The first time we talked about allowances in our family it was my sneaky way to do math. My grade-school aged kids couldn’t tell the difference between a quarter and a nickel, because why would they have any need for that outside of a school assignment?
I opened a savings account for them and gave them a little extra to put into savings each week.
I gave them a little extra for tzedakah, and as their money in the pushke grew, the boys started talking about which charity to give to.
It was like I was in Congress — not controlling the states, but teaching them what I wanted them to learn by controlling the flow of money.
Meanwhile, my brother is an economist, and he was teaching his kids about compound interest via spreadsheets. I worried that I wasn’t teaching the right stuff. I couldn’t tell if this was an example of all parents teaching their kids what the parent is good at, or if it was an example of me doing a bad job teaching my kids about money.
Before I could decide on all that, we moved to Swarthmore, and there was no money. Allowance is not very interesting for families who have no money.
The Farmer locked me out of our money, and when I called a lawyer to fix it, the layer said it was a financial form of domestic violence and that I’d need to press charges. I didn’t know the boys understood at the time that I was refusing to press charges. If I had known they understood, I probably would have had more guts and pressed charges. But I didn’t, so we had hundreds of plates I moved from the farm and no way to get money for anything else.
The boys stole food from the grocery store in Swarthmore.
They only told me this years later.
“What????” That’s what I said.
They were shocked that I was shocked and asked, “How did you think we got food when you didn’t have money for food?”
This came up when we were talking about if they needed an allowance in Boston. They told me they just wanted an allowance so they could have money saved for if we ran out of food again.
I pretty much wanted to die. But I gave them allowances. As security. And like so many other homeschooling lessons, I learned as much from the allowance experience as my kids did.