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Initiate. Abandon. Pinterest. Repeat… Until Now

APRIL 10, 2023

I’m not sure how to describe my style of parenting, but let’s just call it “Serial Starter.” My children (and husband) likely suffer from mental whiplash from all of the different times we’ve started something at home, only for me to decide shortly after that it isn’t working and retreat to the internet for a new idea that I like better.

I guess you could say my motto has been: “Initiate. Abandon. Pinterest. Repeat.”

Occasionally something will stick, but I’m ashamed to say that, more often than not, my enthusiasm for something new at home fizzles out more quickly than a sparkler on a humid summer night.

Take allowance for example.

For years I’ve been trying to find the perfect equation for allowance. We started with marbles into a jar that they would earn for acts of kindness. Each marble could be redeemed for .10, which they could spend however they wanted.

(That backfired when I caught my children deliberately doing something naughty in order to do something nice, like when my daughter hid my son’s toothbrush so that she could earn a marble for finding it).

We then moved to a collective marble system, where neither could be rewarded until they both had 20 marbles (thinking that would encourage them to help each other out). But alas, that required too much time.

I’ve tried algorithms, calculations and algebraic equations that would make my high school teachers beam with pride… all too complex. So a few months ago I simplified things and told them, “as long as you do your basic* chores you will get paid weekly, plus you can earn additional money for doing extra** chores.”

Basic chores: $0.25 for each year of their life
* Basic chores: $0.25 for each year of their life
** Extra chores: $0.25 per chore, giving them the opportunity to earn up to an additional $1.75 PER DAY

This one really started to stick. The kids responded well and they LOVED Friday  paydays, and I was finally enjoying the freedom that comes along with saying, “if you want it, you buy it.”

LOL dolls, trips to the baseball concession stand, long walks up and down the candy aisle… life was great. For a few weeks I thought “EUREKA! We’ve done it!”

But I soon found myself taking away their allowance for any little reason. Arguing with sibling? No allowance this week. Don’t want to do homework? No allowance this week. Look at me sideways? No allowance this week.

And that’s when it happened. I lost interest, then they lost interest, and before I knew it we were back in our allowance slump.

Why wasn’t I content with how my children were earning money? We had spent a significant amount if time drawing the parallel between how mommy and daddy have to work to earn money, and how getting an education and completing chores was their work. But in the real world, your employer can’t dock your pay (or not pay you altogether) because you have a bad morning or a disagreement with a coworker.

That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t punishing them for how they earned their money; I was punishing them for how they spent it. I had taken so much pride in saying “it’s your money; spend it however you want.” But every time they would pull out their wallet, I would cringe.

So today I went back to Pinterest and found the “Give, Save, Spend” jars (the idea being that each time they receive allowance they put some into each one of the three jars, usually 10% to “give,” 40% to “save,” and 50% to “spend”). I apologized for being so quick to take away their allowance in the past, and promised to be better about teaching them how to be responsible with their money.  We talked about our responsibility to tithe and take care of those less fortunate, and the importance of saving for big items or for their future. Then we pulled out the art supplies and got to work.

While their jars were drying I gave them each six slips of paper, two for each jar. We discussed some good options for using their money, and then they wrote down their ideas and put them into the appropriate jars. We concluded by having them scour the house for any change they could find, and then I gave them their allowance.

She wants to “Give” to church and children’s hospital, “Save” for a car, and “Spend” on LOL dolls and a toy ice cream truck. He wants to “Give” to church and Red Cross, “Save” for college applications and a new Wii, and “Spend” on a wooden baseball bat and candy… and I’m okay with that!

Now the jars sit in their bedrooms as a daily reminder of our discussion, and the kids are anxiously awaiting “payday” so they can divvy up what they’ve earned to help them get closer towards their goals.

And my fingers are crossed that THIS will be one of the ideas that sticks… not just while they are young, but far into their future as financially-responsible adults.

QUESTION: What about you? How did you teach your children the importance of fiscal responsibility? Please share your comments below.


Rebecca Latham began her career as an on-air radio personality in Tampa, Florida. She relocated to New Mexico in 2003 and fell in love with the Southwest, and was later appointed as the Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department by Governor Susana Martinez in 2015. Rebecca was named National Mother of the Year® in 2017 and assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for American Mothers in January 2019.

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