An 11-year-old’s first budget

Growing up, my parents taught me very little about financial responsibility. It wasn’t until college, when my parents expected me to pay my own car insurance, that I was forced to learn the basics of budgeting. It was just one bill, but it was traumatic to me since I’d never paid for anything myself until that point. Looking back, the lesson was introduced too late. It didn’t “take”.

Had I understood budgeting earlier in life, some of my financial choices might have been different. Obviously, this isn’t the only reason I accumulated a mountain of debt, but it’s an example of the lack of financial education I received as a kid. (Fortunately, now thousands of dollars in debt are gone after a lot of planning and sacrifice — and of course, using coupons.) My husband and I want to teach our boys smart financial habits at a much younger age than we learned them.

An 11-Year-Old’s View of Money

For Christmas, our 11-year old son, T, wanted wanted a cell phone. Actually, when the new iPhone 4G hit the market, he suggested that he could take my 3G to use so I could get the new 4G. (His generosity knows no bounds!) While his suggestion gave his parents quite a laugh, we seized the opportunity to teach him a financial lesson. Here’s a bit of that conversation:

Me: “T, even if you did get an iPhone, the monthly plan is expensive. Who would pay for that?”
T: “You can just add me onto your plan, Mom.”
Me: “You didn’t answer my question, who would pay for that?”
T: “Well, you would. It’s only a few extra dollars a month. You and Dad work, so that’s nothing.”

The last statement set me off a bit! My husband and I do not want our kids to think that just because money is earned means it has to be spent. We also don’t want them to think that just because their friends have the newest {fill in the blank} that they need it too. After this conversation with my son, we decided to teach him a financial lesson.

An 11-Year-Old’s First Budget

s Christmas rolled around, T kept mentioning the cell phone. He really wanted it. So, we sat down and had a more detailed discussion about budgeting.

Since the cell phone would be T’s first and and only bill, we talked about his cash flow. He makes $44 a month for doing his chores (with potential to make more money each month for doing other things). We broke down his current expenses. I know he’s only 11 years old, but we really wanted this lesson to impress the importance of budgeting and giving.

I suggested that if he could find a phone plan that cost 50% or less of his monthly income, we’d consider the phone. The only limit to his search was that we needed a monthly payment plan without a contract. If he didn’t pay, we didn’t want to be bound to a contract we were paying for and not using. No payment means he simply wouldn’t have a phone to use (after all, a cell phone is a want and not a necessity).

An 11-year-old's budget Being eleven years old and not knowing how to find the information, I came up with a list of websites for him to review (with my guidance for some online safety measures). He browsed the sites, wrote down options, and noted which carriers offered a monthly service plan option.

After his review, he gave me his analysis and recommendation. I wasn’t surprised at the suggestion since I’d done some preliminary research myself. The lowest monthly payment plan was $25, and it did offer the monthly payment option that we required. Even though this was $3 over his $22 budget, we decided it was the best financial option meeting the requirements.

As we were going over the numbers again with the $25 cost, we discussed all of T’s expenses that his $44 monthly income was expected to cover. During this talk, we reminded him about tithing, and ensuring that 10% of his income is set aside for our church.

T’s response to this didn’t surprise me: “That’s easy. I make $44 and will spend $25 on my phone bill. That leaves me with $19. So 10% of $19 is $2.” While I appreciated his stellar math skills, we also took the time to remind him that the 10% giving was before he paid any bills. For us, that lesson was equally important in his understanding of financial generosity.

Family Financial Responsibility

Going through this budgeting process was eye-opening for all of us. While some parents are worried about having “the talk,” I was equally concerned with having this budgeting talk. This was a great lesson to teach T, but we hope that dad’s jacked up car and his first-hand look at poverty also show him reasons why we make the choice to manage our money wise in the first place.

Maybe 2011 is the year you take control of your finances and say good-bye to debt. For our family, 2011 is the year that we, as a family unit, focus on financial responsibility. And it started by teaching an 11-year-old how to budget for a cell phone.

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There are 75 comments to "An 11-year-old’s first budget".

  1. Pamela says 17 February 2011 at 04:39

    Thank you, Andrea. This is a really good example of teaching a lesson in a way that should stick–giving T the job of researching plans and reviewing his expenses.

    I have no doubt there would be a very different result if you just delivered a lecture.

    I meet young people all the time who never learned expenses are inexhaustible but income usually isn’t. If they’re lucky, it doesn’t cause them any major problems–until they want to buy a house.

    I hope you can follow up in a few months to let us know if T has been able to make his payments regularly and if you’ve seen other changes in the way he thinks about money.

  2. Wil says 17 February 2011 at 05:05

    I am curious to know what cell phone plan he picked. I would guess it is the same my wife just went with, Virgin Mobile (as that is the cheapest plan I could find as well).

  3. Nicole says 17 February 2011 at 05:31

    Cute!

    Does tithing have to go to your church or can it go to any charity?

  4. Jade says 17 February 2011 at 05:35

    I guess it’s the same as those people who make their kids save/invest/give/spend with their allowance, but I just can’t imagine *making* my child tithe. It’s their money. I think a lot of people have difficulty with this — once a paycheque (or here, an allowance) is given, that allowance no longer belongs to you. You can’t (or shouldn’t) dictate where it goes.

    I guess I feel like giving should ‘come from the heart,’ corny as that sounds. Not because Mom and Dad make you.

    • Bruce says 06 February 2015 at 11:31

      An earlier poster was concerned about “making” your child tithe, rather than having giving come from the heart. The reason cited was that once an allowance is given, the money no longer belongs to the parent, but now belongs to the child.

      In the case of tithing, it is important to remember that no money actually belongs to any of us, and so the tithe is actually giving back some of the money that God has blessed us with, so that the church is appropriately supported financially.

