What to Do When Santa’s Chocolate Money Runs Out

We have been talking about Reward Systems to help boost our children’s self esteem and a way of encouraging good behaviour. And here we are at the beginning of another New Year brimming not only with diets to be kept to, but also new budgets after the glorious over spend that generally happens in the festive season. So wouldn’t this be a good time to think about that age -old controversial question – to give pocket money or not to give pocket money?

If yes – how much, how often, at what age to begin and should they have to earn it? These are all questions that confuse and befuddle parents. Often because our relationship with money is as confusing and befuddling, influenced by our own up bringing but also society and even fashion. Many of us don’t actually ask ourselves what money means in our lives beyond wanting to know how to get more of the stuff. Philosophical questions aside the basic truth is that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ and at some point we will need to teach our children some financial responsibility as a basic life skill – so where can we begin?

We have explored the use of star charts and other ways of giving positive feedback to all members of our families. Personally I’m not comfortable giving financial rewards for my children being ‘kind and caring’ to each other. So when we decided to introduce pocket money for my oldest child (who was 7yrs at the time) we needed another way. Having spoken to lots of friends with older children we decided to give our son a fixed amount of money for him to decide how to spend. Truth is he wanted a games console that we didn’t want him to have yet so we told him that he could have it if he saved up for it himself. Every Saturday morning he was given his pocket money in small change, which he then had to count up before putting in his piggy bank. As he got older we felt he needed to be more responsible so we added a charter that he would need to earn half his pocket money for abiding by agreed rules and he could supplement his money by doing chores. Almost overnight there was no more nagging in toy stores or asking for the latest electronic craze. He knew the answer if he wanted it he could save up for it. The funny thing about it was that our youngest (3yrs) wants pocket money now, so she gets to count the coppers into her piggy bank.

In her excellent book ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees – a parent’s guide to raising Financially Responsible Children’ – Neale S. Godfrey (2006) introduces a 4 jar system for teaching kids about short and long term investment and being socially responsible – the charity jar. She guides parents through how to explain an allowance (pocket money) even to the youngest of children. She also includes games to play with your children to make them more financially savvy. You can start teaching your child about saving as young or as old as you like. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents what they do, generally it’s a subject many parents are interested in and you do not need to get drawn into opinion. I’d recommend reading Godfrey’s book and even reviewing your system as your children get older and are ready to be more aware of the world of budget sheets – it may well help them save up for your Christmas present next year.

Oh and THAT console… well 7 months later it was all his paid for by his own savings. Wow what a feeling!


Lynn Frank is a coordinator for Passage, the Parent Support Group for the English-speaking community in Luxembourg. If you would like to know more about our work contact us at passage.parents@gmail.com