This is part three in the Change the Culture series. The first article is about making a difference through giving, and the second explains how to teach the next generation that people are more important than possessions.
Americans love multitasking. We are experts at doing many things at once, often sabotaging our relationships and leisure by engaging in multiple tasks.
One of the greatest lessons that we can learn is that time and money work in coordination. If I choose to work 80 hours a week I forego time spent with my family.
I can have time, or I can have money, but I cannot have infinite amounts of both (contrary to the popularity of productivity articles on lifehacker).
Teaching Kids to Balance Time and Money
We have tried various methods for managing a paid allowance ever since our first child was four. At this age he was old enough to begin understanding the idea of receiving money in exchange for work. As parents in the age of technology we have also allowed our children a set amount of “screen time” each day. I’m sure many of you have a similar rule for your children.
The problem that we’ve encountered over the last few years is that we were never very good at dishing out an allowance each month, and we were often allowing the children to extend their “screen time” beyond the time that we had originally set. It’s easy to tell them “sure” when we’re trying to get some work done and they’re begging for another half hour of entertainment.
The solution to both of our problems (lack of consistency in distributing an allowance and overindulging in technology time) was a suggestion from Challies.com that we adapted for our own use.
Using the Token System
- Find two quart jars (or any container) and some objects to use as tokens (poker chips, quarters, etc.) One style of token per child. We use three colors of poker chips: red, blue, and green.
- Determine the worth of each token (both time value and monetary value) and how many each child will receive every week. We have determined for our family that each chip is worth 15 minutes of tech time, or $0.25. Our oldest (who is 8 years old) receives 16 tokens, the next oldest (age 6) gets 14 tokens, and the 4 year old receives 12 tokens. This equates to $4 or 4 hours of technology time each week for our oldest child, and less for the younger children.
- Label the quart jars “spent” and “saved”.
- Put the tokens into the “saved” jar. The child then draws out the tokens as needed and puts them into the “spent” jar.
- At the end of the week any remaining tokens can be turned over to a parent for cash (at the designated exchange rate).
I created a free printable token jar label for use with the token jar system for allowances as described in this post. Feel free to use them and let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
The Effects of the Token System
Our oldest typically saves $0.50-$1 each week. The four year old usually has a token or two left, and the six year old almost always runs out of tokens before the weekend. It is interesting to see which children are able to control their entertainment desires in order to reap the reward of money.
I have seen children save their tokens (and forego entertainment) when they have set their eyes on a certain toy that they wish to purchase. This experiment has solidified the knowledge that my six year old has a very difficult time controlling his desires. If I were to offer him a “loan” of tokens, dictating that he pay them back with interest, he would no doubt take me up on the offer and overspend beyond his ability to repay. I have no intention of offering a loan, but it’s interesting to compare this early behavior with that of an adult pay-day loan customer.
Elimination of Oversight
Rather than being constantly barraged by requests for more tech time, the children are now self-monitoring. Hooray! I haven’t quite worked myself out of a job as I must still police the fair use of a timer to monitor their time spent on devices. This system has vastly decreased our required effort.
Try the Token System
Let me know if this works for you! If you’d rather not purchase poker chips and don’t have any laying around, feel free to use quarters. Chuck-E-Cheese tokens would also be a fun solution.
How do you balance time and money? What techniques do you use to teach your children to do the same?