      So, its a mindset. The money was never yours to give, nor your child’s to receive. Rather, it belongs to God and he made us all stewards. In return, he has commanded that we give 10% back to support the church.

  5. sandycheeks says 17 February 2011 at 05:40

    Budgeting is such an important skill and thankfully schools are starting to add it to their curriculum. Just yesterday my 1st grader came home with a worksheet about budgeting called “Making Family Choices”.

  6. lostAnnfound says 17 February 2011 at 06:00

    We did the same with our daughters. Personally, I did not want them to get a cell phone until they were old enough to sign a contract, but I relented when they turned 13. Same deal, but we added them onto our family plan and they pay for their add-on amount plus taxes, fees, etc. Each of them pays about $20.00 per month for their phone, some months a bit more for extras. They budget that every month from money they earn babysitting.

    The older one grasps the concept of budgeting for expenses and saving for larger items (currently saving for a laptop for when she goes to college next year), but the younger one has a big hole in her pocket when she has money and can’t wait to go to the mall for shopping! Consequently, we keep a closer eye on her money than we do with the older one until she is capable of doing it herself.

  7. brokeprofessionals says 17 February 2011 at 06:24

    My parents taught me a similar lesson when I was a kid. I earned $1.00 per week for allowance. I did not have to do any chores, it was just so I could get an idea of the concept of money, I suppose. I was in the 8-10 range and I am now in my late twenties, so that dollar was basically nothing. I really wanted a specific Nintendo game, so I waited and waited, for almost a year to buy it. When I finally got the $50.00 I needed (After $50.00 weeks), I bought the game. And it wasn’t that great. I felt terrible having waited all that time to now have a game I did not like and no money. I’m sure that lesson has shaped my financial views, to some extent, although it was not as carefully constructed as J.D.’s plan for his son.

  8. Jeadly says 17 February 2011 at 06:31

    Did you budget for the real cost of the service, not just the advertised price? We pay an extra 10% on the services we receive for taxes and “surcharges”.

  9. Danielle says 17 February 2011 at 06:32

    I think there’s an even cheaper way to go with it, particularly if the child won’t use it all that much. We went to Sam’s Club and bought a phone for $14.95. Cooler ones are available, but I figured there was a high potential she would lose it. Then, you just load it up $10 at a time for a block of minutes that are good for 90 days. We’ve done it this way for 2 years, and it’s cost less than $50/year. If a child only needs it for emergencies (or is only allowed to use it for that), this works great.

  10. Slackerjo says 17 February 2011 at 06:43

    I laughed at “Well, you would. It’s only a few extra dollars a month. You and Dad work, so that’s nothing.” I know a few 21 and 31 year olds who think the same way!

  11. Anonymous says 17 February 2011 at 06:45

    This article is offensive. If I wanted to read about Christianity, I would’ve gone to a religious website. Please keep that off the site.

  12. smirktastic says 17 February 2011 at 06:59

    Excellent, excellent, excellent! What a great way to drive home the point that any and all additional expenses, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, do have an impact and deserve careful consideration. I too received little in the way of financial education, so it’s good to see that parents and schools are starting to correct this.

  13. Raghu Bilhana says 17 February 2011 at 07:02

    `

    Why does a 11 year old kid need an iphone?

    I didnt get what you were trying to point out from this article.

    You are letting your kid spend 60% of his money on a want. How is that teaching financial budgeting.

  14. Debra says 17 February 2011 at 07:05

    Please remember in your conversations that kids also might need an “emergency” fund. We had long talks with our son, now fifteen about monthly plans, budgeting etc… He did everything right finally getting his iphone about twelve days ago. Yesterday, it was stolen from his backpack while he was at gym. So we are onto the next teaching moment. He saved and waited for more than a year and also waited for Verizon all to have it vanish after a few days of nirvana. So now we are discussing the pros/cons of insurance, mobile me and replacement costs. Please remember the budgeting conversation for the day the phone goes “missing”.

  15. peggy says 17 February 2011 at 07:16

    I congratulate you for sitting your son down and having a discussion (not a lecture!) about budgeting for a phone. I especially like how it appears you taught him not to fall into the trap of signing up for a yearly plan.

    Then again, if it were my kid, I would have made him/her write a memo or essay about what business an 11 year old has for such an expensive, busy phone. Also, $44/month allowance? Whew! That sounds like much…but I was that age decades ago so times must have changed.

  16. David says 17 February 2011 at 07:18

    I have an 11 year old boy so this story was near and dear to me. It was refreshing to see a family who teaches the concept of tithing to their children. Keep up the good work!

  17. D. Evans says 17 February 2011 at 07:26

    I love that you are teaching the tithing concept at such a critical age. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I’m not sure I want my 11 year old to have a cell phone, and I don’t agree with paying children for chores that they should be expected to do as a contributing member of the family. However, I haven’t figured out the best way to introduce “real-life” budgeting to my kids yet, and this might be a great way to do it.

  18. Aaron says 17 February 2011 at 07:27

    “Even though this was $3 over his $22 budget, we decided it was the best financial option meeting the requirements.”

    I’m not sure going over budget was in the requirements 🙂 What’s going to happen when an emergency comes along and he’s spent that extra $3 a month that could have gone to another bill or saving for another goal? Maybe baseball season starts and he needs a new glove?

    A better lesson might have been having him find a way to make more $ (ask for a raise, offer to do something else around the house for more $) in order to afford the cell-phone plan within the limit (albeit arbitrary) of the 50% of his budget. In real life his budget might not be as squishy.

    This situation reminds me of people buying homes. They set a budget (say 30% of take home or something similar) that seems reasonable and they feel they can handle comfortably, but then they find a home that is over budget and buy it anyway. No doubt to regret it further down the road when other unanticipated expenses come up, or when their income drops and they’re not living as comfortably.

