by SONIA A. RANDALL
When my son and daughter became teenagers, their constant requests for clothing put extreme pressure on my checkbook. Every week they told me “Mom, I need …”
I enjoy giving my children nice things, but now I was just filling requests. When one was granted they started wheedling for the next. Arguing was useless: “But, Mom, the gym teacher (or coach) says we have to have this!” Checking with the school, I learned it was all too true and we would be off to the store again.
Finally, more in desperation than wisdom, I decided to turn the process over to them. They would receive a monthly allowance which would be only for clothes. We had a family meeting to work out the ground rules. Coming up with how much to allow for clothing can be tricky.
The intelligent questions they asked raised my hopes. For instance, my son looked forward and wondered “Does it cover renting a tuxedo for the prom?” (Yes.) “How about swimming trunks and running shoes for school sports?” He groaned over that affirmative.
My daughter, quick to see a potential advantage, asked, “Does it cover jewelry or cosmetics?” (Unfortunately no). “Haircuts and permanents?” (Still no). “Well, how about shoe repair?” (Yes).
I decided to turn the process over to them. They would receive a monthly allowance which would be only for clothes.
Slowly we worked through the issues and established guidelines. “Can we ask for expensive things like coats for Christmas or birthday gifts?” (Yes, but you may not get your request). “How about trading clothes with our friends?” (Sure, but only if all parents approve).
We established money would be handed out on the first of each month. There would be absolutely NO advances regardless of need.
The plan went into effect with great enthusiasm. Visions of unlimited designer clothing danced in my children’s eyes as they received their first allowance.
For the first few months I was convinced we had made an expensive mistake. Allowances paid on the first were usually gone by the second or third. Inevitably, before the end of the month, some valid need would arise.
I felt cruel and hard-hearted the first time I said, “Well, you’ll just have to figure it out. That’s what the allowance is for!” But after that, it was sheer relief.
They learned to cope. My son discovered he could get his name-brand running shoes at a mail-order discount website for half the shoe store price. My daughter, who had never been interested in sewing, discovered easy patterns, fabric sales and Mom’s sewing machine added up to a larger wardrobe than she could normally afford. Both started reading sale ads and collecting coupon codes while looking for quality—things I had preached for years with no discernible effect.
I still don’t like some of their choices, but I am convinced turning this responsibility over to them has been beneficial. They are learning to manage with the resources available. They are learning about the importance of saving and the consequences of mismanagement. I pray they are also learning to be good stewards and thankful for God’s gifts to them.
SONIA A. RANDALL is a freelance writer from Oregon.