Should my child decide how to spend his money?

      Parents want their child to handle his own money responsibly. They want him to plan ahead, spend wisely, and save for the future. Most ten- to thirteen-year-olds, however, are less interested in being responsible than in buying what they want. This causes a dilemma for many parents. They know he should make decisions and learn from his own mistakes, yet they want to keep him from wasting his money. These conflicting aims make it hard for them to be consistent.

      Sometimes the child’s point makes sense: “It’s my money. Why can’t I get what I like?” “If I’m saving up for a video game, why do you care if it’s expensive?” Parents’ points are also sound: “You shouldn’t spend your money on junk food.” “Wait until it goes on sale.” “Get two sweaters instead of one expensive one.” “Don’t throw your allowance away on something that won’t last.”

      In general, it’s best to let your child decide how to spend his own money. But if you feel his spending is out of control, set limits. At a time when you’re both feeling calm, talk about money. Listen to his side, even if he complains that you aren’t being fair. You need to understand him in order to know what will work. Tell him why you think saving and planning are important. Let him know you realize how difficult managing money can be and how easy it is to buy impulsively.

     Together, come up with a management plan that allows him flexibility. Within reasonable guidelines, you want him to make money decisions on his own: “You can spend some or your chore money as long as you saves some every week”. “When I give you your allowance, I want you to put some aside to donate.” If he receives a significant sum as a gift for a birthday, Christmas, or a Bar Mitzvah, give him a portion to use as he wishes and have him save the rest. You also could have him use this money for his first investment. This is a good time to start a discussion of stocks, bonds, and other financial alternatives. Perhaps you and your child could meet once with a financial planner who’s willing to work with a child.

      To help your child make spending decisions, work out a budget: “How much money do you think you need for snacks and movies?” Offer specific compromises: “Instead of spending all your money now, buy the video game this month and the sweatshirt later.” Encourage him to save by taking him to the bank to open or make deposits in his own account.

      Don’t be too restrictive or he may feel resentful and start lying about money and purchases. But be firm about spending you don’t approve of: “You can get a different CD with your money, but not that one.” “You’re too young to wear eye shadow, even if you plan to buy it with your own money.” At these ages, you still need to set clear limits.

       Your child may want to use his money for an expensive purchase. One girl saved for a tennis racket; another planned to buy a CD player. A thirteen-year-old paid for a lawn mower so he could earn more money cutting grass. As long as the item is one you would allow him to have, let him make the decision. You might question his judgment, but he will learn from the experience whether he’s ultimately happy with his purchase or not.

       Dealing with money is challenging, and you and he will continue to discuss this issue. Keep stressing your values, and show your child, by your actions as well as your words, how spending and saving can be responsibly managed. You want him to take money seriously, but you don’t want it to become a source of guilt and tension. Show him that money also can be a source of enjoyment and that it’s all right to splurge or make impulse buys at times and to use money to pursue his interests and hobbies.

Picture Credit : Google