The Problem With Pocket-Money

guest post by Amy Doak

I didn’t get pocket money as a kid.  Now, I am not blaming my parents for my rubbish attitude towards the value of the dollar but it’s safe to say things haven’t changed much.  When I wanted a toy or, when I was a little older, a trip to the movies, I simply worked out how much money was required and I did all the crap jobs around the house I needed to in order to make that amount.  Washing the car. Cleaning the silver.  Does anyone even have silver to clean anymore?

These days, as a freelancer, I have found not much has changed. I work out how much money I need to pay the bills and I go out and find the jobs I need in order to make it happen.  The constant hustle is fairly tiring and there’s no much room for forward planning, saving or (the horror!) investing.

In an effort to give my kids more of an opportunity to understand money, I figured regular pocket money was the way to go.

Ideally, we will get to a point where we talk about saving and even investment but, for now, baby steps (for all of us!)

My eldest is seven and he was at me from the age of five about a chore chart.  Possibly he saw it on a Nick Junior show and it seemed like a cool idea. Seeing as his little brother can’t miss out on anything, it wasn’t long before we created two chore charts.  Six jobs to do daily, six days a week.  They got a sticker each time a task was completed and they needed a minimum of 30 out of the 36 available sticker spots filled in order to receive their $5 a week payment. The chart also outlined that there were certain jobs that needed to be completed each day (making beds, cleaning teeth, clearing the table, putting dirty clothes in the washing basket, ensuring the floor of the toy room was visible before bed each night) that enabled them to be part of the household.  These things are not paid for and they are not negotiable. I didn’t want to put a value on every little thing for fear of the four-year-old dictator holding out on the simplest request in the hope of an extra 25 cents.

We agreed on the six chores. The older one was happy with sweeping the floor, stacking the dishwasher, putting away folded clothes, feeding the cat and helping with dinner. The younger one was in charge of checking the mail, setting the table, dusting, putting books away and hanging up towels in the bathroom. Number six on both lists was ‘be kind and listen’ (yup, that one needs incentive I am afraid).

To their credit, they embraced the pocket money chart with gusto.  Stickers were allocated with ease and the most annoying part (for me) was printing out the chart each week. As I am writing this, I realised I could have just printed one, laminated it and peeled the stickers off at the end of each week.  Or not even bothered with stickers and used a white board marker.  You live, you learn.

Over time, life got in the way. When they weren’t focused on a new toy or ‘thing’ then the money or the saving didn’t seem like a big deal. There always seems to be a birthday or Christmas around here. My husband and I got busy and stopped asking the questions and dolling out the stickers. We got lazy. And now, every time one of the kids says ‘I want that’ when we are somewhere, we tend to answer with ‘we’ve got no money’ or ‘we can’t afford that today’ or the old parenting faithful: ‘money doesn’t grow on trees, you know’. When none of those things are helpful.  So perhaps it’s time to wheel out the chore chart again? And allow my kids the opportunity to take responsibility for their money and their future…just like I hope they will be able to do someday.


Amy Doak is a publisher, writer, entrepreneur and super-mum

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