Allowances for kids: Readers share their tips

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Should parents give their kids cash on vacation? We asked that question in a blog post recently. Here were some of the most interesting suggestions:

The idea that worked best for us was a garage sale. The kids cleaned their rooms and playroom and put toys, books and clothes that were not longer used in a pile for a garage sale. They helped the day of the sale. At the end of the day, the proceeds were split between the three children with the instruction that it had to last the whole trip. It worked very well-the kids were motivated to clean because they would make more money and it took stress off me during the vacation.—Jan Z

We have a marble system, the children earn marbles for helping around the house and doing good things, practicing instruments, reading chapter books, and for A's on tests and report cards. They lose them for bad behavior, bad grades, messy rooms, etc. When we get ready to go on vacation each marble equals $1.00. That is their money to spend on vacation and when it's gone it's gone! It worked wonderfully and our 7 year old even came home with some money!—Vickie

When my parents took my sisters and me on long car trips, we were given $1 each day (not bad money in the '60s). However, if any child asked "how long 'til we get there?" or "when do we get there?" or any variant of that awful question, she would be fined 10 cents. The idea was to encourage the kids to learn navigation and how to figure distance and time. I could ask for the map, I could ask how fast we were going, I could see from the road signs how far we were from the destination, I could check my watch for the time -- but asking "when do we get there?" would cost me money I wanted to spend at the next Stuckey's.—Marmorgan

We plan our family vacations a year in advance. What we found works great is once we plan where we are going to take a trip i.e Hawaii, I will go to a craft store and buy a large clear plastic container with a lid for each child. I then go to the sticker isle of the store and buy tons of stickers that go with the type of location we are visiting. So, with Hawaii, I would be buying stickers of Hawaii, fish, luaus, flowers and then we have a party of decorating each of our jars...and yes...I get one too. Each week, I give the kids a set amount of money to place into their jar and by the time the trip arrives, everyone has quite a nice little stash of spending money. As the kids have gotten older, the more fun it has become.—Barbara Patrouch

On our last year's summer vacation my four kids were given a set amount of money to spend per person. The way I worked it was I am not a 'change' spender but tend to accumulate bowls here and bowls there. In early June I have the kids round up all the change and then we go about rolling the coins. This takes days as we do it by hand. It is a great math exercise and actually rather relaxing and rewarding when the $$ are adding up. I told the kids that whatever the total was that they could split it as their spending money but each has to help roll it and count it. Well, when they saw that we had like $200.00 they were very impressed. We took it to the bank and the bank teller gave them each their share in little envelopes. They were so happy with this system that this June they said they needed to start rolling change again as we recently spent 2+ weeks in southern CA.—Carol J

When we go on vacations, we always give our 6 kids a little bit of spending money... We give a certain amount to each child depending on age and put the money in an envelope.... We find with the envelope that they can see exactly how much money they have left. There have been times when they have decided against buying an item because it would take all their money. Doing it this way also helps them with their math skills. They are told upfront that the money in the envelope is all they have and once it is gone, it's gone. I have been surprised at how well this works. Even with our younger children.—Tammy H

When my children were 10 and 12, we went to NY. I made them "earn" their spending money.....meaning, if they were good, didn't fight with each other and did pretty much what I asked....they would receive money as "payment". It worked really well.—April

We've traveled quite a bit with our kids, ages 13, 10, and 5. I find that it's good to give them each a small amount in each city we visit. $5-10 gets them something small and usually tacky, but makes them very happy (and keeps them engaged as we shop). However, on each trip, I also help them pick out a t-shirt or sweatshirt--wearable trinkets that do double-duty at home...clothe them and remind them of our fabulous travel memories!—Lisa Bergen

The real test is a parent's ability to refuse when the amount needed to complete a purchase is small and you can easily supply it. Giving in and handing over the dollars defeats the entire purpose of a travel allowance. The goal is to teach budgeting and smart purchasing decisions. With younger children, strongly suggesting that they wait, that they may see something they want more, will help them develop a keener eye. If a travel allowance accomplishes these things, it's a good idea.—Susan Newman, Ph.D.

When I was a kid my parents kept a giant change jar where they put loose change at the end of the day. Before we left for a trip we went to the bank to have the money counted. My brother and I always got to split whatever was in the jar as our spending money for the trip! I always looked forward to it!—Anne (Prê t à Voyager)


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