A Quarter a Day...
He's three. A total threenager. All I hear ALL DAY long is "I WANT ____". From toy commercials to snacks to juice to the iPad... it never ends! He bosses me around, I feel like such a slave to this tiny little human. The only silver lining is that he uses his pleases and thank you's pretty regularly, but it's still enough to drive me beyond crazy.
A few weeks before Christmas, my husband thought it would be a good idea to bring Totes a 'sorpresina' (Italian for surprise). A cheap little Hot Wheels car. But then he did it again the next day.. and the next. After the fourth time I asked him if he had lost his mind? Christmas was just days away and I had already splurged way more than I intended to. More than the overflowing toy bin that we promised ourselves we would never have (Santa brought more organizing toy bins), the seed had been planted in his mind that he would receive a sorpresina every time papa came home from work. And of course, the next day when there was no new toy, a major tantrum erupted. For weeks after, my husband was visibly hurt that Totes was no longer excited to see him when he walked in the door. Instead, he was now greeted with "Papa, did you bring me a sorpresina?". It really bothered me as well and I decided it was time to teach him the principles of earning money, saving and spending.
We bought a digital piggy bank to assist with easy counting. I will gladly ditch this for the more traditional kind when he's a little older and knows how to count. I LOVED counting money as a kid... probably a good indicator I was going to end up majoring in Accounting.
My husband and I discussed the procedure we would follow. He would earn a quarter for cleaning his room each day. We didn't want to get him used to too much money upfront and also didn't want him earning so much that he would be able to buy loads of new toys as his preference were the $1 Hot Wheels cars or Thomas the Train Blind Bag minis. We wanted to start small with one task, keep it simple.
The first day we introduced the piggy bank, I feel we made an error. In retrospect we should have let him complete a chore and paid him just enough to buy a toy same day. This would have shown him immediate cause and effect. I work / do a task, I get a reward. Instead, we paid him the predetermined quarter for his daily chores. He enjoyed putting the quarter in the bank and all and even the next day was super excited about cleaning up his room for that next quarter, did it jovially without being asked to, but then he lost interest when I had to tell him he didn't have enough yet to go buy a car. I can see to him he wasn't connecting the dots that money equals toys even with all the conversations. Here we are, at fifty cents, and we've already lost him.
Totes: "I want to go to the toy store NOW!"
Me: "But you don't have enough money to buy anything"
Totes: "But I want to go buy a car NOW"
Me: "If you earn just a little bit more, we can go tomorrow"
Totes: "No! I don't want to go tomorrow! I want to go NOW!!!"
Yeah, arguing with a three year old is AWESOME.
So the next day I created some additional tasks for him to help me with. Help me sort the laundry, unload the dishwasher, put away groceries, etc. I paid him a full dollar for his work with an explanation that he did extra from his daily duties and immediately took him to the store to let him pick out a new car with HIS money.
Lesson #2... start by going to the store with the FEWEST choices.
At our local Safeway, they have this tiny little display in the very back of the store next to the milk. One of those strips of plastic that hang from the wall and each package containing one single car attaches to. And they are all $1.50 each. There's no other toys in this store... only groceries basically. But that morning that we were on our way to get his car with HIS money, I made a huge error and made the choice to go instead to the Bartell (our local equivalent of a Walgreens) across the street since I needed a few other household items and didn't want to make a separate trip. We get to the toy isle and I painfully discovered that Hot Wheels come in six packs, ten packs and some of the singles are $6-$7 each versus the $1.50 he had in his piggy bank. So again, arguing with a three year old on why we can't buy the ten pack of cars and can only choose from the three packages I've pulled off the shelf and laid on the floor. From now on, we will only go to Safeway.
The interest in the earn/spend cycle faded a bit quickly in the beginning. He seemed to be pretty content with what toys he already had and there wasn't much motivation to work to get more. I'm sure most other kids would have really picked up on this game and ran with it. He earned enough for one more car, one Thomas Minis Blind Bag and had since lost interest somewhat. I tried to go with his pace and let him be the one to ask for more chances to earn money. If he picked up his toys and helped me around the house, I made sure to thank him and give him his $0.25 for the day. But one really great thing that has come of it that he has stopped asking to go buy more toys. After hearing me repeat "You don't have enough money to buy that today" so many times, maybe the concept had finally set in. It's now my default reply when we are out at a store and he comes across something (unreasonable) he wants. But I have yet to see him come across something that he REALLY wants, bad enough to remember it day after day.
As we moved forward with him, we switched to a weekly allowance. I think the daily draw was a great introduction to the concept but now that he has a clear expectation of doing his chores, we felt that it was time to consolidate it to one day of earning for a week's worth of good behavior. He now earns $2.00 per week for keeping his room clean and toys put away, helping me sort laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making my latte in the morning and in general, helping when I ask, as well as being nice and not arguing with me (at least keeping to a minimum!). Some days I see no allowance in his future! But it usually manages to come through by the end of the week. And I now can use it as a bargaining tool to gain good behavior or stop bad behavior from continuing. We're still working on the concept of saving. For a few weekends in a row, I kept distracting him from his earnings so that a few weeks accumulated and we were able to go pick out an $8.00 toy. He's even used it a few times for candy instead of toys, which I'm okay with as our Hot Wheels Garage is nearing max capacity.
What do your kids like to spend their money on?