Friday, November 9, 2012


That's how much Matthew had to deposit into his brand-spanking-new bank account when we went to open one up for him two weeks ago.   He'd counted up all of the bills and coins from his ziploc bag and put every last penny into his new account.  Can you tell how pleased he is with having his very own bank account?

The transaction was sealed with a handshake.  The account manager said that she'd never met a family that took a picture of their child opening a first bank account, but said that she thought it was a fabulous idea to mark an important moment...but of course I know that her kind words were meant to appease/butter up this slightly-psychotic mama.

Matthew has saved pretty much all of the money he's been given over the past few years - the only thing I can remember him purchasing is a $22 Perplexus game a few months ago...and maybe a $0.25 gum ball now and then.  Since his eighth birthday in March, he has been receiving an allowance of $6/week and we now transfer that directly into his account every Saturday so that we no longer have to worry about having $6 in cash in our wallets.  It's also helpful that he doesn't actually see his allowance going into his account - out of sight, out of mind!  He is determined to save as much money as possible.

We waited until Matthew was eight to give him an allowance, not because eight is a magic number in any way but because by then he could identify and tally up both cash and coin and seemed to have a decent appreciation for the value of money.  We also felt that he was showing an increased ability to be responsible.

We do not make him earn his allowance.  Nor do we reduce the amount he receives if he doesn't complete specific chores. Basically we believe that as a member of our family, he will contribute towards the household through completion of simple chores simply because he's part of the family.  Geoff and I both objected to the notion that we should 'pay' our child to do the chores and, conversely, reduce what he receives if he doesn't contribute to the household.  Quite frankly, I found just the idea exhausting, that we might have to calculate how much is owing every week for chores done/undone!

Seth and Lizzie are now, of course, anxious to receive an allowance as well, and Seth is quite convinced that when he turns eight next summer he will be entitled to an allowance.  I have explained to him, however, that this may or may not happen, and that we don't always treat people exactly the same in the family.  Just like for Matthew, we will assess when he (or Lizzie) is comfortable understanding denominations and coins and demonstrates a sense of responsibility.

At any rate, we've had some interesting conversations around here lately about interest, where the actual money goes that Matthew deposited, how it's used by the bank, and so on and so on.

Do your kids receive an allowance?  If so, how much?  Do they have to earn it?  What kinds of purchases does it cover?  What was your thinking behind giving/not an allowance?


  1. An allowance is a ticklish subject, isn't it? Mine don't receive one - mostly because I expect them to contribute to the family because they're part of it.
    On the other hand, I love what my sister does. They are each allotted X dollars/month. If they want to go for a coke @ mickey d's, buy gum, etc., that amount comes off their allotted $$. At the end of the month, they can either carry it over, or take cash.
    I love this, mostly because it reinforces her teaching on the value of money, budgeting, and financial responsibility. They teach it to their kids and this is a really concrete way to practice it. I'm going to start this with our son, and with our daughter when she's ready to handle it.

  2. Ahh, yes, I think you're right that it is a ticklish subject; there are as many opinions as practices out there!

    Yes, we also think that our kids need to contribute to the family/household because they're part of it - that's precisely why we chose not to tie Matthew's allowance to his household chores. He has heard recently that some of his friends receive money for doing chores and wanted us to implement that kind of system too - but we explained that this will never happen in our house because we all simply need to step up and do what's needed around the house.

    It sounds like the difference between your sister's approach and ours is that your sister's children don't actually receive the money until the end of the month, and then only if they decide to take the cash rather than rolling it over. It's a subtle difference and a lovely idea! We have also explained to Matthew that if he wants to buy something 'extra' that this will come out of his allowance; hoping, also, to teach him that he will need to save up his dollars in order buy something that he has chosen. If he chooses to spend it all at once, that's ok, too, but then he'll learn that once the money's gone, it's gone! Just slightly different forms of teaching these principles, I think.

    It was interesting to me to notice that when he first started receiving his allowance, he was looking at all kinds of magazines trying to figure out what he would buy and his mind changed daily as he saw something new that he loved. About eight weeks in, he finally realized that his money would actually have to stretch pretty far in order to buy some of the things he was eying, and he decided that he didn't really need those things right now, and that he'd rather save his money. I loved that he learned a little more about budgeting and how far his dollar would go. Even last weekend, when I had to buy him some clothes, he eyed the price of everything and kept commenting that if it were HIM buying the clothing he could do it but that it would cost quite a lot. He then said to me: "wow, you have to do this for THREE kids." Something is sinking in!!

    ANyway, thanks for the comment and for sharing what you're going to do. Blessings, and have a great weekend!!


  3. I am not sure what I will do about allowance when the time comes, but I am sure I will give something as I know that I so appreciated this as a child, especially when I got to the age where I could not work (10-16), but had occasions where a little money was necessary.

    My allowance did not have conditions, but my parents did pay me for for "big" jobs around the house that they did not want to do (e.g. washing the car, organizing the kitchen, painting the fence) and I think there was value in this too, as money and work are inherently linked.

    I heard someone talking . . . on CBC, I can't remember who, but she was giving her millions away to good causes and living a simple life . . . she said that her first bank account was opened so that she could save money for birthday/Christmas gifts (rather than to buy for herself). She felt the idea of saving to give to others was formative for her and I LOVE this idea. I wouldn't want giving away $$ to be the only goal of saving, but it's a good one!

