When my children return home after a day of doing whatever it is they do—a lot of texting, from what I can tell—I think that when they walk in and see me, it’s not as their loving mother with the really good hair. In their eyes, they just see a giant bag of money with legs standing in the kitchen welcoming them home with open arms and tossing dollar bills at their feet.
In my children’s eyes, I morph into some new kind of superhero, like, Mommy Moneybags, with a big dollar sign emblazoned across my chest. In that fantasy role, I seem to have the power to dole out unending amounts of cash at will to conquer latest trends, empty gas tanks and trips to the pizza parlor with friends.
And quite frankly, Mommy Moneybags is getting tired of having to save the financial day all the time for these people. It’s time they channel some of their own monetary power and learn that unchecked spending will lead to a zero bank balance faster than any speeding bullet.
Honestly, since my divorce last summer, I don’t have the cash flow I once enjoyed as my budget has become more fixed. But I think what's critical is that regardless of your economic status, no parent is doing their child any favors by paving their road to adulthood with cash and not having any financial responsibilities.
Over the years, I have attempted a number of different methods to teach the kids how to handle money and the value of the almighty dollar.
When they were in elementary school, I would give them an allowance and they could use that cash, along with any money they received from relatives for birthdays, to purchase whatever item came on their radar—like the newest Pokémon DS game or a Webkinz. The upside of that system was that my children never entered a store with me expecting to get something. They never even asked, as they knew what the answer would be.
The downside was that my execution of this plan was erratic at best. For a few Fridays I would very efficiently hand them bank envelopes with their payments; and then I would go weeks without getting to the bank and end up handing them a big wad of cash in overdue payments. Eventually, allowances would fall through the cracks—along with going to church every weekend and knitting—until I would resurrect the payments in a moment of desperation.
Now, the three teenagers all have jobs and are generating enough revenue to cover slices of pizza and the weekend’s can of Four Loko (let’s be honest).
My bigger problem is defining what it is exactly that I pay for, and what is deemed a more ancillary need that my children can foot themselves. I did pay for the AP testing ($174 for two tests!), but prom? The ticket is one of but numerous costs, like the bus, the tuxedo and corsage. The post-prom extravaganza to Wildwood is yet more money and it all makes me need to sit down and count my pennies.
I was talking to my girlfriend, who is no spendthrift, and she said that what she does and does not pay for generally depends on her mood and I have to say that my methods are equally willy-nilly. I would like to be a better financial superhero for the kids—like Captain Savings or Super Budgeter—but sustaining a plan has been a challenge.