I know I’m a killjoy and probably a horrible woman, but I blame a part of how Americans fail to get economics and how people expect something for existing on allowances.
It might be sour grapes, of course, because I didn’t get any. My parents not only didn’t believe in allowances, they snorted at my “convincing” argument that it would teach me to handle money. Either fortunately or unfortunately they also didn’t provide any way for me to earn money. And they COMPLETELY failed to understand that science fiction books, along with air, water and food are one of the necessities of life.
I say fortunately or unfortunately because this led me to an ever more ridiculous pursuit of “ways in which a kid can make money” starting with the highly unorthodox – hand copied – neighborhood paper, escalating to (I think illegal) lotteries and eventually culminating in tutoring/teaching jobs and a summer job in a hotel in Germany when I was an adult.
I’ll confess I never did THAT to my kids, but neither would I allow my husband to make them an allowance. Not being a killjoy, I allowed them to keep birthday/Christmas gifts up to $100 per gift, to do with as they pleased (gifts ARE a part of life, even as an adult.) Anything above that got socked away in their savings account because well… I figure they’ll appreciate them as adults.
However, for everyday, can-count-on-them running expenses I gave them the opportunity to earn money.
Part of this is that, being mostly libertarian (Rational Anarchist, she said) I didn’t approve of assigning the kids tasks. Yes, they live in the house. Yes, they get fed. BUT that’s my duty for choosing to have them. And cleaning and cooking are values for ME – unless what they’re cleaning or cooking are their own stuff – not them. To force them to do tasks smacked of slavery. I wanted to raise FREE men who don’t let others indenture them. I wanted them to GET no one had a RIGHT to command them. (Teach them, yes. Which is why a smack on the behind is more honest than a time out. It’s ‘yeah, you can do that. But it will hurt.’)
Since mom – me – is a bum-ish writer and cleaning ladies and time are both expensive, these opportunities were usually of the “you’ll do this and get that” sort. Older son had amassed $500 in $3 to $5 increments by 5. Jobs like “Setting the table for a week.” Or “Feeding the cats for a week” or “taking out the trash for a week” (when they were older.) Also at around five “dusting the house” for $10.
Yes, I exploited them horribly, but you also have to understand they weren’t very good at it. (As teens, for instance, they “cleaned” the house for two weeks without NOTICING that the cats had peed on a pile of books on the coffee table, doing so much damage the books had to be throw out and the table refinished. $20 for “cleaning” – meaning that there are no OBVIOUS piles of dust and mess, at least if you don’t have a nose – a whole house is reasonable in the circumstances. As they became better, I paid them better.
As for spending money the rules were – and still are – simple. Unless we decide to make the kid a gift (which we do, occasionally) or the thing they want is for eating, wearing or school (in which case it’s our job) then what they want MUST come out of THEIR earned money. (It’s amazing how few games they want when they must pay.)
Mind you, I’m not going to say the kids are perfect about money. Younger one still confuses “want” with “need” but by and large they understand money doesn’t grow on trees and “we can’t afford it” or “it’s that or food” never gets an argument.
Am I attributing the appalling lack of economic clue of the public to the allowance custom, something that has been going on since… well… forever?
To an extent. While allowances were parts of life for the wealthy in Europe since probably the renaissance – children and adults alike got an allowance made by the head of the family – I don’t think it invaded middle-class western civ till the last few decades.
And if you think about it, allowances in a society based on family centralization AND land made sense. You didn’t make your own money, and your prosperity and doing well depended on obeying/making the head of the family happy. Allowances and their withholding trained you for that. It does NOT train you for the free market.
And while I will agree that allowance or not is a small part of raising the kids in a free-market mentality, I want to warn you the schools won’t. They’re imbued through and through with Marxist ethos and even the younger boy’s “economics” class had them take in account in “hiring a new employee” things like “where could you do the most good.” (Which made me scream “to each according to his need????” a string of profanities and THEN “Sarah Smash!”) And as polluted as the “assumed beliefs” have become with “finite pie” and eternal redistribution (infernal redistribution!) ideas, even the kids’ first jobs might NOT give them a clue about producing something, or doing something people will willingly pay you for being the SOURCE of wealth in their personal, greedy little (in my boys’ cases, big) hands.
So, DON’T make allowances for your kids. Make them earn them. What do you have to lose? The neighborhood cool dad award? So what? Your kids will be better prepared to survive in the real world.
Or, of course, I could be insane. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the boys.