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Pocket Money Matters

Who doesn’t like money in their pockets? Everyone loves the feel of crisp, fresh from the mint, currency notes and the cheerful jingle of a pocket full of coins! Yes, having change (of coins), too, comes with its own particular pleasure!

So why should it be any different for our children? The concept of giving pocket money was quite an alien one in India until a few years ago. Today many parents do give children a fixed amount every month but the practice is more common among the parents of teenagers than it is with younger, school going children.

Most parents are of the opinion that they are supplying the child’s every need, so why should he or she need money of their own? Others fear children might misuse the money and yet others worry that careless kids might misplace the cash or leave it around, waiting to be stolen!

My mother has been a big believer in the concept of pocket money and I had been getting some ever since I can remember. She started off with the princely sum of around five rupees when I was barely out of kindergarten and we had progressed to a few hundred rupees by the time I was in college! In the mid eighties my sister and I received ten whole rupees each on the first of every month.

In a particular month, my sister, who was in second grade then, shot out of the door the moment she received her dues. She ran to the little kiosk across the road and came back with bubble gum worth the whole amount, which meant twenty pieces of gum. When my rather shocked mother asked her why she had bought so much, despite knowing that she would not be allowed to eat it, her classic reply was ‘I wanted to see what it feels like when you finish all the money you have at once!’ And so she learnt at a very early age to never blow away all your money else you will have nothing for the rest of the month… And of course most of the bubble gum was confiscated by my mother anyway.

An important rule of spending pocket money was, and should be for all children, that you cannot do things you aren’t allowed to in the first place! So responsible spending is the key and, believe me, children learn faster than many an adult I know!

I, on the other hand, rationed out my money to myself very carefully, noting my expenses in a little diary and allotting fixed amounts for the little treats I craved. I saved throughout the year and then used the money to buy my parents gifts on their birthdays and their anniversary. Saving for months meant being able to buy good quality gifts, many of which they still have and treasure.

And so I learnt that putting away a little of the small amount you have, can allow you the luxury of spending heavily when an occasion demands it. That lesson still stands in good stead as we prefer to save and buy rather than borrow and buy, be it property, jewellery or vehicles. May not be very good for the economy, but it is great for us!

If you establish a few ground rules with your child and limit the amount depending on the child’s age, then giving pocket money is a fantastic concept. Children learn to be responsible, accountable and, far more importantly, feel that they are worthy of your trust! They will strive hard to keep it.

Another advantage is, when you run short of cash at home, or desperately need change, your child’s money box is sure to have some. Just remember to ask them for it, rather than helping yourself to it, and they will be more than willing to give you every last bit and feel proud in the bargain because they have helped Mummy or Daddy! I have experienced this first hand many times. Just be sure you pay it back to the last rupee because that’s an important lesson for them too: Paying back your debts, if you have any, at the first possible opportunity.

If you are going to start giving young children pocket money, then the fun starts by taking them out to buy a lovely money bank or money box. The excitement this exercise generates will surely motivate them to start putting money in the box. Older boys can be given wallets and older girls enjoy pretty purses. You can also carry the savings concept further by taking them to open their very own bank account. Many banks offer attractive terms for children’s accounts. And it’s not just about saving money, it’s about learning to spend wisely too. So do take them out once in a while to specially spend ‘their’ money. Those memories will remain and be cherished long after the money is gone…

And yes, the pun in the title is intended!

Meet Anupama – An archaeologist by qualification, an educational entrepreneur by profession, a linguist by inclination, a writer by vocation! I am a mother of an eleven year old son and a seventeen year old daughter. Currently based in Kenya due to my husband’s job, I manage my Academy in my home town Pune from across the ocean and continue teaching on Skype. To know about my life in Nairobi, memories from India and anything and everything that touches a chord with me, do read my blog: