JusJoJan Day 20: Our Kinda Economics

Just Jottin’ through January!

Does time move quickly for you, Tempus Fugit style? Or is it doing the crawl, imitating a sloth as it drags along, seeming to have no particular place to go, and no need to get there until it does?

Something in between, that changes along with the mood or circumstances?

Now, what about your finances?

See what I did there? I guess you weren’t expecting that *giggles*.But economics is a part of life, like it or not, and I don’t want to end my ten days of ‘rithmetickling (yup, I totally just made that up – I’m sorry you’re welcome!) without taking a little peek into the fabulous world of money, goods, services, and commodities.

Some things that happened in our family:

  • Annalise, 10, wanted the new Monster High DVD. She was paying back an advance on her allowance; and the family budget was already stretched with the preparations for winter, the dryer that died, car repairs, and holiday plans. We chatted about finite resources, and how she could get this item. We could come back and get it later, or she could put it on her Christmas list, or wait until she’d paid back her allowance – she decided to wait until it’s on Netflix or Amazon. She’s still a little disappointed , but she’s reached a decision she can live with.

  • Jeremiah, at 9, wanted a 3DS. We told him we would get him one for Christmas. He was determined to get it on his tenth birthday, in early September. We told him we would pay for half, and a game, but couldn’t manage more then. With a few months to earn the money, he arranged to do odd jobs for his grandparents. He got up early even when he’d gone to bed late. He worked hard and well, only taking breaks when authorized. And, on his tenth birthday, I took him to the store of his choice to purchase his new 3DS in the color of his choice – as well as that new game to play on it.

I love watching my kids learn about economics. I’m fascinated with how they weigh alternatives, budget their money, debate the relative value of this over that. I’m endlessly reminded of who they are in the approach that they take.

Jeremiah tends toward minimalism, and at the same time has big dreams and high standards. When we offered him offered a reconditioned laptop last year, he declined, because what he really wants is a gaming computer that costs thousands, and we have a hundreds kind of budget. He says he’ll wait until he can buy it himself. He’s eager to get his working papers in a little less than a year, so he can take a regular job, and he still works for his grandfather many weekends when the weather is nice enough for home and yard maintenance.

Annalise is expansive, with many passions. She tends to spend her money quickly, but not as quickly at 10 as she did at 8. She’s always had a discriminating side t- at 5, I would show her all the options for Littlest Pet Shop figures that fit the week’s budget, and she would go through a lengthy process of elimination until she made her selection. She often takes advances, and always knows how much she owes. She’s coming to the realization that she can save some, and still spend some, and to see ways she can get more out of her money. One month, she explored her bank statement, and became deeply interested in the idea of earning interest. She was so captivated that she asked for our family bank statement, and read the entire three pages!

As a child, I didn’t have an allowance, and discussions often ended at, “We can’t afford it,” “That’s a waste of money,” and the seemingly evergreen favorite, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” My parents handled the finances with their own rituals that didn’t include us, unless we happened to overhear. Money seemed mysterious and rather terrifyingly powerful to me as a child, and it took me well into my thirties to really start to sort out how I feel about it, and how to use it comfortably and intelligently.

It’s cool that my own children will get to adulthood with these and many other small and large experiences with economics already in their experience banks. They’ll have a lot less to figure out later, when the consequences of mistakes could be far costlier.

If you have kids, how do you approach family or personal finances with them? Did you have an allowance as a child? Was it tied in to chores, grades, or behavior? Did you have the power, or do your kids, to make some money decisions independently of adult authority? Did you, or have your kids, set financial goals for yourselves? How did that turn out?

Penny for your thoughts! =)

Shopping at the Erie Canal, fall 2014.


  1. Sometimes, no amount of extra chores can elicit enough money from our budget. Sometimes, we tell them they’ll need to wait for Christmas or birthdays, just like sometimes we have to wait. But yeah, helping with extra chores can be a great incentive.
    I think an allowance is a great concept, but we’ve never employed the tactic. More the work ethic of the child determines his/her lifestyle. For instance, a child who gets better grades and is more helpful around the house, more amicable, gets more “treats.” Children who are disobedient don’t get so much. ie: I’m not happy with your performance, so I won’t pay you as much. I mean, really, why would I want to spend money on someone I’m upset with? But it’s more than money for soccer or art, or a new book or game, or a new outfit, or whatever, it extends to staying up late, or having more privileges in general. I dunno, it’s worked well for us. It’s how my parents did it, and it always made sense to me. I knew if I was in trouble, there was no point in asking for ice cream money or a new pair of shoes.
    In terms of economics, they receive money/gift cards for their birthdays and holidays, so we’ve watched them mature with how they save and spend that. They’re all pretty thrifty now. Moo was particularly quick to learn, being the youngest. She didn’t like how all of her siblings had money leftover well into summer. Haha!
    Paying half is a great tool, because think how often we negotiate with lenders for half down, or a percentage?
    Like I said, we’ve never done the allowance bit, but it makes sense to me. I think the worst thing anyone can do is let their kids grow up without a concept of money, whether they have nothing or everything, it’s too important to say, “Oh they’ll figure it out later.” (Like sex, huh? lol)

    • Our kids are radical unschoolers, so a lot of the criteria you use aren’t relevant (they don’t have grades or bedtimes or chores, to begin with, and ‘obedience’ isn’t a concept we use, because our goal isn’t that, but to instead facilitate their own capacities for judgment). Their allowance isn’t tied to anything; it’s theirs, every week, because they live here. Kinda like hugs. =)

      But, however it is handled in a particular family, I agree that it truly cheats kids to not give them the tools to navigate their sexuality or their finances!

      We don’t have a lot of money – we live on one income so that I can be here with our never-been-to-school kids. So getting the things that we want is often an exercise in creative thinking. None of us are too proud to utilize lots of thrift store, garage sale, found, inherited, or repurposed items. Our cars and furniture have seen lots of use before us, and our home is small and modest (a mobile home with a nice addition and a good-sized yard out in the country).

      Each of our kids has their own money style. Miah is a minimalist gamer; Lise is expansive and into lots of different things. Her money goes faster, and she’s younger – but discriminating as a consumer. Both get comparison shopping and prioriizing.

      I never had an allowance as a child, and I had extremely limited buying power until I was old enough to get babysitting gigs. I suspect that had something to do with it taking me well into my 30s to really understand and improve my own relationship with money.

      Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed and thoughtful answer. It’s interesting to see that while the details and approach may be very different, the goal is essentially the same – to give children knowledge and competence in dealing with money (and other) matters.

        • He’s always been a puzzle and physics and animation kind of guy, even when he was a baby. So it seems to be in his nature. He’s so minimalist that he doesn’t appear on the blog much anymore. I can use pictures if I can get them, he says, but he’s not making that as easy as it sounds! It’s just a little sad, because he’s quite a good-looking fellow, with an awesome grin…

          On the other hand, the girl LOVES the camera, and being the “star” of my blog, so she gets lots of room to shine!

  2. So many young people enter adulthood with little knowledge about finances and so soon end up in debt. It’s great your kids are already ahead of many young people.

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