Tame the Deployment Guilt Monster

Once upon a time ….my husband was deployed, a lot.  We had small children and we all missed each other very much.  Then he came home, and felt the need to buy a toy for them every. single. time. we went to a store.  

He felt guilty for missing so much of their young lives, and I felt guilty for getting annoyed that he was blowing our budget.  The kids mostly felt happy that at four and five years old, Daddy was buying them what they wanted, any and every time we went somewhere.

The point here was to identify the root of the issue.  Our problem wasn't that our kids were demanding something from the store each time we went, it was that their Daddy had missed them, missed out on lots of milestones and was looking for a way to make up for that.    

We needed to tame this deployment guilt monster before the kids were completely spoiled rotten and our budget was totally out of whack.  We had worked hard while he was gone to pay down debt, and I didn't want to slip back into that. (We did, but not because of this issue.  Another story for later, I promise.)

The Solution

So, we decided to give the kids allowances.  My husband and I thought about it and discussed what that would mean and what it would look like in our house.  Since they were little, we knew we didn't want to give them a lot of money.  We decided we didn't want to tie allowance to chores.  Chores were to be done because you were a part of our family and our household needs to run with all members contributing.  (Granted they didn't do much then, but now they do.)  We wanted to give them enough money that they could actually buy a little something that wouldn't break with the first use, but not so much that it would break us.  We settled on $5 a week each.  The other rule with the allowances was that Daddy would no longer buy them things every time we went to the store.

It has been about 11 years since we instituted the allowances.  They have had a couple of raises. It has been a great way to introduce money management - saving, buying quality products, waiting until you have enough funds. We did really well sticking to the rules - we don't buy games, toys, candy, or magazines, except for birthdays or holidays.  One of my kids is a saver, almost a miser with her cash. My son, on the other hand, is a spender.  I have seen growth in both of them.  Just this weekend my son had his holiday gift money from family and decided to save 50% of it, spend 25% on a game he wanted, and the other 25% to pay the insurance deductible for the phone he needed to replace. Yes! Proud mom moment!

You have to find a solution that works for you, your family, your values, and your budget. Allowances are an excellent tool for teaching kids about money, in a low risk, hands-on way.  It really makes an impact when they've spent their money on a poor choice.

We’ve been really happy with the results of our solution.

Have you experienced anything similar or had the opposite result?  Do you give your children allowances? What are your rules or conditions?