  19. Chickybeth says 17 February 2011 at 07:33

    My comment is almost identical to Aaron’s #11.

    If none of the plans fit within the predetermined budget and your son was allowed to do it anyway, what you are actually teaching is not budgeting. You are teaching the same lesson my parents taught me (by example) that if you really want something in life, go ahead and get it, even if you can’t really afford it. It is a bad cycle that starts with the first bill and ends with mountains of credit card debt.

    I do commend you on wanting to teach your children a better way to handle money and thank you for sharing your story.

  20. Sonja says 17 February 2011 at 07:35

    I’m surprised he didn’t go with the Tracfone $10/month plan, plus the telephones they have are very cheap too. I only spent $10 on mine and my husband $15 (with double minutes).

  21. Grace says 17 February 2011 at 07:45

    This seems logically inconsistent to me–you expect financial maturity (budgeting) but don’t allow financial decision making (how much/where to give). Will the decision on how and where to tithe be up to your 11 year old at any point, or will it always be an enforced rule?

  22. barnetto says 17 February 2011 at 07:48

    hmmmm…

    I do the opposite of what your son tried to do. An amount equal to 10% of my yearly expense budget goes to charity, and the rest gets socked away into my retirement accounts/investments.

    I figure when I’m dead whatever is left over from my retirement costs can go to charity at that point, minus what I deem a prudent amount to any future offspring I might have (if they are spendthrifts, then they won’t handle it well, if they are careful with money, then they won’t need much).

  23. Megan says 17 February 2011 at 08:05

    A good idea. Two things bothered me. One, as others mentioned, you gave him the ability to go over budget – that’s not a good skill to learn. Two, you want him to tithe but not save? I’d say tell him to also save 10% before buying, since that builds a good skill later ( save before looking at what you can spend).
    But still I’m glad you are trying to teach him money skills now, it’s a great thing to start earlier in life.

  24. Maureen says 17 February 2011 at 08:22

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Rhagu (#10). I didn’t allow my children to have phones (just basic phones – not an iPhone either) till they were in highschool. It would be hard for me to justify the expense for a younger child.

  25. Jennifer says 17 February 2011 at 08:38

    If you read his list he has $11 going towards “savings”.

    I’m only 30 but this makes me feel old. Are 11 year olds really getting $44/month for allowance these days?

  26. Jen says 17 February 2011 at 08:46

    This is a great idea & I think a good age to do this.

    Your son’s first comment about you working so you could pay for it is a good opportunity to teach how money is also time. When our son was around five we did this. If he begged for something he thought he had to have I would show him how much it cost & how many hours dad would have to work to pay for it.

    Of course that can backfire when they realize dad only has to work 5 minutes for some things & that’s when you teach about priorities, limits & choices.

    When our son reached high school we started having him help with our family budget. It has changed his attitude toward money tremendously. If there’s something very big he wants he asks for ways to earn it where before he just asked without thought.

    Cell phones with kids are a sore spot with me but my dh & I don’t even own one ourselves. We let our son get one less than a year ago at the age of 17 but he only has texting on it.

  27. Nick says 17 February 2011 at 08:48

    The tithing thing seems a bit weird to me. Allotting 10% to charity (which he should be able to select since it’s his money) makes fine sense, but saying that you’re giving him responsibility but then forcing him to pay for something that’s your priority isn’t exactly fair in my opinion.

    I mention this because I know kids who went through a similar thing and it usually has an adverse affect on their relationship with the church because it’s not something they chose.

    This is an awesome idea though in general. Thanks for the post!

  28. Laura in Cancun says 17 February 2011 at 08:54

    Great lesson! Personally I’d have a hard time giving a cell phone that expensive to an 11-year-old, but I think it’s so cool that he’s paying for the monthly plan!

    I also love how he’s putting away savings and 10% offering money!!

    I made about the same ($10/wk) as a kid, and I remember always putting in $1 or $2 in the collection plate.

    Good for you 🙂

  29. Naomi says 17 February 2011 at 08:57

    Why not let him pay $9.99 and add a line to your family plan?

    • Heidi Nelle says 13 September 2012 at 17:06

      Um, adding an iPhone to a FT plan is not $9.99. It never has been. If they add him to their FT plan, they have to add on a data plan.

      I know plenty of parents who add on the lowest data plan possible for $20 and then wind up with $200 of overages because their kid doesn’t recognise that all the $20 overages keep adding up.

      Not just that, but even if they provide that iPhone themselves as an added on line and are not under contract, it’s still a bitch to cancel.

      I work for AT&T and I have seen some customers who keep trying to cancel out their line and the customer retention department keeps it active still just to meet a quota.

      Also, with a SmartPhone, the parent has NO control over their child. The friendlier thought is because cell phone companies blindly assume adults are using it, the realistic thought is because by refusing to let parents put any parental controls on a SmartPhone to keep kids from going over data makes buttloads of money.

  30. Em says 17 February 2011 at 09:09

    Good article, overall. I remember wanting all sorts of absurd gadgets at that age.

    That being said, I’m going to echo whoever it was that asked if the 10% tithe is really a tithe or just a general charity fund. Because it seems awfully constraining to be giving a child their “own” money to teach them management and then force them to donate the money to a group or your choice rather than of theirs. I understand that you want to teach charity, but forcing them to give any amount specifically to the church that they might prefer to give to some other charity seems a little bit like railroading them into your own beliefs about what the best use for that money is without letting them form their own conclusions, which in itself is a part of becoming an adult.

  31. LauraElle says 17 February 2011 at 09:09

    To Anonmyous: I fail to see how this post is offensive. She did not try to convert you, merely shared where her family’s financial priorities are. Some people tithe, some do not, regardless of whether one attends church or not. We do not attend church but do donate 10% of our pre-bill income to local charities.

