My youngest started university this year and is living on campus. We gave him an allowance to cover his various expenses, including additional food because 18-year-old boys need more than three meals a day, and toiletries and entertainment. I felt it was a generous allowance.
At the end of the month, he told us it was not enough and he needed more money. I made him write down everything he had spent his allowance on and divide his expenses into three columns.
The first column was “once-off expenses” – these were items he had to buy for the year, such as a bicycle lock, stationery and household items.
In the second column were necessities (needs) such as food and toiletries, and the third column was for entertainment and gifts (wants).
He then calculated that 50% of his allowance had gone to once-off costs. In fact, he had been disciplined and kept his monthly expenses well under control, only using 50% of the allowance for day-to-day spending (most probably because he had run out of money).
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Like any household knows, the beginning of the year comes with large once-off expenses, and we need to make sure we have the funds to cover that. However, during the course of the year, there will be other large, irregular purchases one will need to make. In my son’s case, this could include buying clothes.
I suggested that he allocate 30% of his allowance into a savings account, which he can later use to pay for those larger, irregular expenses during the year.
This means he still has 70% of his allowance for his monthly expenses, which even provides some room to start longer-term savings.
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It was also a great example of how to use teachable moments to educate your child about managing money.
Hopefully, my son has learnt from this and will be able to use budgeting skills throughout his life – although he was disappointed that his allowance was not increased.
That is the “tough love” part of parenting. If you just keep giving your children money when they run out, they don’t learn how to manage their money and they lose out on learning the greatest gift you could give your child.