Children’s allowance and the culture of saving

posted by / Tuesday, 08 September 2015 / Published in BLOGS

Children’s allowance and the culture of saving

Desiree Pic - 1st for 7 Sept

By Desiree Botha



“We have packed away all the dishes Mom,” I heard my niece and nephew say. “What else can we do? Please give us more chores!”

Being a devoted aunt, I was so proud. What wonderful children! So eager to help their mother. I said as much to my sister who quickly proceeded to burst my bubble.

“They get paid R5 for chores and they are saving money for a new game. So nope, they are not little angels. They are just looking to increase their income.”

Fine, so maybe they aren’t perfect, but no one can say they aren’t smart. And at least they are learning to save money and work towards a goal.

I think in every household what works with giving an allowance is different. It depends on what you can afford and what is right for your family values and the age of your child.

Growing up, I was privileged when it came to that. Our bank offered free accounts for all the children of their members. It was an initiative to teach children to save. But I felt very grown up when I received my first ATM card. My family could afford it and I got my allowance paid into my bank account on the 26th of the month without exception.

My two siblings are 8 and 6 years older than me and my parents felt that it would be unfair for them to get an allowance and for me not to. So I got an allowance from a very young age. But I got a much smaller one than that of my siblings.  The amounts we received depended on our ages. As we grew up and became more responsible, my parents would give us raises in our allowance. And when we started to earn money of our own, the allowances stopped.

I know many of my friends had to do chores to earn their allowances. For us the chores and allowances were not connected. We had chores to do but this was just because we were part of the family and we learnt that we all needed to work together. We had to help our parents because they worked hard and we appreciated it. The monthly allowance was just a monthly allowance.

What was also nice for me was that in the mornings before school, my dad would sometimes give me other money for the tuck shop. This meant I didn’t have to use my allowance for this.

So what did I do with my allowance? If there was anything I wanted to buy that was outside of the things I really needed, I could save and buy it. One time I really wanted a Walkman cassette player; remember those? It was amazing when I had enough saved to buy this for myself! I still remember the feeling. Also, if I went out with friends to movies or ice skating, then I would use my allowance to pay for these trips. And it was always nice to have my own money when I wanted to buy someone a gift.

As I grew older, I also bought my phone’s prepaid air time with my allowance. But my sister who is six years older than me and was already working, usually felt sorry for me and bought me phone cards. My brother who is eight years older, sometimes paid for my movies and things like that. Yes, different people were actually giving me lots of money and I did not mind one bit.

Fortunately, I was not a spender. I found many ways to save money. Even though I was spoiled by those around me, this didn’t negatively affect the way I handled money then and even today. If anything, I think I learnt from my siblings who were always giving, to not be selfish. My parents are very giving too so those lessons were reinforced. While I am careful how I spend my money, I do give it our easier when buying for other people than I do for myself. Some may wonder whether that is good or bad.

Those childhood lessons have served me very well. I don’t have a fixed income as a freelance writer but I know how to save and to make my money last until the next paying job.

So I think when it comes to teaching your children about money and how to use their allowance, a lot of what they learn comes from your attitude and behaviour towards money. Children also listen and remember what you say about everything, including money, and they make a mental note of what you don’t even say.

Decisions like when to start giving an allowance and how much varies from family to family. But I think no matter what, teaching them that money isn’t the most important thing in life is very important too. I know that is easier to say that when one is not poor, but it is still true.

My niece and nephew are still very hard at work to gather money. They save and save and it is still going to be a while before they can buy the game that they have their hearts set on. I know the reward is going to be even sweeter when they can eventually buy it for themselves.




For more on money and savings:

The Department of Basic Education is a partner of Takalani Sesame. Please visit DBE’s website to find out how financial literacy lives in the curriculum, especially in the content areas of mathematics and life skills/ life orientation:

The television show Takalani Sesame is funded by Sanlam. Visit their website for more information of various savings options for the whole family: