This is the question many parents face when their children start school. How do we decide how much to give? Would it be too little? Or too much? Would my child go hungry?
Here’s a quick guide to help you decide on the amount.
Step 1: Identify what your kids can spend on
First up, decide what you allow your kids to buy in school. At 7 years old, the canteen and bookstore looks like a Huge Mega Mall to your child. Especially when there’s now spending power given to him. Imagine endless chocolate cookies, or loads of soft drinks, and if you have a girl, a full variety of cute stationery!
For our kids, the rule was simple, the pocket money for school can only be spent on FOOD. No shopping in the Bookstore. if they need something from there, just tell me, I will give you the money for that specific item. This sounds extreme, but I’ve known grown women who go wild at the stationery dept!
With regards to FOOD, I’m also specific. No Snacks and No Drinks. Only proper food like Rice or Noodles.
You see, i didn’t spend their entire pre-school years restricting their Wang Wang biscuits and Candies and Chips only to have them eat it in wild abandonment in school! So the no snack rule is an easy one to set. My kids don’t buy drinks in school, cos they already brought their water bottle with them. Water is really perfectly fine!
As for proper food like Rice or Noodles only is so they don’t buy side dishes like Chicken Wings and Fishballs for recess. Cos if they do that, I know they’ll be hungry real soon! (my kids are BIG carb eaters)
My kids all have savings from their pocket money. And I do not restrict how they want to spend their savings. So far, they have bought Christmas gifts, Birthday gifts for each other. And once in a blue moon, they help me pay the Gas Man when he comes, cos I forgot to set aside money for that.
Step 2: Visit the School Canteen
This is important. Once you’ve identified what your kids can spend on, go check out their Canteen to note the prices. Just like the big real world outside, eating at the hawker center vs a Food Court vs a Food Republic and vs a Restaurant means different things for the pocket.
I’ve learnt that Nicole’s and Nathan’s school canteen prices start at $0.80 for a kids size serving of Chicken Rice, while Nadine’s school’s Chicken Rice start at $1.30!!!! So naturally, Nadine has a higher allowance, simply to give her enough to buy food for recess.
At the Canteen, look at what possible food your child would order. I was strict, i didn’t give them a chance to order Chicken Chop (the priciest item). After a while, the child knows that some dishes gives him more savings, while some has none. And they also know, at all times, they can’t afford the Chicken Chop. (I believe they need to know that there’s a limit to your money. I don’t think giving them enough for the most expensive item in the canteen teaches them about reality!)
Aside: At P5, Nicole can finally order Chicken Chop as she has weekly allowance now. And I think she has learnt the value of money, such that she won’t be eating that daily.
Step 3: Give reserve cash for emergencies
As my kids go home straight after school, there’s no window for any big emergency, except to call me. So I give them each two 10-cents coins to be kept separately from their allowance. (usually just a small coin pouch in the school bag) They all know how to use the public phone. Possibly this point doesn’t work for those whose kids have a mobile phone… my kids don’t own one!
Step 4: Do the Math
From Step 2, I calculate from the usual Noodle/Rice dish, and add an extra 10 cents for P1, 20 cents for P2, 30 cents for P3 etc. (for SAVINGS) and I work backwards to find out their 10% tithe amount for church, and include that in the allowance.
The kids only know how much to tithe, I don’t tell them expected savings amount, not even a guide. But there’s enough to have a little bit leftover every day. Everything is worked out in a cool method that we have been using since 2012. Here’s how I handle their pocket money.
On days when they have to stay late and have lunch in school, I give Lunch money. This is totally separate from the daily allowance.
Step 5: How old is your child and how responsible is he?
My kids get daily allowances since they went Primary 1. This year, Nicole is in Primary 5, and we decided to try her with weekly allowance. After doing the Math to finalise the amount, I multiply it by 5 and that’s her weekly allowance amount! She has proven to be responsible, kept to the rules and given faithfully every Sunday and was prudent in her savings. Thus, faithful in little things, she gets more!
That’s how we work out our allowance amount for our kids. How do you do it for yours?