  32. Sara says 17 February 2011 at 09:20

    I am also kind of surprised that you allowed him to go over budget, but I think that in general, I love the idea of using this want as a way to teach budgeting. So many ideas on teaching kids how to manage money only involve saving up for a one time expense – and this allows you child to actually figure and plan for recurring expenses.

    And to comment #11 – I don’t tithe, I’m definitely NOT Christian – but offensive? I really don’t see how the inclusion of a tithe in the article is offensive. No, it’s not what I would do, but I have a hard time taking offense at it.

  33. Annie says 17 February 2011 at 09:23

    I disagree with the poster who are against the tithing requirement. I grew up with the example of extraordinarily generous parents (not to the point of irresponsibility). They were generous with charities, with their friends, with strangers, with the people who worked for my father (more than once, he gave up his bonus– in his field, nearly 50% of his yearly salary– when he found out the people working under him were not going to get bonuses that year. He wrote everyone a personal check. We were well off, but not to the point where that money wasn’t important. My parents took a very real hit those years, but it was the right thing to do. The other people needed it more, and depended on it more).

    They never required me to tithe, but just like this parent, they showed me that it was a priority from a very, very young age. I had the good fortune to grow up in a wealthy family, but where we learned that wealth was only useful for the opportunities it buys– not just for you, but for other people. Especially for other people. What’s a yacht when you can help a deserving kid through college?

    I’m so lucky that I had that instilled at an early age. I think this is all the author is trying to do. Might not be my way of doing it, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s making a value a habit, and isn’t that what parents are supposed to do?

  34. Jen says 17 February 2011 at 09:27

    I was going to ask what Nicole asked — it looks like he’s giving away 20% to me; World Vision is a charity, right?

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’d encourage giving away x% and saving x% and then figuring out how to make expenses come out of the rest.

    But then, my children are even cheaper than their parents! As both of my older sons have remarked, “Oh, I only want that if you’ll buy it, I wouldn’t spend my money on it!” I will say that we didn’t ever put limits on their wee tiny allowances, either, because we wanted them to be able to learn from doing the wrong things, too. However, like I said, it may just be they got the hatetospend gene.

  35. Derek says 17 February 2011 at 09:29

    Here’s a new lesson. Don’t force your kid/tax your kid 10% for church. Giving 10% should be voluntary. There is nothing virtuous about being forced to give a tithing. He himself should feel moved and compelled to give what he wants to church. Forcing him disconnects him from the generosity. There is nothilng generous if you’re forced to do it.

  36. barnetto says 17 February 2011 at 09:32

    When you look at the math, more than 10% (very slightly more as to be basically negligible?) has been tithed. Because the $44 the 11 year gets is already from the post-tithing pile of money that the parents earned. Its double tithe-ation! =)

  37. Mike says 17 February 2011 at 10:00

    I believe the gov’t has already required us to tithe with all the social programs that are tax supported.

  38. Maria says 17 February 2011 at 10:08

    I’m with #25 Jennifer – $44/month allowance?! Makes me (also 30) feel old. I do like the story though. Good excuse to talk about financial planning with your son. I also agree with Annie – even if down the road her son doesn’t tithe to the church, he’s learning about giving and philanthropy. Odds are, if he’s not giving to his church in the future, he’ll be giving to another worthy cause.

  39. Andrea Deckard says 17 February 2011 at 10:18

    @Wil – we purchased a monthly plan through iwirelesshome.com. I’m not sure if they offer plans in every state but it’s worth a check. The other nice thing is that he can get additional minutes when I tie my grocery shopping card.

    @Nicole, the tithes goes to our church.

    @Jade, I understand where you’re coming from. However, this is an important lesson that we believe needs learned at his age so he doesn’t think that when he’s in a financial bind the offering isn’t as important. We are also teach all of our boys the heart in giving not just by financial means but also by their time and talents.

    @Jeadly – the total amount is $25 so no surcharges or taxes.

    @Danielle, T also had a phone like that but it didn’t do some of the things his new phone does. I definitely agree with the trac phones or those types of phones for emergency purposes. For years after I resigned from my corporate job, that’s actually all I had!

    @Raghu, T doesn’t need an iPhone which is why he won’t get one on my dime 🙂 And, spending that amount was what we felt was appropriate for him considering he has very few expenses.

    @Debra, the “emergency fund” is a great point! Thanks for mentioning that. He just saves all of the remainder from his set allowance and “extra money” he earns for now.

    @Peggy, $44 for a monthly allowance for him is actually lower than most kids his age receive but we went with his age (as we do with each of our boys) for their weekly amount with the potential to earn more by doing more.

    @D. Evans, I know a lot of people who don’t necessarily agree with an allowance. We want them to learn the lesson of paying their own way. So, the allowance is helping to teach that as well.

    @Aaron @Chickybeth, I knew the $3 over would have some people challenging our thinking. As I mentioned, he does have potential to earn more through doing additional jobs. So far, he and his 7-year old brother have earned more each month consistently.

    I really want to teach our kids to have an entrepreneurial spirit more than just doing a job someone tells them to do.

    @Jen – he is actually giving more in charitable contributions. We were able to go on a trip to the DR last year. He met a little boy there that wasn’t sponsored through World Vision’s program. T was insistent upon our return that we sponsor him too. So, we agreed but only if he agreed to help sponsor him.

    @Grace, he does get to make his own decisions on what he spends his money on. However, he has financial obligations just like we do and he needs to cover those first. If T decided he didn’t want to tithe tomorrow, we would have a discussion with him to understand his motivations. If it’s just because he wants to satisfy his own desires for more video games, than I have an issue with that regardless of where the money is going.

