We don't do allowances in our family yet. We have an alternative: the coffee can. First of all, a brief history: back when we lived in Portland, our washer and dryer were in the basement. It seemed I was always finding change in the washer or dryer, and a decent pile accumulated on top of the dryer. On a shelf behind my washer was a pyramid of Maxwell House coffee cans, compliments of my dad. The pack rat in me thought they could come in handy some day. (And yes, I moved them up to Rockland with me.) So one day I decided to put the pile of change into a coffee can, and see how much I could collect over time. Then we moved to Rockland, where my laundry is on the first floor. Now the can is more accessible. I then decided to take all of our recycling money (in Maine, we pay a deposit of 5 cents on every can of juice or soda or beer), and add that to the can.
The money added up pretty quickly. What to do with it?? Save for a new couch? No, that would take far too long. Why not make it a toy fund? (When I'm out and about with the kids, I do not buy them toys unless it's been planned in advance. I have taken much advice from the article I posted on StuntMom about kids and materialism, April 2006, completely to heart.) The kids could each take turns picking out a quality toy, youngest to oldest. So after saving over $30, we took the can to a toy store in town, and bought Henry some really nice blocks we'd been eying for quite some time. The older kids couldn't wait for their turns to come. So they decided to start contributing. Every once in a while, Bea's dad pays her a dollar to do some "work" for him, stamping drawings. It goes in the can, without a second thought. Grandma puts a dollar in every card that she sends, so they can "go buy something at the Dollar Store." Well, we don't shop the dollar store for an instant gratification buy-a-toy-that'll-break-in-an-hour just for the sake of spending. My husband and I are really trying to raise our kids to be thoughtful, not compulsive, consumers. So Grandma's dollars go into the can. My parents, knowing about the coffee can stash, send their bottles and cans to us. They really boost our numbers.
The kids enjoy contributing to the can. And they have come to terms with taking turns. The first round we made of spending was rough. When it was Jimmy's turn, Bea wanted to pick out a toy, too. And when it was Bea's turn, Jimmy (3 yrs old) really wanted to pick out a new train. But they worked it out. And now, no matter whose turn it is to pick out a toy, both Bea and Jimmy are excited. This sort of saving is good, in my mind, because it fosters cooperation. The kids are saving not just for themselves, but each other. They are working together. And it teaches them to think long and hard about what they really want, as their turn doesn't come up very often. Joy of joys - Jimmy was lifting the can today...it's starting to get heavy!! Henry's up to bat this time around.