5/03/2010

Budget Training for Children

My home when I was growing up was pretty unique. My mother created a cool system of punishments and rewards. I can't say that I appreciated it as much when I was growing up, but now that I am older, I really do reap the benefits of financial training.

I know there is a lot of controversy about giving allowances to children and tying money as a reward for children's performance whether it be grades or chores, but just try this on for size:

My mother had a system of chores that were assigned to the children. Everyone had a role to play by virtue of being a member of the family. There was a given expectation that some work is expected just because you are a member of the family "team". Generally, those chores consisted of things like setting the table, cleaning up dishes after dinner, sweeping the floor, folding laundry, etc. Since we had three children in our home, each able to manage the tasks, we rotated the list either on a daily or weekly basis.

Beyond the chores, Mom had a list of tasks that could be completed for money. She assigned a dollar value to things like mopping, vaccuuming, dusting, cleaning closets, whatever needed extra attention. We were expected to earn money for extra curricular activities, like trips and special events (sometimes with a matching program if the costs were especially high). The interesting thing was that Mom was training us to work and personal responsibility. We could choose how much we wanted to earn, even though my parents had limited income.

Our incentives were to do the fun activities we wanted to do with our friends and later in our teens we were expected to supplement the school clothes budget with our own funds. In exchange we got greater discretion over the choices in what we wore and what we did.

For the "chores" we were expected to ensure that the task was completed. We were given latitude about whether we completed the chore ourselves or we could "hire" it done. Even in hiring it done, the assigned person was responsible for ensuring that it was completed to Mom's satisfaction.

My brother was not fond of chores, so he would often hire his done by me. Being the capitalist that I am, I did not work for free so we devised our own currency system...matchbox cars. He had a collection of them and was willing to part with a few treasures in order to have time to do the things he wanted to do.

As I grew into my later teens, I went into babysitting and then obtained a part time job on my own. The training had already been put in place, but with my own money coming into the picture, I had greater responsibility for managing my financial affairs. Balancing a checkbook and creating a spending plan were now part of my life preparing me for the things I was going to need to know when I launched out officially from the nest.

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I am grateful that I had a Mom who was so creative in training us to be responsible for our choices and to instill a hard work ethic into me before I left home. The training I received as a child has had a lasting impact on the choices I made early in my adult years and my attitudes about work and spending even today. Thanks Mom!

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