Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kids & Clothes Budgets

I recently posted the following on Facebook:
Question for parents of teen girls... What is a reasonable amount to budget for clothes shopping for one year?
Within a few hours, I'd received over 50 comments, by far the most I've ever received about anything. Apparently, teen girl clothes budgeting ranks highly on many radars.

I've been thinking about clothes budgets but also kids and jobs/allowance/family work responsibilities, etc. We've never been shy about assigning our kids "family jobs." This fall when my teen daughter took child development, she had to list both her parents' jobs and her jobs at home. The list she created (for both) was far longer than the lists of any other kids in the class. I'm not sure if she felt superior...or tortured.

Over the years I've created many different ways to assign household jobs. They've worked. But over time, we outgrow them and move onto something else. Lately, I've found it rather frustrating to assign jobs to my big kids because they are so rarely home. Mid-day (while they're at school) I'll discover the unfinished job and do it myself, knowing that it's more hassle to remind them when they get home (and it's dark!) than it is to just to it myself.

A month or so ago, I took back the "big jobs." Housecleaning became mine. If anyone would like to do a job instead of me, I pay well (more than minimum wage), but if no one offers, I do it myself. Meanwhile, they are still expected to do the basics: feed animals, load/unload dishwasher and wash dinner dishes.

Under the heavy influence of my current Love and Logic read, Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats?, I'm reminded of the importance of establishing an allowance for children, the premise being that children can make little mistakes with little amounts of money to prevent adults making big mistakes with big amounts of money. Practice with money while you're young!

The topic of clothes shopping has come up a lot lately. I started asking myself, "What is a reasonable amount of $ to contribute to a teen's clothes budget? What if the teen has plenty of opportunity to help out around the house and make good wages, yet chooses not to? Should one affect the other?"

Then I asked the budget question on Facebook. While amounts varied, quite a few people mentioned $500-$1000 per year. I clarified that I meant BASIC. Not coats or swimsuits or perhaps even underwear...but rather the "back to school" and summer clothes stock of jeans, shirts, sweaters, shorts, etc. While there were some highs and lows, most numbers still came out around $500 or higher.

I asked my daughter to sit down and make a list of "basics" with a price tag attached to each so we could start a budget discussion. She first listed 10 shirts at $15 each, crossed out the 10, and then wrote 8 shirts at $15 each. I asked her to figure out how much money it would take to give each member of our family (7 people) 8 shirts at $15 each. She figured it out. Her eyes got very big. We went over the list together. We also talked about parental contributions to school lunches; we've always allowed our kids to eat one meal at school per week, otherwise they make their own lunch (we do have food available!) or they can choose to pay the difference.

I don't know that it's beneficial to post the amount that we actually came up with, but I will say that it's likely lower than what most teens around here are used to receiving. This "teen allowance" is designed to cover basic clothing, a few school lunches and minimal "entertainment." She can use the money any way she chooses, but we will not be paying for basic clothes or school lunches. Ample, AMPLE opportunities exist to add to her budget. (I'd love it if she wants to help me out!) But they are not mandatory.

Our middle school son's "allowance" is substantially smaller since he's not yet interested in managing a clothes budget. He does, however, get to decide on how often he eats school lunches and how much to spend on entertainment. The money is his; he chooses how to spend it.

For the first several months on this new system, I'm asking the kids to keep track of their spending so we're all aware of the budget strengths and weaknesses. I hope this gives us all a chance to try out our wings--the kids with money management and mine with letting go of parental control. ;)

So how do you handle kids, clothes budgets, allowance and household jobs?

1 comment:

Dave HW said...

No specific answer to your question, since I don't have kids. But your mention of the Millionaire Babies book did make me think about a similar resource I heard about a few years back: Share Save Spend.
We heard Dungan talk on Speaking of Faith:

Just another resource for you to consider...

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