Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Money Matters

My son has been hounding me to come up with a list of things he can do to earn money. He would like to amass wads of cash, not to give away to a local shelter, or buy something nice for the mother who cares for him 24/7, or even to save up for a really big item that would be beneficial for a boy his age—say a new mattress for his bed, or efficient lighting by which to study. No, my son would like wads of cash to purchase games for his Nintendo DS. This cursed thing was brought by (who else) Santa, even though I was previously pretty specific about what I wanted each child to have. (Damn Santa.) This hand held video contraption is now my kryptonite, closing in on my other arch nemesis, the XBOX 360. Buying video games is now the sole reason my son wants to engage in any sort of physical labor or has even a slight interest in performing a duty with a purpose.

My son needs this list of money earning activities because he doesn’t receive an allowance. Although he is nine, we haven’t started the allowance thing for a number of reasons. For one, I don’t feel right about giving him money to do chores. Chores in my book, are things you do

because you are part of a family and everyone has to pull their own weight. Dishes, vaccumming, putting your laundry away, wiping the dust from the baseboards, these are all things I feel my kids should do because I let them live here. No one pays me to cook dinner and pick my underwear off the floor, why should my kids be any different? The opposite side of that argument is that I also don’t feel like I should give my kids money just to give them money. Allowance isn’t a basic human necessity and I’m not handing money over to them simply because other parents are doing it, or to teach them the “value of a dollar,” or any other rhetorical crap parents use these days. You know when it comes right down to it and Johnny is short $1.23, the majority of parents will chip in, thereby defeating the purpose of managing money to begin with, so allowance these days doesn’t really teach kids anything. Besides, last I looked nobody was handing me money for the freedom of it, so there you go.

Even if my husband and I decided to give our children allowance, what's a reasonable allowance these days anyway? Surely it has to be more than the $5 bucks a week I got when I was nine. I found this allowance calculator helpful. It suggested that allowance be $1 for every year of age per week, so in my son's case, $9 dollars a week. But wait, that's $432.00 per year, for my son to buy things as he pleases! I don't even spend that kind of money on whatever I want. Why does my nine year old have more money than I do, and he doesn't even work? (I do work BTW.)

No, I want my kids to earn the money somehow, but not by doing chores. This leaves me to come up with a list of activities and the dollar values associated with each. I don’t want the kid to have to shovel snow for 50 cents an hour, but also don’t think that clearing the front walk is worth 10 bucks. As much as I complain about all the things there are to do around my house, I’m really having trouble coming up with a list of things for my son to do.

  • Chop Firewood? No, too dangerous. (Even though my husband has given my son a hatchet and lets him cut kindling, I’m not going to be around when CPS comes to inquire about my son’s missing digits.)
  • Make Dinner? Only if we wanted to eat frozen waffles with peanut butter, and granola bars.
  • Iron Clothes? Requires too much attention to detail, namely, not burning the item of clothing while he focuses on the steam coming out the top and wondering how it’s doing that, and looking to see where the water will go in…
  • Babysitting his sister? This task can only be completed if its no longer than 15 minutes at a time, there is no external stimuli such as tv, music, and definitely not video games, and if they are both secured to one room with only baby toys. Then again, how much is 15 minutes of babysitting worth?

I found some more helpful suggestions on Moneyinstructor.com. A lemonade stand. Good one, but it's 20 degrees outside. Washing the car. Another good one, but the resulting water would turn our driveway into an ice-rink. Pet grooming. This would have been a keeper idea, save for the fact that we no longer own any pets, because my children wouldn't take care of them in the first place. Gardening. Wrong season. Argg.

I remember being a kid and asking for a list of things to do to earn money. I remember that this lasted well into my young married days when my parents hired me to faux paint various rooms in their house. I think it’d be great if we could return to those days, earning a little allowance for yourself by doing things for the neighbors. You could fund little outings with your spouse with this ancillary cash. Here’s what that might look like:

Husband: “Hey honey, you want to get a sitter for the kids on Saturday and catch a movie, maybe dinner?”
Wife: “That sounds great! How much do you think we’ll need?”
H: “Well, $35 for movies, $25 for dinner at Wendys, and $300 for the babysitter for four hours, that comes to…$360.00 total.”
W: “Hmmm. Okay. I’ll hit up the Smiths on the corner and see if I can clean their bathrooms for 10 bucks each; then I’ll call the Waverlys and skim their pool and scrub their cool-decking for 10 more bucks; and I’ll check with my parents and see if I can get a $15 IOU for any weeding my mom might need come summer. What about you?”
H: “I think I’ll call up Harold and see if I can chop a cord of wood for him. That would net me about $25. Then I’ll call up my sister and see if I can re-caulk her shower stalls and switch out all her lead plumbing to copper. That should get me about $100. I think Grandma needs some errands done, so I’ll only charge her $30 for my time. What’s that leave us with?”
W: “210.00.”
H: “We’re $150 dollars short. Those damned babysitters make so much money!”
W: “Do you think our son could do it? Babysit for the others, I mean?”
H: “What, and leave a nine year old in charge of two other kids for four hours at night?”
H: “That sounds like a great idea! We’ll offer to pay him $20—our son does want to earn money after all—which gives us an excess of $150 bucks! Want to go away for the weekend?

Well, I’m no closer to coming up with a good list for my son, even though I told him I had a list ready. I suppose I need to be grateful he wants to earn it, rather than assuming I will simply buy it for him. Perhaps as this generation of children get older and enter the work force, it won’t be work-for-pay, but work-for-videogames. Maybe video games will become the new currency and will replace the Yen, Euro and dollar bill. At least this is what my son wants to work for. And millions of boys just like him no doubt.


brandie said...

I don't give my kids allowance either. What do they need money for?

Rachel said...

important things. little bits of childhood necessity, like video games, annoying Webkinz, junk jewlery that breaks easily, body spray that makes you cry and sneeze, and useless Pokemon and Bakugan cards that get washed in the pockets of pants.
Things like that.

Anonymous said...

No allowance here either...We work too hard to earn our money, I am not giving more of it to the kids. They already get it for all of their activities they do, the clothes, the food and let us not forget the stylin mini van I need to cart them all around!
Maybe I'll start a no allowance club here!


Rachel said...

That would be a good Facebook group, "Parents who deny their children allowance."

I'd join.

Dawn said...

Oooo, me too, me too. I would join that group in a minute. No allowance her either!