  4. Congratulations to your son on his first bank account. It is a big milestone indeed and often overlooked. Funny that a step regarding something that they'll need to use, earn, and manage all of their lives doesn't seem that important in many families. I think there is merit to taking an individulized approach to when your children will get bank accounts. However, having opened my first bank account at the same time as my siblings. I must say that I learned a great deal from sharing the experience with them. My other siblings were great models of what I wanted to do and didn't want to do with my money. I truly didn't have the skills necessary to understand it initially, but I caught on quickly with real life experience. That being said, I'll bet getting a bank account will be a great motivator for learning. If the learning takes years longer though, you may want to consider the benefits of a bank account as a status symbol. That sounds silly, but I'll explain it further, so stick with me.

    While I don't have children, I do raise my sister and I must say that banking has been quite the experience. Given the extent of her developmental disability and complete blindness, it's quite unlikely that she'll learn to comprehend money (not impossible though, so I'll never quit trying!). However, she loves every part of banking. When something requires payment, she loves to announce to anyone who will listen that she has money in her bank account. She may never know that there are different denominations or how one might save for larger purchases, but she knows that most people like money, want money, and use money. To simply be part of that makes her very proud indeed. It has also helped reinforce some fantastic social skills.

    Last thought and I'm sure you've heard this before, but for my niece they're employing the three-way split for allowance. A portion for saving, a portion for giving, and a portion for spending. It's been pretty great for her to date.

    Anyways, I seldom have anything relevant to add to your blog posts because our experiences are quite different, but I truly enjoy reading them! Thanks again for sharing your experiences!

  5. Melissa, what an awesome idea...thanks so much for sharing that!! I'm going to think about that. Wow - truly a great idea.



  6. Hey Janelle -
    First of all, I cannot believe you said you seldom have anything relevant to comment about...I LOVE it when you comment so feel free!!!

    Thanks for sharing the experience with you sister - you have such a challenge and a blessing involved with raising her, and I'm fascinated by her ability to comprehend the value and attraction of money despite perhaps never being able to appreciate the specifics. I bet she's quite the character - I laughed when I read the bit about her announcing to anyone who'll listen that she has money in her account!

    Re: the splitting of allowance three-ways, thanks for bringing that up. Until the opening of his bank and the auto transfer of his allowance every week, Matthew gave a portion of his allowance to church every Sunday. But now, with the money going right in, he hasn't been doing that. We need to think that through a bit because that's something Geoff and I model for our kids and we're definitely wanting to encourage their giving as well. I like the 3-way split idea.

    You also mentioned having an account opened at the same time as your sibs, even before you understood what it was all about. I'll give that some thought. My inclination, particularly with Seth, is to continue to wait on him because of my three kids, he is the one who (oddly) least appreciates the concept and value of a dollar, and I'm watching him watch Matthew as Matthew figures out what to do with his money. Your thought makes me think, though, that I may not need to wait quite as long as I'd initially thought I would need to before opening an account for Seth.

    OK I'm not sure I've been entirely coherent in my response, but thanks Janelle...loved hearing from you!!



  7. 4 of my kiddos now get a weekly allowance-they each started getting one in first grade. They get $1 per grade they are in (so our 7th grader gets 7 dollars). Their allowance is not tied to chores, etc., but just as a tool to help them learn how to manage money. They also are expected to do chores as part of being in our family.

    We do the 3 way split and have loved it so far, though I'm a bit weary of always needing the correct change for the percentages! Our 7th grader has a savings account and tends to save more than spend, although this year he has used his allowance to purchase snacks and meals for himself when at cross country meets. The other 3 usually use some of their spending money about twice a month, usually for some kind of special snack or art supply. I've recognized (with the help of my husband!) that I have a hard time letting them learn (and fail!) with house they choose to spend their money. When I see them using their spending money on what I would consider "junk" or something that will break I want to tell them to forget it, but my husband is so much better at letting them learn now with these little things!

    Great topic-thanks for your post!

  8. Yes, I can appreciate that it's tough to 'sit back' and let them buy things that seem so obviously to be not a great choice! Though Matthew hasn't actually DONE that yet, I have no doubt that this is coming.

    I must say that when we began the automatic transfer of his allowance directly to his account, it was a big relief not to have to worry about having the cash on hand. But yes, I now wonder how to do the split of that money, especially with the giving portion of it.

    Thanks Sharon - loved reading how you're doing things with your crew!



  9. Good post Ruth, thanks!

    We give the kids a weekly allowance, with a save/spend/tithe allocation. They're expected to help out around the house in specific ways and for the most part, our routines and systems make it natural for them to follow-through. So the allowance isn't chore-specific.

    They get $1/yr of age and are expected to us the money for treats, books, small toys apart from birthdays, the occasional hot chocolate from Starbucks and other parts of daily life. So the in-and-out of money is a fairly regular occurance. The bulk of it goes towards the birthday presents they buy for relatives and each other and spending on family vacations.

    We pay each Sunday night during our family meeting. Sometimes we miss, then we catch up the next time.