    @Megan, he is saving. Not sure if you can see the image above, but that depicts him saving at least $11 each month.

    @Maureen, he doesn’t have an iPhone. It’s a Sanyo flip screen phone which cost a lot less!

    @Jennifer, yeap $44 is low too! We’re the cheap parents compared to his friends’ parents :).

    @Jen, we’ve done that too and it does backfire like you said! Then they wonder why daddy hasn’t gotten a new car yet – they understand our priorities a little more but they still ask the questions!

    @Naomi – we didn’t want to add him onto our plans because both of our phones are for business purposes. We also wanted to reinforce that if he didn’t pay then we weren’t saving him because we were contractually bound to do so.

    And, regarding tithing, it’s not meant to offend anyone honestly. But, we DO believe it’s what our family is to do. Even if it wasn’t tithing, we would want all of our boys to do something to give financially if it’s within their means. But, we also want to encourage them to do more than write a check and be givers of their time, talents and anything else possible.

    Our boys see the items I can purchase for next to nothing (or usually free) thanks to shopping the sales and using coupons. Whenever I walk in the door with items, they ask me now “Is this for the donation box?” It’s something that they see happening that doesn’t require a check to be written, just mom’s time and their time to throw it in the donation box so we can give.

  40. elena says 17 February 2011 at 10:26

    I think this is an excellent next step for an 11 year old and gave very reasonable expectations for the situation. If he doesn’t pay,the consequences are clear and the parents are not on the hook. I especially liked that he had to do research and then really got to make a real CHOICE about something important to him. A little flexibility on the 50% rule works here for the lesson you’re teaching. Budgeting is about adjusting to get what you need and want with what you have.
    Understanding the responsibility of having a monthly bill, a recurring expense is huge.
    I assume you follow some kind of similiar financial guidelines yourselves and can help
    keep him on track.
    I was heartbroken when I read #14 about the phone being stolen when the child waited and planned. Take heart, Debra, you’re doing right by your child in the long run.

  41. Stephanie says 17 February 2011 at 10:43

    It is refreshing to read a financial article about taking your 10% out for your tithe before doing anything else. What a great way to teach your child! I am curious, though, are you giving your child the allowance or making him earn through chores, etc. (maybe I just missed that part)? We are currently going through the Dave Ramsey plan and this is right on track! If he is earning his $ and this is what he chooses to buy with it, then it will definitely teach him about responsibility as well as saving for something he wants but doesn’t really need. Good job!

  42. Jane says 17 February 2011 at 11:02

    There is nothing wrong with the author’s approach, but I don’t think it is one we will emulate. I’m not sure teaching your child about money has to be this deliberate. I grew up in an extremely frugal family that also tithed. My parents were never this deliberate with allowance or anything related to my money. In fact, I rarely if ever received my allowance, since it was tied to a chore and I just chose not to do the chore. In that respect, you could say my parents “failed” at teaching me proper financial and personal responsibility. But you know what? I’m really good with money as an adult. I think the reason is because they modeled good behavior without being too preachy about it. Kids are much more observant than we tend to give them credit for. If you model good money management, they will know what to do. And they will do it, IF (and this is a big if) they choose to do so. Ulimately we have no control over who our child will be.

    I’m not saying that discipline isn’t important and teaching them values isn’t important. They are! But there is only so much we can do, and I worry that certain decisions, like forcing your child to tithe, could backfire in the long run. Like others, I think you are sending a mixed message if you say they are responsible enough to have money yet don’t give them control over how they allocate it.

  43. Des says 17 February 2011 at 11:19

    FWIW – I googled “average allowance amount by age” and it looks like average for 11 years olds is $8. So, less than the author, but still WAY more than the $2 a week I got when I was 11 (I’m 27 now).

  44. Suba Iyer says 17 February 2011 at 11:22

    I don’t find the article offensive at all. Church was their charity of choice. Personally we don’t give to church but we give over 15% of gross to various charity as long as they are not in the business of converting people. This is our choice and if you think paying taxes is enough charity, that is, again, your choice. What is wrong with any of these choices?

    It is a great article about teaching about budgeting, researching before buying and not getting into a long term contract, all in one. Great job, Andrea. But I still can’t get around my head with the fact that a 11 year old thinks he needs a iPhone. At that age, I would have given him a phone for emergency to contact people. Thats it. And more than anything, you sort of budgeted for the future income as well (by going over $3 and saying he can make it up with more work). He didn’t have that money did he? I would have learned that as long as I have the potential to earn, I can spend that money now. Again, I am not saying what you did was wrong. You did an excellent job, much much better than a lot of parents in handling this. I am just trying to think what would have happened if you gave him one more month to up his chores and come up with that $3 before budgeting for it. But I don’t have kids yet, so what do I know.

  45. Tom says 17 February 2011 at 11:25

    @42

    “I’m not saying that discipline isn’t important and teaching them values isn’t important. They are! But there is only so much we can do, and I worry that certain decisions, like forcing your child to tithe, could backfire in the long run. Like others, I think you are sending a mixed message if you say they are responsible enough to have money yet don’t give them control over how they allocate it.”

    It’s not a mixed message. You can give your kid the keys to the car the day they turn 16, but you don’t automatically let them go wherever, whenever, with whomever they choose right off the bat. Responsibility should be doled out a little at a time, loosening the reins as they show they have earned those privileges.

  46. Ryan says 17 February 2011 at 11:27

    I fully admit I’m biased since I’m not religious (although I was raised in a Protestant church, which my parents still attend), but I’m not a fan of parents requiring their children tithe. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

    That said, I found nothing offensive about a passing mention to your family’s beliefs.

