Saturday, May 17, 2008

A New Point of View

My youngest, Phil, has been experimenting with a new idea lately. Before I get into that specifically I want to back up and explain our lives a bit. We do not have allowances. We have always worked together on a family budget, we are all equals, even though only one of us is earning a monetary income. So for as long as the boys have wanted to participate, we have taken a day at the end of each year to review the previous years spending and income, compared the two, listed our budgetary goals for the upcoming year and planned, or course we reevaluate if needed.

That includes things like budgeting eating out, movies (average of once a month), travel plans, vacations, AND miscellaneous spending. That last category includes all of us, the budget for Target purchases, books, fabric, toys, games etc. It is one lump sum of money each month, not separated into each individual person and what each is "allowed" to spend, but rather one lump amount, and is spent based on wants and needs, so each month is probably different as far as who spends what amount. Any balance at the end of the month goes toward our vacation savings. We talked at one point about each of us having a monthly allowance, but that just didn't work for our family, so after a month we rethought that idea, it just seemed like each month was so very different as far as what each person needed for spending money. This month I might need $20 but next month I might need $100, for example.

We each keep track of our spending so we don't go over our budget, and if we do need to go over our budget on spending we all sit down and figure out where it is going to come from. We have a family checking account, and each have our own debit cards and credit cards. So that is our budget history, it is working so well for our family.

This week Phillip saw something he wanted to buy, it was a nerf "recon" gun with nerf darts. It was like $19.99. We happened to be at Toys R Us looking for something else and they actually had this gun, Phil was just so excited. So I took a quick look at our spending list, and let him know we had enough money left in the budget that he could get it if he wanted to. I didn't think much more about it, I went along looking at what I needed to look at, he looked around the store some more with his brother. I fully expected that he would get it, just based on history, Phil is a person who knows what he wants.

We were getting ready to check out and I asked the boys if there was anything they wanted to include in the purchase so we could get it all at once. Both of them said no. So I looked at Phil and just kind of matter of factly said "so you aren't getting the Recon Gun today?".

Phil said he wanted to "work for it". OK what?? I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that. But he explained and what he wanted to do was do odd jobs around the house, for payment, and save up enough money to buy the gun. This was something we have never really done before. But it was something he really wanted to do. He didn't want to just "buy it".

So when we got home he and I sat down and listed things that needed to be done, and what he wanted to be "paid" for each, like unloading the dishwasher, planting trees with dad, weeding in the garden , etc. And when each item was completed Jackson or I paid him with cash, the money he "earned". Then yesterday we went back to Toys R Us and he gave me the money back to buy the toy gun. No he didn't want to give the money to the cashier, all he wanted was to "earn the money".

My guess is that he was trying it on for size, seeing what it was like to work and earn money and then spend it for something you want. He has never done this before, and I am not sure if he will again in the near future, but I am sure that the experience was what he needed at this point in time, and was valuable to him.


Schuyler said...

I really enjoy, appreciate, am fascinated by reading about the way different people work out ways to have a more equitable sharing of resources. I find your way quite fascinating.

Pam Genant said...

Thanks, "equitable" or "equal" are also concepts we view differently in our household. I know everyone has a different way they deal with this. But we are not as concerned with equal division, as in everyone getting the same, but more so in everyone's needs being met, which is so different for each person. It has really been a blessing for us to come at it from a POV of everyone getting what they need/want, instead of everyone getting an equal share. OK this is getting too long for a comment on my own blog, LOL, thanks Schuyler for leading me to explain my thought process a bit more.

laura said...

very cool. i love that kids get to explore ideas and new ways of doing things. it's a concept at the heart of how we live our lives as unschoolers...and then...

yesterday, we went for a walk in our new neighborhood (which we've been in for almost 2 months now)and discovered that one street led to a really cool playground which is part of the nearby school. we were so excited...a park within walking distance. i told the kids we could come back anytime so long as school isn't in because they won't let people use the park then. we walked around the school building too and looked in some windows.

on the way home silas mentioned that he might want to try going to school one day. maybe just for a day or two and did i think they would let him do that. i was floored. this was something i'd never heard him ever mention. he said it looked like fun. it was a rough evening after that as my oldest was very emotional about the thought of it. silas said that he was just thinking out loud, just a thought he had.

this exploring new ideas, well it can take some unexpected turns. i was not ready for that conversation, but there it is. and so we talked about it.

we'll probably talk more today...then again, he may have already moved on from it. you just never know.

it is scary and exciting at the same time. but i want to give him the space he needs to think about all the things out there he might matter how freaked out i am about it on the inside.