My kids needs cash. Actually, only one of them does, but I have to somehow split the kitty accordingly between the two. But but before you start listing all the things that have worked for you, let me save you some time and tell you what I've already done so far.
We tried this years ago, when they were younger. The object, of course, was to help teach them how to save for something they wanted, budget their money, etc. We gave them a set amount a week, then, if they were saving for something special, they had to wait until the end of the month to get it. (This was to alleviate the "Mom! Can we go to Wal-Mart/Toys 'R Us/Target today? Huh? Huh? Today?") I don't know what happened, but the whole allowance thing didn't work. They didn't budget; they bought candy at the checkout because I made the mistake of telling them I wouldn't get that crap for them - it was up to them if they wanted to waste their money... thinking that eventually they'd realize they were wasting it on something that only brought a moment of pleasure versus saving for something tangible that would be around to provide satisfaction for awhile.
I think too much.
Cash for (Everyday) Chores
Anyway, then I considered paying them for chores. I'll tell you I considered it. Because I don't think you should get paid for chores - at least the normal ones that you should be doing to assist in keeping your living conditions liveable. Picking up your room, making your bed, putting your dishes in the sink, mowing the lawn... no, you don't get paid for that stuff. Sorry. I know some people pay their kids for mowing, but I do not. If you want to make money, I'll let you use MY mower and MY gas and go mow a neighbor's lawn and they can pay YOU. That's doable. And I encourage that.
"Extra" Chores for Cash
Let's face it, I need some serious help around the house. So, let's say I pay for things they normally wouldn't do, like folding and putting away the laundry ($3 per basket), emptying the dishwasher and doing the dinner dishes ($2 per occurrence), even meal planning (thanks for the idea, Steph), where they will come up with meals for the week (entree, veggie and fruit) and then cook at least one of them ($5 per occurrence). If they do those three things alone every week, there's their $10 - EARNED!
I guess up until now, my kids haven't really NEEDED any money. I'm not one to buy stuff for them "just because" - if they say they want an item, I tell them that they can raise the money for it by doing "extra" chores for me or by helping out someone else (i.e. mowing, watering plants, raking leaves, shoveling snow). But that's not really on a regular basis. Most of the time the things I buy for them are for birthday and Christmas - I also throw in Valentine's Day, the first day of school, the last day of school, and maybe a "I'm sorry you're sick" gift. (Yeah, I'm kind of a sucker, too.)
But now my teenager is starting to ask me for money. "Mom, I want to get a drink at school." "Mom, I need money to get into the football game." "Mom, I want to buy this t-shirt." Honestly, I'm not really sure what he's spending my money on, but I'm tired of giving it to him. But I'm not ready to hand him a weekly allowance that I suspect will be spent on bike rides to the gas station for candy. And it's not like he asks for money every single week, so I'm also not down with handing him a little $10 "gift" for doing nothing.
So as I see it, here are my options:
1) Give him a weekly allowance; no strings attached. Tell him that is to cover any snacks he wants to get at school as well as weekend activities such as football games, etc.
2) Give him a weekly allowance based on "chores completed". For instance, if you make your bed every morning, pick up your clothes and towel, put your dishes in the sink and keep the lawn mowed, you get your allowance. (I'm not a big fan of this one, because what if he only makes his bed 4 out of the 7 days? Do I dock his pay? Do I remind him? Ugh.)
3) Go the "Chores for Cash" route and put the power of the cash in THEIR hands - as long as I can maintain this extra little exercise and remember to pay up.
That last idea, though a bit anal-retentive, seems the most plausible to me. I can't stand giving them money just to give them money. I figure, I buy most of their stuff anyway, both needed and wanted, so now that they're getting into that more independent stage, it's time for Mom the Moneybank to step aside. And yes, I know I've been horribly negligent in teaching them how to manage their money, i.e. giving them a small allowance when they were young and making them give "x" amount to the church, "x" amount to savings and "x" amount for spending. I know I should have done that. Apparently I'm an unorganized, anal retentive parent.
So I guess what I'm looking for here are some ideas - things that have worked for you, things that haven't. Paths that I may have overlooked in this "Welcome to Having to Budget Your Money to Buy Stuff You Want" exercise. Suggestions as to how to assist my children in learning to budget without handing them money that they only sees as "stuff to buy candy with". And if at the end of the week my son is out of money for the football game, how do I stay strong enough not to cave and give it to him because I want so badly for him to have a social life? Finally, am I over thinking this to the point that my child is going to grow up with a completely twisted sense of money management because his mother is such an over-analyzing freak?
Don't answer that. Just give me some feedback. Thanks.