MY kids (10 and 7) get an allowance every week. My younger son wants to save up his allowances for the next few months to buy a $50 toy, but I know from much experience that this is the type of thing that he will play with for two or three days and then sit aside and likely never touch again.

Seeing as his allowance comes from me, I see this (at least partially) as a waste of my money, but we've given the money to him so technically it's his money. Should I tell him he cannot buy that particular toy, or do I grit my teeth and allow him to buy it? My fear is that even if he plays with the thing once and never again, he won't see why it was a waste of money and will therefore learn nothing.

asked 09 Nov '09, 16:36

Graeme's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

+1 I really liked this question.

(09 Nov '09, 17:35) Emi

+1 Me too, obviously :-)

(10 Nov '09, 03:32) Chris W. Rea

I would say absolutely yes. This is exactly what I believe allowance is for. If he has a limited amount then he should feel the pinch later when he wants something later that he can't afford.

It's really odd that they would save up for months to buy something then forget about it, but they made the sacrifice to save up for it so you've obviously taught them the lesson of that trade-off very well. In the end, as you said: it is his money, not yours.

Caveat: you should be able to veto any purchase, no matter the funds' source, which you deem harmful or against the way you choose to run a household. Example: if you disallow clothing with profanity on it, they should not be able to trump you because they got the money to buy a profane t-shirt from grandma or earned it at their afterschool job.


answered 09 Nov '09, 16:47

Dinah's gravatar image

accept rate: 15%


Buy anything they want is fine, but the veto is a great idea.

(09 Nov '09, 22:05) MrChrister

+1. Experience is a great education.

(10 Nov '09, 03:33) Chris W. Rea

You may find the answers to the questions Withholding allowance and Is it ok to give allowance interesting to read.

It seems like your son has shown he is capable of making decisions regarding how he spends his allowance and that he is even willing to save up for it.

In my opinion this little chap could quite easily discuss why he wants to buy this certain toy and explain it to you if you ask. After listening to him, share you point of view, regarding this particular toy, without sounding prejudiced, or irritated.

You could try and calmly put your point across and see how he reacts. I do agree with both Dinah and Dreamerisme that it is his call, but you have nothing to lose by discussing it with him in my opinion. I would certainly be interested to learn of the outcome. :)

(I just realised Christmas is not far off, he could have asked for it as a gift but he hasn't)


answered 09 Nov '09, 17:35

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%


+1 for discussing it with him. It being his choice doesn't mean you can't still educate and discuss it

(09 Nov '09, 17:50) Dinah

Here's a relevant article about "teaching our kids about debt". (Thanks to BasicallyMoney for pointing it out to me.)


answered 09 Nov '09, 18:53

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Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%

edited 10 Nov '09, 11:51


Thanks for the link, though I disagree with the article. If I waited until I could afford to purchase a house without a mortgage, I'd still be renting, throwing away money each month with nothing to show for it. Debt isn't always a bad thing, and teaching your kids how to deal with debt responsibly is much more valuable than teaching them that debt is always unacceptable.

(09 Nov '09, 19:25) Graeme

Wonderful article. I agree with the article except that I put huge loans in a different pot than debt. To me, loans for: house, car, education, and businesses are not in the same bucket as 'not living within your means.' In fact, the payback terms must be within your means. If you look at the spirit of the advice, and not the literal letter of the law here, I don't think there's a contradiction between living debt-free and taking on a mortgage.

(09 Nov '09, 19:45) Dinah

If that's what they mean, then I'd agree. But the author specifically stated "while it is difficult to do these things [buy a house, car, etc.] without taking on debt, it is not impossible". This statement implied to me that the author does believe that debt in any form is bad.

(09 Nov '09, 20:01) Graeme

I've heard some speaker (maybe Susie Ormond?) talk about the diff between "good debt" and "bad debt". So a student loan falls into a different category than a lamp. Perhaps what the author should have explained is whether or not the lamp was required to do homework (investment in self = good debt) or was it just something fancy she could do without until the next allowance.

(09 Nov '09, 21:56) Scott ♦♦

I think you should allow it - how else will they learn? I agree with Dinah that you should have ultimate say but this seems like a great life lesson in the works here. If they have taken the time to save up then chances are they will not forget about it in a few days but if they do lose interest then at least they will have learned that they next time they save up it should be for something they really want/need.


answered 09 Nov '09, 17:08

dreamerisme's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

edited 10 Nov '09, 21:05

Dinah's gravatar image


I agree that you should allow them to "waste" their money early on, as it will be a great learning experience for them. My son is only 2, so we haven't started teaching him about money yet, but when he gets to that age when we're giving him an allowance, here's what we plan to do:

  • Encourage him to put at least a portion of his allowance into his savings account. We'll offer to match any portion of his allowance that he puts into his savings account. Hopefully, this will help teach him the virtues of saving money, and even offer a nice incentive to do so.
  • Whatever portion he chooses not to put into his savings account, he can do whatever he wants with. If he wants to immediately go out and spend it on a comic book, toy, whatever, then so be it.

Over time, this should help him understand that by saving at least some of his money now, he will have more later to spend on larger items, instead of just going with the instant gratification of spending all of his money as soon as he gets it.


answered 09 Nov '09, 17:54

Brandon's gravatar image

accept rate: 2%

edited 09 Nov '09, 19:46

Dinah's gravatar image


My 6 and 4 year old have an allowance, sometimes it seems like it burns a hole in their pockets. I let them buy what they want but before they do, we talk about it. I try to get them to rationalize what they're getting. My 6 year old loves his DS and also Transformers, his dilemma was which to buy. Eventually he saved his money and just decided that he wanted the video game (Phineas and Ferb). That was the best $30.00 spent because he does still play it and it makes him read.

So speaking from experience of impulsive kids, let them have their fun because eventually they will learn what's important and what's not. Just talk to them before they buy and let them make their own decisions.


answered 10 Nov '09, 05:38

Lisa%20C's gravatar image

Lisa C
accept rate: 0%

Since I'm new to the forum, I don't think I can post more than one link, so I'll just point you to www.thesimpledollar.com . Do a search for "kids" and it has a lot of resources about raising your kids to be responsible with money.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered 12 Nov '09, 22:18

Fun2Dream's gravatar image

accept rate: 10%

GREAT site. We've been huge fans for about a year

(13 Nov '09, 02:48) Dinah
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Asked: 09 Nov '09, 16:36

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Last updated: 16 Aug '13, 04:32