20dollarsaday (20dollarsaday) wrote,

Works for Me Wednesday: Getting Rid of the "Gimmes"

We are fortunate to take a long vacation every summer. We drive east, visiting friends (hi Elizabeth, AKT, and KJ) and family (you know who you are) along the way. It is inevitable that the kids will want us to buy them things, from candy in convenience stores to trinkets in gift shops.

I dislike it when my children beg for stuff, and I resent being put in the position of saying no repeatedly. Last year we hit on a solution to eliminate begging by putting the kids in charge of their own spending money. Each child started vacation with $20 to spend over the course of four weeks. Our children receive no allowance, so this was a big deal. We were headed to see family and friends by way of four major museums and several small ones (we're museum junkies), three different lakes, the ocean, lots of antique and collectible stores, an outlet mall, and restaurants. It was a marathon trip--not the usual "park ourselves at the beach" summer vacation. Our guidelines:

1. The money was a gift from us to them, and it was unconditionally theirs. We wouldn't deduct "fines" for poor behavior or otherwise use the funds to discipline or punish them.

2. They were the managers of their money, and the managers of their own "gimme" impulses. If they wanted a trinket in a gift shop, they needed only to ask themselves--not us--if they could have it. If they wanted a toy, they--not we--decided if they should spend the money. If they wanted a treat, they could buy it (they can't *eat* sweets until they have permission, though). The only souvenir item we'd purchase for them was a t-shirt.

3. If my kids spent less than their allotment on vacation, they would receive the balance when we returned home. Likewise, they knew that once they spent their money, it was gone.

4. We tracked their spending money on paper. We didn't give them actual cash because

--our experience is that it can get lost on a long vacation, no matter how careful they try to be;
--my kids will compulsively count and recount their money, often in the car. It's good practice for them, but invariably coins slip between the seats, causing a crisis; and,
--they wind up asking me to hold their little bags of cash or their change purses if we encounter something exciting once we're out of the car, such as a climbing structure or playground. I dislike holding everybody's stuff.

My kids showed tremendous responsibility for the funds we gave them. They considered each purchase carefully, and ran the math, "Mom, does nineteen minus four equal fifteen?" This was a huge change from the endless, life-sapping begs and whines of the past. It just didn't happen. What's more, my children returned home with a surfeit of $6 and $8, respectively, which went straight into their banks. The souvenirs they saved from vacation were seashells, ticket stubs, interesting rocks, and drawings they'd made (and a souvenir t-shirt we'd bought for each of them).

It worked for us.

Find more "Works for Me Wednesday" links at Rocks in My Dryer.

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