Pocket Money Predicaments

What do you do about pocket money for your kids?

Way back, before my first-born knew or cared about such mundane principles as money, we had a plastic pot and a goodly supply of black and white glass pebbles.

Good behaviour was rewarded with a white pebble and bad behaviour…you get the idea. Every now and then a tally would be made and (wait for it…) REWARD STICKERS were given to an ecstatic little girl.

In due course, our wide-eyed cherub got wise and stickers were rejected in favour of sweets and other such incentivising goodies as she was able to screw out of us.

Pure avarice entered the equation around the age of six, when it dawned on her that pebbles weren’t a recognised currency at The Entertainer’s checkout. A deal was struck and the White Pebble was given an exchange rate of 20p sterling.

Glass Pebbles

Glass pebbles – an under-rated currency

We weren’t too worried about her draining dry the Bank of Mum and Dad; White Pebbles were always available for helping with extra chores such as washing up or laying the table, but she liked the theory far more than the practice. And the Black Pebble, with an equivalent exchange rate, helped to keep the bailiff from our door.

Age eleven, and all of a sudden it was clear the Pebble had had its day. She still bought sweets and pocket money toys, but a mobile phone and computer games were on the “I Want” list too. The Bank of Mum and Dad hastily issued revised terms and conditions and decided it was time for a more mature approach to saving and budgeting.

So it was fortunate that, around this time, we came to hear of Roosterbank, a website that provides a virtual savings bank to help kids learn to manage their own money, save for things they want and shop responsibly.  Roosterbank also has lots of cute games for kids to play in the Village (themed around the idea of “buying” stuff to kit out their houses and farms, with virtual money called Roosties, which they earn through playing the games).

So here’s how it works: instead of giving Georgie real cash-in-hand for her pocket money, we credit her Roosterbank account for that amount. But it’s really flexible – sometimes she has part of her pocket money in cash to buy a few sweets and she puts the rest into Roosterbank to save. As she sees the amount grow, she’s less inclined to want to dip into it, and this helps her save for stuff she wants. When she’s got enough credit  in her account, we simply give her the cash and reduce her Roosterbank account by the same amount.

My only fear is that she does really well at this. One day she’ll announce she’s built her virtual credit up to £300 and demand cash by the end of the day. I comfort myself with the idea that this is a wholly unlikely scenario…probably. And anyway, I’m bound to notice, as savings can only be boosted or removed when a parent logs in.

The only time that real money is involved is if your child spots something they want to save for from Roosterbank’s own online shop. When this happens, they put the wished-for item in their saver basket and Roosterbank keeps them updated on how their “savings” are going. When they’ve got enough credit, your child can ask Roosterbank to send an email to their parents asking them to log in and purchase the item (with real money this time, unfortunately).

At the moment, Georgie hasn’t really spotted anything she wants from Roosterbank’s own shop, but I’ve checked a few of the items against other online retailers (yes, I’m a cynical so-and-so) and prices seem to be comparable, so I wouldn’t have a problem ordering stuff from here if Georgie was saving towards something.

Georgie loves Roosterbank – anything she can do on the computer (which is rationed in our house) is regarded as a treat and the whole idea of banking online makes her feel pretty grown up. But at the same time there’s enough of the kid in her still to make the games area in the Roosterbank Village a real draw.

Here’s what Georgie says about it:

“I love Roosterbank.  I am level 4 and I have 36 animals. Whenever I am bored I play Roosterbank.  I can level up, buy great things for my home and I can earn Roosties every day, it is so easy! I just have to play games and then at the Games Barn, poof! I have more Roosties! It is so fun and easy to do plus thanks to Roosterbank I have saved up enough money to buy a Monster High doll! It was so easy and now I can save up all over again for another! I find it so easy to do, and my money can be added to or taken away easily. My little brother loves it too, he plays whenever he can! Plus the shop is really easy to use, just look for it and it will be there! BEST WEBSITE EVER!!!!”

‘Nuff said (and great example of how to over-use the exclamation mark, by the way).

I think the Bank of Mum and Dad will be around for a few years yet, but I love that Georgie is learning she has to save and budget for things she wants and she’s doing it in a really safe and fun way.

But I’m keeping the pebbles, just for old times’ sake.

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About Mandy Cochrane

I'm a control freak but I'm also a pushover, I cry too easily but don't cry when I really need to, I'm a workaholic but too lazy to do the things that really matter. I'm a whole mixed up bag of conundrums. I'll work it all out one day. Probably.

Posted on September 26, 2012, in Being Mum and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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