A couple months ago I started giving Calvin an allowance. It’s been interesting to see the choices he has made.
The logistics of giving Calvin an allowance have been more complicated than I was first expecting. Up until very recently I never carried cash. If I have cash, I have a tendency to spend it and then not have a clue where it went. With a credit card, even if I lose the receipt, I can go online and at least know how much money I spent at a specific store. I balance and pay my credit card weekly and it works very well for me. However, Calvin really wanted cash so I had to learn how to manage cash. In addition, the two salons I visit strongly prefer their tips in cash (one won’t even accept tips via credit card which is why I eventually caved).
Managing the Calvin-side of his allowance has actually been pretty easy. I bought an app for the iPad called iAllowance and it’s work out pretty well. I can set it up to say how often he should get an allowance, how the allowance should be distributed (piggy bank, savings, and charity), and I can even award interest on his “savings.”
However, managing cash on my end was a complete disaster. I’d withdraw money for Calvin’s allowance then use some of it for tips and frantically have to figure out how to reconcile it all in GnuCash1. Finally, within the last two weeks, I think I’ve got it all figured out. I have a new asset account called Cash. Every time I withdraw cash, I move money from the appropriate budget sub-accounts in checking to the cash account. Any cash I use for tips, etc, gets entered as an expense and, if necessary, I go give money to the Calvin budget sub-account in checking from my personal sub-account. Anytime I actually distribute Calvin’s allowance to him, it goes to the “Calvin’s cash” sub-account in the cash account. Every Monday I make sure “Calvin’s cash”, the “piggy bank” in iAllowance, and Calvin’s wallet have the same amount in them. The top-level cash account should always match the cash I have in my wallet. Yeah, it’s confusing but it’s working for me, at least for now. I do miss the good-old credit card only days though.
I’m pretty sure the “savings” and “giving” accounts for Calvin are pointless at this point. I had been using his giving account for Cradle Roll offering each week. However, I haven’t figured out when (if?) Kindergarten takes offering. What I’d really like to do is sit down with him and let him choose a charity he’s particularly interested in. However, he doesn’t have much in the account yet. Maybe I should just let it accumulate to the end of the year and talk to him about it then.
Watching Calvin spend his actual cash has been fascinating. As I mentioned before, Calvin’s very first purchase was glue. He had expressed an interest in glue but I was less excited. Before I let him buy the glue, I dragged him all over the store and pointed out the things he could buy instead if he just waited longer. One of the things I thought he might like to save for was a Curious George TV season. Target has some of the Curious George TV series for only $5 which is the best I’ve seen anywhere, including Amazon and Walmart. However, Calvin was insistent that he wanted glue. Well, it was his money so I let him buy glue. He was very happy.
The next week when I handed him his allowance, he didn’t do anything with it. This surprised me a bit. I half expected we’d be rushing to the store to buy more glue (naturally the glue he had purchased was already gone). The next week, he asked me if he had enough money for a Curious George DVD. Apparently dragging him all around the store had made an impression. He didn’t, but I told him he would the week after that. He seemed content to wait. The next week, we went to Target and he bought Curious George: Robot Monkey.
One of the things I love about Calvin getting an allowance is when he asks for something, I can now tell him he can get it if he can buy it. This is particularly helpful when we go to the thrift store. I like shopping at the thrift store. It’s like a treasure hunt. Some days are good and some days are bad. However, the clothing seems to be a better quality than much of what I can get new these days. Plus, I can still find colors that look good on me even if all the current “in” colors are terrible. However, the thrift store is also full of cheap plastic toys that Calvin finds fascinating but I don’t want cluttering up my house.
We went to the thrift store a couple of weeks ago and Calvin decided ahead of time that he wanted to spend $3 for a toy there. I was a surprised by the $3 amount because he did have a couple more dollars available. We went around and I pointed out which toys were under $3 and which weren’t. We also discussed the concept of sales tax though I’m not sure how much he got out of that discussion. After looking at several items, he settled on a terrible hamburger-eating pig. I tried to talk him out of it but he was quite sure that’s what he wanted. The good news was it cost less than $2 so at least he was under budget.
Calvin’s most recent purchase was a plastic watering can. He loves watering cans but the one I have is too big for him to be able to fill and carry. Jaeger had wanted a small one for his office plants. Once we arrived at Walmart, Calvin asked if he could have one too. I told him if he paid for it with his allowance and he readily agreed.
One purchase Calvin hasn’t made yet is for tape. Calvin really likes tape but I’ve been refusing to give him any tape because, from my perspective, he just wastes it. Once, before I realized I needed to keep the tape out of reach, Calvin strung it all over around the family room. That was fun to pick up. Now, whenever Calvin asks for tape, I tell him he can buy some with his allowance. Apparently, it’s not important enough to him because, unlike the glue, he doesn’t seem interested in purchasing any.
Currently, Calvin has $6.63 of allowance which I think is pretty decent considering he only gets $2/week. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say giving Calvin an allowance is a success. However, it does seem to be a learning experience for everyone involved.