We started giving my daughter, Joan, a weekly allowance on her sixth birthday, two years ago,
It was €2 a week and we also gave her €2 a week to put in a separate pot, the Giving Jar. It was a good age to get her thinking about money and for her to see how €2 saved per week adds up over time.
I also wanted her to learn that not everyone has what she has and for her to understand that it is important to give to others. So the Giving Jar was introduced at the same time as her allowance.
Joan’s birthday is in May and by Christmas she had a nice amount of cash built up. We let her spend it as she wished at Smyths toy shop and we asked her to choose where the money from the Giving Jar would go. We gave her some time to think about this and one day, at our local community centre, she spotted a big jar of change, all in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation.
She asked to go home to get her Giving Jar. When we returned to the centre, she dumped all the contents into the IHF donation.
The women working at the centre were impressed by Joan and gave her lovely comments.
I was really proud of her and I think the women were surprised to see a child part with money so willingly.
We started from scratch in the new year, and when her birthday rolled around again, she spent on herself what she had saved and donated the Giving Jar money to Barnardos. We then upped her allowance to €3 a week for her and €3 for the Giving Jar.
The Giving Jar taught Joan to think of others and to think of them by herself and without us having to remind her to be generous and kind. After we introduced the Giving Jar, she thought about donating toys to children “who don’t have homes,” or to children “who might not get anything for Christmas.” Those are her words.
So, the Giving Jar achieved what we wanted it to. We have kept this up and we have introduced lots of different charities for her to consider.
The other objective in introducing a weekly allowance was to teach Joan the value of money and, honestly, I think we have a ways to go on this front. She still asks for a treat every time we go shopping and will keep asking, even when I say I don’t have the money. She then suggests that I ‘just use my credit card.” So we have work to do here.
Saving money is not easy, not even for adults, so it is even harder for an eight-year-old to grasp the principle. But I think it is a really important habit to get into from a young age. My father instilled it in my sister and I when we were young.
We would get a quarter (25c) each week to spend on a gum ball machine and my dad would always say:
If you save this and next week I give you another 25c, you will have 50c.
It stuck with me when I was older, but when I was a child, I just wanted that damn gum ball every week!
Now that Joan is eight, we have upped the weekly allowance to €4 for her and for the Giving Jar.
And each week we keep talking about how important it is to save and how rewarding it can be.
We talk about how, yes, there is a thrill in buying something, but point out that she often moves on from the shinny new thing quickly and it may have been better to have saved that €4.
I will report back if this message sinks in for Joan.