business. Consider tutoring, babysitting, petsitting and mowing lawns.