  47. Ian says 17 February 2011 at 11:32

    I think the lesson of having to pay for something yourself, and deciding what to spend your money on is a much more important lesson than budgeting to an 11 year old. The mom made up the 50% rule, so I think she should be allowed to bend it a little. He’s an 11 year old with no actual expenses. I personally think after he’s tithed and saved, he should be allowed to spend however much he wants on a cell phone plan.
    Most kids probably never get any type of coaching or instruction for their parents (I didn’t). Does anyone really believe that this is going to turn him into a debt ridden spendaholic?

  48. Pete says 17 February 2011 at 11:36

    Give the family a break. Go teach your kids your own lessons and applaud these for teaching theirs. Anyone saving less than 25% of their net income (as T does) should be the last one giving grief to this family for teaching their morals and budgeting lessons with their kids. Why do people friek out these days whenever their hear the word Church or Christian but celebrate any and all other religions and sects. It’s so ridiculous. Take it easy people. It’s just the foundation of our nation… No one’s slamming crosses down anyone’s throats.

  49. Tyler Karaszewski says 17 February 2011 at 11:43

    @LauraElle
    The post is offensive in the same way that someone else might find it offensive if it had mentioned forcing the kid to donate 10% of his money to Planned Parenthood or the Richard Dawkins Foundation. You don’t have to insist that someone else duplicate an offensive behavior before it becomes offensive.

    I wasn’t going to say anything about it except that other people brought it up first, and so I have to say that I can see where Anonymous is coming from.

  50. Kelly says 17 February 2011 at 11:52

    As a kid, I was never forced to help out around the house and until middle school, I didn’t even know what an allowance was. My parents provided me all of my needs and most of my wants. That being said, I didn’t ask for a ton of stuff, but was rarely told no. Though my parents talked about saving money and helping me budget birthday and Christmas money, they never enforced it. I think that has a lot to do with why I didn’t hesitate to get two credit cards my first year of college. I didn’t think twice about booking a plane ticket to visit a friend for a week on that credit card. Or putting a laptop on it. My parents were great people, and did instill a 10% or more giving philosophy into me, but outside of the tithe and my charity donations, I never budgeted and now I’m learning the hard way.

    I think Andrea has it right – figure out what is best for your family – but sit with your kids and work with them so they realize that they do not have to follow this sense of entitlement that our society has raised us to believe.

  51. Wade says 17 February 2011 at 12:20

    When growing up and going to church, I usually put $1-2 in the offering each week. So, I think that 10% of $44 is a fair amount (about a dollar per week).

    Anyway, I feel that this is a great lesson to teach a kid, especially those with cell phones that think that having a phone is their right. In fact, I didn’t learn about budgeting much until I had to pay car insurance after I got my driver’s license.

    Although, I don’t believe that it should be 100% the parents responsiblility for teaching money management. I feel that high schools and possibly middle schools should offer or require a money management course.

  52. R S says 17 February 2011 at 13:02

    I live in a high cost of living area (DC) and didn’t get an allowance (am 26), so $44 seems high to me. Neither did any of my peers.
    My friends who are now having kids plan to be giving their kids a max of $10 for “existing”, and probably will deduct from that, if they do not chip in on household chores. Extra can be provided for special things, like polishing the silver, etc.

    I tend to agree $44 is high, mainly because that is 6 hours for work at minimum wage (without taxes!). I think it could set up unrealistic expectations of what a job entails, and how much (or how little) you really can earn.

    As I did not get a cell phone till I was 23 (forced upon me, by overly concerned family), I see no reason for anyone under 18 to need one, unless they can fully maintain it.

    But, overall, I think it’s great that you’re showing an 11 yr old what is realistic given their financial limitations/expectations.

  53. Bethany says 17 February 2011 at 13:06

    My kids were lucky that they had a program in their school that taught them about fiscal responsibility. I can’t even balance a checkbook, but after the BizWorld program my 8 and 10 year olds know how run a fictitious business!

  54. Pastor Personal Finance says 17 February 2011 at 13:16

    Andrea, thanks for sharing your story of teaching your child to budget.

    We have 5 kids and we pay them an allowance of $1.00 for each year of age, every two weeks. So our 14-yr old gets $14 every two weeks.

    On each payday, we ask our kids how much they want to give to the church, how much they want to save, and how much they want to put in their spending envelope.

    We haven’t told them they need to give a certain amount or percentage to the church, and we’ve been amazed to see that they often give 20-25%.

    Generous kids can grow up to be generous adults if we can teach them to give to others first, and then save and live off the rest. Thanks for sharing your example!

  55. jennypenny says 17 February 2011 at 13:33

    @cell phones
    Our 12 yr old has a cell phone, and I’m glad for it. There are many days that I’m late getting home from work, or stuck at a practice or doctor’s appointment with another child, and he ends up home alone for short periods of time. We do not use a landline house phone anymore, so I feel the equivalent of that is letting my older kids have cell phones. The money is worth MY peace of mind.

    @tithing
    We strongely encourage our kids to tithe (which around here means giving 10%), but we do not require that it be our church. Sometimes they give to collections at school (like for Haiti). But I will say, until they’re living under their own roof I would not let them give to a charity that I was strongly opposed to, whether it was a church OR planned parenthood. I’m all for giving them a little independence, but when they are on our dime, we get the final say-so about such things.

    @allowances
    We have figured out how much money we were giving our kids on average every month for spending money and clothing. We now give that to them every month, and make them budget it and make it last to the next month. A friend calls and wants to go to the movies on the 1st of the month? They can decide whether they want to blow half their budget on the first night. I find that to be the biggest lesson to learn–making your money last until more money comes in 🙂

  56. Steven says 17 February 2011 at 13:40

    I was one of those kids that was forced to tithe. I was also forced to go to school. I was forced to do my homework before I played. I was forced to work for the items that I purchased as teenager.

