Pocket Money

From the age of about 10 until my first job at 15, I was given pocket money every week by my parents. In order to ensure my £1 was waiting for me when I finished school on a Friday afternoon, I had to keep my room clean and tidy and unload the dishwasher thrice weekly (I think we can agree the tasks were not particularly arduous). None the less I had to earn my wage; it did not come for free. The amount gradually went up to £10 over the years, it was my sole income and once it was gone, it was gone.

What did it teach me? My parents have always been particularly money savvy and my sister and I have always been lucky enough to attend every sports group we wanted to, get that toy we’d been lusting after for weeks (eventually) and been swept off for a family holiday every year since as long as I can remember. They do not earn huge amounts, but are comfortable as a result of understanding and accepting their financial limits and budgeting and saving accordingly. Since that first £1 was rewarded to me, the concept that you earn your own money was engrained. I would always wish that money grew on trees however thus far I have yet to discover said tree species so I have wholly complied and have been employed since I was 15. I genuinely believe my work ethic comes from early, financial knowledge from my parents via the process of receiving pocket money.

I soon learnt that should I empty the dishwasher every night of the week I would be rewarded with more money (overtime). Once I was earning £2 every Friday, I never emptied the dishwasher less than 7 times weekly so in hindsight my parents had a live-in kitchen porter for a mere £8 a month. See, this actually benefits you as parents more than you would think!

It also taught me the concept of having a regular income, which I was in control of. I learnt how to establish the difference between needing something and wanting something because I knew that I would not get any more money until the following Friday. There was no option to get my pocket money earlier, so I had to make it last. My parents were consistent and fair so if I had washed the car that week, I would always be paid for my efforts, just as if I left my bedroom looking like a war zone, I would not be. Luckily, I am particularly money driven so this approach worked with me. It wasn’t about bribing me to keep up with chores and help out around the house, it was about teaching me that something does not come from nothing. If I did not do the chores I would simply not get paid. It instilled in me that I am the only person in control of my income. Hard work correlates with high reward and a feeling of self-fulfilment. You go to work and then you get paid and that was good enough for me!

I would advise all parents to offer pocket money. The amount you are willing to give is fairly irrelevant and will be different for different families depending on income. It should also balance with what they have to do to earn it. For example, giving them £50 for taking out the bins isn’t really teaching them anything, nor is rewarding 20p for vacuum cleaning the whole house twice over, they just won’t do it again. You make the rules but keep them consistent and your children will quickly learn the value of money, setting them up to understand the importance of budgeting and spending within their means. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for that money tree!