August 24, 2020

It was 2008, and our son, Seth (32 at the time), and I were in the Safeway grocery store on Vineyard Blvd, in Honolulu, HI. He was visiting for a week, and we’d run into the store to pick up a few things for dinner.  We were in the check-out line, and he spied a bag of chips he wanted. It was as if we had been transported two dozen years back in time. He asked, “Mom, can I have those chips?” And I said, “You need to save room for supper.” Then I came to my senses, no longer the mom of a toddler but of an adult son, and said, “Use your own money.”

That conversation came to mind on Friday when we took our oldest granddaughter, Lily (15) kayaking on the Shenandoah River.  We’d checked in at the office, and she viewed a display of tee-shirts for sale. “Nana,” she said, “let’s look at them when we get back.” “OK,” said I. She’d told me earlier about the money she is saving from babysitting money. She said she put some of it in savings, and kept the rest to spend. I figured she had money to spend. She and I were two clothes-shopping deprived females and the display of tee-shirts was too much to resist. She scored a lavender tee-shirt, and since her wallet was in Richmond, I gladly scored, the bill. I want the same one, but am delaying gratification temporarily.

When our sons were in elementary school, we started giving them an allowance of $1.00 a week. Each Saturday, 20 dimes in hand, Rod and I would sit down with the boys, and their repurposed margarine tubs. They each had four tubs, and each tub had a label for one of the following: Tithe, Savings, Milk, and Spending. They were given their 10 dimes, and had to put one in the tithe tub, one in the savings tub, five in the Milk tub (they had to buy their own milk at school and each individual bottle cost ten cents back in those days), and three in the Spending tub. One tenth for God, one tenth for saving for later, 5 tenths for milk, and three tenths to spend how they wished. 

Those remaining three dimes were usually spent at the corner store on penny candy. It wasn’t unusual for them to run out of spending money before the end of the week. That was when I’d hear, “Mom, can I have…” Back in those days, we gave them an allowance for three reasons: to help them learn money management; to help instill our values by giving the first 10% to God, the second 10% to future needs through saving;  to teach them that the basic needs of life like school lunch need to be purchased before fun items like candy; and quite frankly, to let the margarine tubs be the enforcer, not us.

All four of our grandchildren talked about money during their visits. Anne-Sophie and Marie-Hélène both talked about their “moneys,” objects to count and save and sometimes spend on ice-cream. Ross, the saver in the family, talked about how much money he has in savings and the exact amount of cash in his wallet. Lily talked about her babysitting money and how some of it goes into savings and much of the rest into clothes. The next time they visit, I think I need give them a “vacation” allowance in repurposed margarine tubs, with the first 10% going to God, the second 10% to their savings, and the rest for vacation spending. If I don’t teach them, who will?

Blessings! ~ Anne

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