    All of the above is known as instilling DISCIPLINE in a child who has not mastered it. I surely resented my parents for some of the tasks they “forced” me to do but I am wholly appreciative of it now. Especially when I look at a former classmate and watch as they struggle in society with dysfunctional traits.

    I wonder how many of the above posters realize that budgeting (spending wisely) is apart of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Couple that discipline with frugality and wise investing (all Biblical principles) and it’s no wonder that people of faith are drawn to this site. It’s ironic that no one gets upset about those Christian values being “forced” on people.

    I applaud the original poster for teaching her child about spending, budgeting, and also the importance of giving.

  57. Jay says 17 February 2011 at 14:09

    @Paul

    Our nation was not founded upon any religious doctrine or belief. Our nation was founded upon secular ideals and religion had no place in government. The OP has every right to mention what she feels in her blog, and by opening the comments allowed for people to critique. So no we will not lay off of voicing and opinion.

  58. El Nerdo says 17 February 2011 at 14:36

    I can see the controversy about the forced tithing but I don’t see that this must necessarily be “offensive” to non-religious readers (and I am one of them).

    When I read the article last night, I though, as a joke: “if I was 11 and forced to give 10% of my money to God, I would begin to question his existence”. I didn’t post my joke to avoid riling people up, but yes, religion in general bugs me (a lot), and I happened to be 11 years old when I started to question the logic of my family’s religious beliefs.

    Having said that, people have the right to believe what they believe, and to write about it, especially when they are describing a first-hand account of their financial experiment. Others of course have the right to disagree, etc.

    Now this is a bit of a fine point, but I think it’s not the mention of tithing per se that has bothered the secular camp, it’s the fact that tithing is presented as what is to be done, a “natural” thing– which implies tacitly that everyone does or should do the same.

    Perhaps this situation would have been avoided if the writer had made a sort of disclaimer, to add perspective, like saying “my family tithes, so we ask our kid to do the same”. It would account for her values without people feel like she’s “pushing” those values onto them.

    I think Dave Ramsey does this well his books. He says “as a Christian, this is what I believe and do”. “As a Christian, I believe my pastor is inspired by God to do XYZ with the money I give”. He does not assume that the reader will share his beliefs, but doesn’t back down from his beliefs either. He provides perspective. And as a non-Christian, I have no problem reading his books and taking what’s useful to me, because he does not assume that we all share the same belief systemand I do not feel pressured to give money to my non-existent pastor.

    Still, even with the best of efforts, whenever you write about your personal life there are going to be people ready to condemn you for whatever it is you do– live with pets, live without pets, be religious, be an atheist, give to charity, not give to charity, have a TV, not have a TV, give an allowance, don’t give an allowance, etc… and sometimes people get personal. When JD got published on CNN money (about paying his wife to do the laundry) people picked on him for all sorts of crazy things, including being married but not having children as some kind of morale outrage. Seriously?

    Anyway, that’s the price of fame. Nice story about making a kid think about budgets. A good skill to acquire early in life.

  59. Molly says 17 February 2011 at 15:39

    good advise. I’ve got three small children and don’t want to see them end up in the same financial situation I am at 30. Teaching children to budget is a necessity, especially when credit is so easy to come by.

  60. Molly says 17 February 2011 at 15:43

    I think it’s great you’re teaching your children how to budget. I wish my parents would have made me balance my money. Now, I’ve got three young children of my own, and as they get older, I plan on making them budget. That way, they won’t be in my situation when they’re thirty!

  61. Annie G says 17 February 2011 at 15:49

    Although your family has already made your decision about allowances, I’d like to share my view for the readers who perhaps have younger children or do not have children yet.

    A family is not a business, and I don’t feel that anyone in a family should be paid to do their share. As a parent, you wouldn’t consider charging your child when you do their laundry or make their dinner, or any of the other thousand of chores you do for the family. Likewise, your child should not be charging you to do their chores or homework or anything else that is required to be part of the family.

    Imagine a scenario when you come home with the flu and ask your 14 year old to take care of the younger kids and dinner. Would you want the teen asking how much you are willing to pay, or the younger kids wanting money to listen to their older sibling? No, you want everyone to pitch in because they ARE a family!

    That’s how a family should work – as a team, not a business.

    If you have a budget (and I hope you do), you can teach children financial responsibility by slowly turning over parts of the budget that concern them to their control. It may be money for toys (outside Birthday and holidays), or snacks for younger kids. Then you may add media budgets as they get older, then clothes, etc. You’d be amazed what a good bargain hunter a 13 year old turns into when he has $50 a month to spend on clothes!

  62. March Madness says 17 February 2011 at 16:24

    My daughter currently has her cell phone through Kajeet ($15 month) but the problem is they don’t have a touch screen phone. She want to move to virgin mobile, but its $25 a month, plus a $150 for the phone. She saves 50% already to the bank, has the money and willing to pay the $10 difference, but I just don’t think its wise having her spend money unwisely. What do you think?

  63. KM says 17 February 2011 at 18:21

    I have 2 11 year olds (twins!). They get an allowance, but I bought them cell phones on my own dime because I want to keep track of them while I’m at work.

    I also disagree with the forced tithe because personally I think that for anyone with very little money (ie kids or anyone struggling to get by), tithing or giving money to charity is just plain stupid.

    Get your own finances in order and get out of debt, ie put your own oxygen mask on first, THEN help others. Giving is an unnecessary expenditure and if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it.

  64. BD says 17 February 2011 at 19:28

    For the people complaining about this family “forcing” their kids to tithe…. WOW. You guys have a real sense of entitlement, eh? Think about the situation. This is a minor, a young child who has no real earning power on their own, outside of a possible lemonade stand-type situation. The parents do NOT HAVE to give their kids any money at all. They do not owe it to the child to give him extra money. They can make him do chores for free. Many parents don’t give any allowances at all. Or if they do, it’s just a token dollar or two. I think I got $1.25 a week and my parents didn’t even need to give me that.

    So this family isn’t forcing their son to tithe any money that wasn’t a gift already. And what a gift! The kid is making BANK. $44 a month for a child? Eesh. That’s a lot of money for someone who has all their needs taken care of, and who gets most wants taken care of too, around Birthday and Christmas.

    Plus, kids need to be *taught* to do good. Yes, yes, there are exceptions (we all know your kid is perfect), but honestly, most kids are not going to be inclined to give any of their money away to the needy out of any “goodness of their heart”. Their first inclination is to blow every cent on stuff for themselves. So good for you, Andrea, for teaching your child values! I applaud you. 🙂

  65. Michele says 17 February 2011 at 19:50

    I didn’t allow my sons to get a cell phone until they a) had a job b) had a driver’s license and c) had a savings and checking account. They could only have a pre-paid cell phone that they reloaded by going to the Verizon store and loading with a debit Visa connected to their checking account. They had to pay for their car insurance, cell phone, savings and 10% to whatever charity they chose while in high school. We never did allowances- we paid for their needs- they could earn extra money for wants with chores or creative opportunities. My sons cut grass, walked dogs, vacuumed stairs for other people, pulled weeds, dug holes, watered plants,babysat bratty kids, collected cans and bottles, sold cookies, sold BBQ’d hotdogs, put on video game tournaments, held ‘build your own banana split’ neighborhood socials, held talent contests in our garage and made money to buy what they WANTED! They donated to charities such as the church they attended, dog and cat shelters, local youth projects, and supported local youth sports (baseball and soccer) …along with their 4 cousins who lived across the street. They (and their cousins) are financially stable adults, all of them with college degrees-scholarship or paid for in cash by THEM- and are supporting their families and now teaching their children how to value a dollar, and to value a charity. By the way, my sons are 24 & 28 so it wasn’t that long ago that they were kids!

  66. March Madness says 17 February 2011 at 21:03

    We are trying to decide whether to let our 16 year old upgrade to a touch screen cell phone. This would add another $10 to her monthly cell bill plus the cost of the phone. She saves 50% of her money into the bank – hard to decide whether to let her spend her extra money by getting something that doesn’t really make financial sense.

  67. sherri says 18 February 2011 at 04:56

    I like the idea of budgeting, but I have to disagree on the idea of a cell phone for an 11 year old.. I have a 9 year old and we’ve already decided that none of our children will a have a cell phone until they are old enough to drive. Unfortunately kids are growing up too fast these days, and I think cell phones and electronics are a big part of that. I also am having a hard time understanding what an 11 year old would possibly do with $44/month. But of course, every family has to do what is right for them.

  68. Tracy says 18 February 2011 at 05:56

    I just can’t believe that an 11 year old is getting a $44 dollar a month allowance. I guess I’m dating myself or just grew up in a really poor neighborhood, because that would have been unheard of.

    I understand about the tithing, but kind of wonder if enforced giving just teaches kids to give out of habit, at best, rather than desire. But then again, I don’t have kids, and don’t tithe, per se, either, so perhaps it’s a culture I just don’t understand.

  69. CP says 18 February 2011 at 07:12

    Why do all you parents think your kids need a cell phone? At 11 years old? Wow. When I was 11 I rarely called my friends. At 13 when I hit puberty I was calling a lot of girls, but I used the house phone.

    I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 21 and I did just fine without it. That’s a big expense. I can’t believe the parents aren’t suggesting the kid SAVE that $25 instead. And what 11 year old is making $44 a month from doing chores? When I was kid we did our chores because we HAD to do our chores because our parents said so. It’s just a part of growing up and being responsible.

  70. Adam says 18 February 2011 at 20:56

    Heh.

    I guess I’m one of the few people in the world who learned his money habits from watching how his parents behaved and doing the exact opposite?

    My parents were / are terrible with money, and I made up my mind very early (at age 14, first career fair in highschool) that I was going to be a Charted Accountant so I could control money and never run out of it. I didn’t want to have fights with my spouse or cry about money ever. And I wanted my kids to never worry about whether I could pay the bills each month the way mine made me worry.

    Makes me kind of laugh at all these people who worry so much about teaching your kids the right message. I think kids are going to do right or wrong with money based on their ability to delay gratification, something you can’t teach and that is ingrained at age 3 or something according to most tests.

  71. mark says 18 February 2011 at 21:17

    Aren’t you a little concerned about the radiation exposure for your 11 year old?
    The phones even say do not hold next to your head while using.

    These devices were deemed safe when tested with adult overweight people. Many of those who used Cell phones a lot in its infancy such as CEO’s now have brain cancer.

    Even if this is wrong, do you want your child to think it is normal to be constantly available rather than valuing his own time alone?

  72. Sean says 24 August 2011 at 17:28

    Andrea,

    Great article, first off. As for my reaction, two things:

    That last line to your conversation log made me think your kid, should he retain that glib attitude about being generous with other people’s money, tells me he has a bright future in politics. I wouldn’t blame you were you to take offense to that, BTW.

    Second, in light of what comments I’ve seen about subjecting a prepubescent youth to the reality of money and finance, I say, in light of the all-out assault on the part of marketers, promoters, sales people and other such segments of Satan’s henchmen to influence youngsters’ attitudes toward commerce, it’s never, and I mean NEVER too early to open their eyes to the reality of economics. Especially since such prudence is, coincidentally or not, NOT imparted in most schools. Nice to know some people are trying to hook ’em on fiscal sanity while they’re young.

  73. KEREISHA O'NEAL says 11 October 2011 at 12:42

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! MY SON WILL BE 11 IN JAN I THINK ITS TIME TO TEACH HIM THIS LESSON

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