With some exceptions, this statement is generally true: Children are as expensive as we allow them to be. Parents need to look for common ground when it comes to a child’s allowance (and that doesn’t just mean the weekly amount provided for chores).
Children benefit if they can learn the value of a dollar from an early age. King Solomon, the richest man in Scripture, was also known as a person of wisdom. (Some estimate his net worth in today’s standards at more than fifty billion dollars.) He is the author of the book of Proverbs in your Bible. Let’s look at five pieces of financial advice King Solomon might give to your family about money:
- Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Your children might have heard you say something like, “I don’t think we have enough in the checking account for that. We had better put it on the card.” Children can learn from an early age that if you don’t have money for something, there is still a way you can have it anyway. They can also learn they can’t have it until there is money for it. You might consider being a slave to a mortgage company and maybe one car dealer, but don’t pay interest to anyone else if at all possible. Teaching your children to live free of debt will be a great gift you give to them and to their future spouses one day.
- Proverbs 3:9: “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce…” Consider including your children’s church offering money in their weekly allowance. We used to give our sons eleven dollars a week for their chores. They had offering envelopes with their names on them and it was their responsibility to give their tithe out of their allowance. We started that at a young age so the concept of honoring the Lord by giving financially to the church became a normal part of their lives.
- Proverbs 24:34: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” One possible way to instill a sense of responsibility: Take note of tasks left undone, offer the job to a sibling or do it yourself, and then deduct from Peter in order to pay Paul or Pauline. Surprisingly, this will usually work rather well and teach them what it is like in the real world for people who don’t do their jobs. The same principle can be applied to a job done halfway. Halfway = half pay.
- Proverbs 21:20: “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” How do you honor personality and taste and be fair with the financial side of things? One year I decided to give both of my sons a certain amount to spend on their back to school clothes. One child went to the popular, noisy, expensive store at the mall and shot his entire wad of cash in short order—but I have to admit, he looked good. The other child went to an inexpensive department store and bought a couple of shirts (same shirt, different color) and two pairs of jeans (just alike). In full confession, that child later spent the rest of his back to school money on a couple of video games and went to school looking really comfortable. There were several times I dropped those boys off at school and wondered if I should rethink my lesson on finance! Interestingly, my two sons still have those same personalities and each found a perfect woman who loves them for who they are. I guess it wasn’t such a bad plan after all.
- Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” I saved the best for last. The American culture is an expensive place to raise children, but only as expensive as we allow it to be. Money is important, but people matter more. Each member of the family is accountable to one another for how the family income is spent. Financial priorities are important but “finding favor with God and favor with men” is better than any amount of money.
When you and your spouse talk about money, your children will be listening. They will watch how you spend, how you save, and how you give. Children will take what they can get, so give only what you should. And finally, be grateful, as a family, for all you have. Give what you should, and love people more than money. That is a joyful financial plan that God can bless.