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How Much Pocket Money Should You be Giving Your Children?

Nkem Ndem

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A few days ago, while waiting to be ushered into the viewing room for the movie “Baby Driver” (which is one of the best movies I have seen this year by the way), I was forced to eavesdrop on a conversation between two middle-aged mothers. Judging by the way they were dressed and the way they spoke, they seemed to be well-to-do and sounded like they were enlightened. Lady A complained about the frustrating spending habit of her 9-year-old. She started giving him a pocket money of N10,000 per month at the age of 6 with the added option of earning extra if he helped which house chores, which he never did (he still collected money for some things from her). Then she increased it to N20,000 when he was 8, but it did not solve the problem either as he never saved and most times always blew up his pocket money a week after it is given on “crap” he buys at school, despite his lunch card which should pay for a N1,000 worth of lunch on weekdays. “I feel like it doesn’t matter how much pocket money I give, he will always come for more and the worst part is I can’t stifle the maternal instinct to provide for my child…my wallet just seems to fall open accidentally any time he asks and I think he knows this now” she had said before Lady B cut in. Lady B seemed to be a firmer parent as she has been initially appalled at the amount of money Lady A gave as pocket money. “N20, 000 to a 9-year-old! That is almost half of my cleaner’s wage!” she had initially cut in.

Lady A went on to insist that Lady B take out the monthly pocket money option and insist on an earn-as-you-go system where the son only earns pocket money per house chores completed such as helping to tidy the house, doing laundry, and taking out the rubbish, with occasional treats for good behavior or good grades. She insisted she also they always controls what their children spend their pocket money on and the method had worked for her and has made her children very good at managing money and being financially responsible.

Being a single lady yet to have children, one would wonder why I found this conversation ( which I originally should not have been privy to) fascinating. As a child, I started receiving a very paltry sum for pocket money as early as age 6, but was encouraged to save every single dime as I was provided with every other thing I needed really. Pocket money really was special saving for a specific game or toy, Christmas/birthday gifts for siblings and extended family members and special outings with friends. By the age of 12, rewards for good behavior, completing chores, finishing meals and eating food I did not necessarily like, speaking my local dialect to family instead of English language, and siding with my father in a fight with my mom, earned me a few extras which I mostly saved anyway as well. It earned me a measure of independence: I could take a taxi and visit my friends without necessarily having to wait for when the driver will be free, buy some snacks when I wasn’t in the mood to eat bean. It instilled in me, a strong sense of the value of money. Looking back, I believe that being forced to set aside even just a small amount each week back then, helped me develop a strong saving habit, as well as gaining long-term financial planning skills -which have served me quite well in adulthood.

Pocket money is a great training tool in money management and it is one of the first ways children, not just learn the basics of handling money, but also the consequences of losing money or giving money away. For instance: they have to make choices about spending or saving it. If they decide to save up, they have to learn about waiting for things they want. If they spend it, especially on things that do not matter, they learn the pain of losing money and being broke. Giving pocket money to children, however, can be a huge concern for most parents, as there are so many issues to address and questions to ask: At what age should it start? Where are the clearly defined amounts based on age and responsibility? Should it be tied to chores or jobs or given as a reward? Should the parent control how much of it the child saves and what he/she spends it on?

The thing with giving pocket money to children is that there are no certified rules. What works for one family may not work for another, and what works for one child may not work for another child. Children, just like adults, have different inclinations when it comes to money and so they handle it separately. How much pocket money you give, when you give it, and whether you give it at all, should depend on your family circumstances/budget and values, as well as what the child is expected to buy with the pocket money. Whatever you decide should be a meaningful sum that reflects the modern-day cost of buying things.

You know a child is ready to start managing some pocket money if: she can actually count money, she understands that it is important to save it and not spend it all, and she realizes that spending all the money today means there is no more until the next payment. Basically, as long as the child has a clear understanding of how much they will get, and how often it comes, they can start learning how to use the money well. There really isn’t a magic number, nor are there hard and fast rules about it all.

Photo Credit: Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang) | Dreamstime

Nkem Ndem is an energetic and highly accomplished Media Consultant who loves to help small businesses, especially women-led, grow their online presence using the right digital strategy or transition from traditional organizational boundaries. With years of experience in Copywriting and Editing, Content Branding and Strategy, Social media, and Digital Marketing, she is clearly obsessed with Digital Communications. She is the Head of Content and Lead Consultant at Black Ink Media - an Ideation and Content Agency that excels in providing fresh, creative digital services to content-centric businesses. Find out more about her at www.blackinkm.com or send her an e-mail at [email protected] Also follow her on IG: @nkemndemv, Twitter: @ndemv.

9 Comments

  1. Micah

    August 4, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Im interested in this topic..i hv a teenager whom im worried about her money management habit she spends everydime shes given and doesnt see any reason to save…shes pampered by her older relatives and dad and they just laugh when i object….so im seen as the “evil” one for complaining ….what to do??

    • Rose

      August 5, 2017 at 1:32 am

      Pocket money and saving schemes are the best way. Also teach her to invest her money, it’s never too early and a very common habit I’ve observed in children of the wealthiest Nigerians I’ve met. When I was a teenager and had recently started school in England, my parents gave me whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But I was somehow always broke and always needed money. Eventually I got put on monthly pocket money. I found that they ended up giving me less than a third of what they initially gave me, but I was almost never broke. I budgeted for things, learned to find good bargains, which made me a better shopper. Presents from family went into my savings which I initially could never have cause I was always spending. It’s not how much you give your child that determines the child’s value for money, it’s how you portray money to your child (and of course, upbringing). Don’t make money and luxury items seem like a big deal or she’ll see them as a big deal (common mistake Nigerian parents make with alcohol, going out, and dealing with the opposite sex. Such strict or uptight parents produce the “naughtiest” children). Giving her a lot of money won’t make her spoiled, it’s based on her personality and the lifestyle choices she’s raised or socialised to see. So you need to observe the lifestyle choices of the people in her school or those she hangs out with. Hope this helps

  2. Mz_Danielz

    August 5, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I believe 7 is fine to start giving children allowances. The art of saving will be learnt by force so long as you’re my child.

    I’ll start by advising you to save and getting you a piggy bank and assume you’re following my instructions.

    One day, you’ll ask for money to buy gifts for a friend’s birthday and my response will be ‘let’s see what’s in your piggy bank so we’ll know what you can afford to buy’ if the piggy bank has nothing in it, then it’s babu, no gift. lord help you that your father and I don’t get a present on father’s and Mother’s Day or you don’t buy gifts for your siblings during Christmas, I’ll withdraw your allowance for a while.
    At the end of the year, I’ll go through the proceeds of your piggy bank, calculate the cost of thoughtful gifts you gave out and double it. We’ll also have fun thinking of cute presents that your piggy bank money can afford. This will teach them to live within their means.

    And no, I’m not giving you any money for doing your house chores because it’s teaching you to be a responsible human being who can do stuff by him/herself so that in itself is a reward. You can keep change sha.

    Financial prudence, responsibility, a generous spirit, and a whole sense of self are virtues my children must possess. My father worked out to instill these virtues in his children, he would turn in his grave if I don’t do same for his grandkids.

    • LemmeRant

      August 5, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      This is smart.

  3. OJ

    August 5, 2017 at 8:42 am

    A young man went for a job interview and was asked why the company should pay him 250k per month. His answer was that was what his daddy gives him as pocket money. Obviously he Neva got the job and daddy kept funding him. No hard and fast rules on this, if you continue to give your child whatever he or she wants, she would grow up feeling the world owe’s her. I would rather find ways to help the child have a sense of personal responsibility from early on, I don’t want to have a lazy entitled adult still depending on me when I grow old….the real world is hard out there and as parents we need to prepare them to be able to stand on thier own and not be a liability to thier future spouse

  4. o

    August 5, 2017 at 9:27 am

    My daughter is 10 (going to year 6) and gets no pocket money except when we travel (eg £500 for shopping and she goes with a list of everything she needs for school and home for the next 1 year). Her school fees are paid, lunch is paid for, and even her school doesn’t allow kids bring cash to school. Parents buy voucher booklets from the tuck shop which the children take in exchange for what they need. I don’t even give her vouchers cos she goes with snacks and takes school lunch.

    Of course she earns some cash in exchange for some chores or good behaviour but only once in a while. Most chores she does, does not earn her anything and she does quiet a lot. I didn’t start getting pocket money till I got to university and she won’t until she gets to higher secondary school. Some see me as a strict mother but giving a 9yr old 20k per month (salary of some cleaners with family) and still not being enough for the child just shows she started wrongly. However it’s not too late. She should withdraw the pocket money and let him earn whatever he needs. Parents think giving a child all he wants is loving him but rather it’s destroying the child. Because they grow up thinking they must get every single thing they want. If all needs are provided for, why the extra money at such a young age? The day he doesn’t get money he may resort to stealing. This new school of parenting I will never understand. I’m 35 but I intend to go the old school way when it comes to bringing up my daughter. Even money earned is monitored and she must let me know before spending.

    I know a lot of ppl will not share my views tho

  5. Anon

    August 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

    My child got a piggy bank at the age of 2. Any loose coins found at home are usually shown to me with question “May I have this for my piggy bank” The answer is usually yes. This combined with gifts from me and relatives etc all gets saved. Christmas period after we started this , she was so proud to buy presents for all family members including Cousins Aunts and Uncles from the money saved all year (total around £8) . E.g her sibling got a bath books and toys that cost around 50p each …then boxes of chocolates etc.

    Saving started again in January for this Xmas shopping . My child already views money as something to be saved so you can buy a treat for your self and others in future even from the tender age of 2. Now my child is going on 4 we take trips to the supermarket together she hands over the money for select items and collects the change so we can count it.

    You can’t start too early when it comes to money management/ financial education. Even money given at naming ceremony was set aside for my child specifically and used to open a child saver account.

  6. Nahum

    August 5, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Hian!!! 20k ke!!! Why should a 6 year old have 10k as pocket money? 20k for an 8 year old? No na…that is too much. Start out with 5k, let them work hard and earn their way to the top, so that they understand the value of money. This is how we Mothers spoil our kids o, this is how the madness starts. At such young ages, Mummy and Daddy are providing everything they could possibly need, let them start saving small amounts and spending it wisely and then take it from there.

  7. Orienma

    August 5, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    5k is even too way excess for a kid of 8,9 or even 15. Why give them pocket money at such age.what do you now provide at home as a parent? As for me this article esp. In this money quote is so exaggerated. 20k, for what na? When most grown ups in the university are being given 10k for a month. (I can only give someone of that age 50 or 100 maybe for one thing for one thing) This is how we rubbish our value system,tomorrow you say it is internet.
    Nahum, i concur! and mz Daniels nice points too.

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