Why You Shouldn’t Stop Spending Money on Your Kids
(Even if they Get an Allowance)
By Erin Irvin
Can you name two topics where unsolicited advice is flat out infuriating? My picks are Parenting and Money! Put your hands together and you’ve got an internet bomb just waiting to go off. However, after reading some articles recently about things you should make your kids pay for from their allowance, I have a rebuttal.
Yes, we should teach our kids the value of money, how to save and spend responsibly, but I don't agree with this increasingly popular notion of making your kids pay for every extraneous expense from their own allowance. I grew up in a family with four kids and parents with blue collar jobs, who did the best they could for us. But we also didn't get to set foot in toy stores and never got any new toys unless it was our birthday or Christmas. And as an adult now, I feel there was a level of deprivation there that kids shouldn't have to deal with.
I’m not saying I resent my parents for this. I understand where this decision came from. My practical mother, who was juggling four kids alongside a 9-5 job (and making home-cooked meals and cleaning the whole house from top to bottom every weekend by the way!) didn’t want to deal with taking us places where there would be things we wanted, like the toy store, when she couldn’t afford to get those things for us. So rather than seeing the disappointment on our faces (or hearing it in our voices) she circumvented the whole thing by just plain not taking us to those places. I get it.
But you only get to be a carefree kid for a few short years. Let them have an ice cream treat on a summer Saturday without stressing over spending their allowance. Let them have that action figure they've been wanting, even if it's not a holiday and, again, without pulling in the anxiety of wondering if they can afford it. My first instinct is always, "I can't spend money on that, that's too expensive, it's not necessary so why get it?" because this is what I learned growing up. I often heard, “No, you don’t need that.” It was true, I didn’t need another Barbie doll, or the stuffed monkey, or the travel size Guess Who game. But childhood shouldn’t always be about Need and never about Want. I can tell you that it taught me to be so strict with myself that I feel I’m never allowed to do anything fun because I feel like I don’t deserve it.
I understand this may make me sound shallow for valuing material goods, or ungrateful for all the wonderful things I did get growing up. I also know there are plenty of children out there who don’t get anything, who are abused or ill or wards of the state, and that toys and treats are low priorities for children who have little. But this is all the more reason to do what you can to make your own children’s lives magical and, yes, a little frivolous. Sadly, we can’t save every needy child from poverty, no matter how much we give to charity, but we can strive to do more to brighten our own kids' days.
So can we just be a little stricter with ourselves as parents, and adults, to save up our own allowances? We can still teach our kids the value of money with small allowances and take them places to spend it, but we should also set aside fun money, reserved for spending on our kids, in situations where they should just be kids and have carefree fun. These years are precious and finite, and they will spend the rest of their lives worrying about making rent and paying bills and saving for big expenses. Give them the break while they can get away with taking it.