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Use a check register to teach your kids to track allowance

February 18, 2015 0 Comments

Pencil-AccountLooked at your new check register lately? Check out the new name: transaction register. I peeked inside to see what’s going on and wondered: Could parents use this concept to teach their kids to track allowance?

DC      Debit Card

ATM   Teller Withdrawal

AD      Automatic Deposit

AP      Automatic Payment

BP      Online Bill Pay

T        Online or Phone Transfer

Obviously, kids don’t use all these types of transactions. However, with a kid-friendly code system your kids can track all the ways they spend and receive money in their allowance account.

Oh, you say, your kids get the allowance in cash and use a piggy bank. So, when they want to know how much they have do they dump it out and start counting? Then with that cash in their hands do they want to go shopping?

Maybe this is the time to start paying your kids their allowance as a number instead of cash. And requiring them to keep track of their money as a number using a transaction register.

Looking ahead, we can safely say that our kids will not manage much of their money as cash when they are adults. In fact, even now your kids are adept at using gift cards in transactions where no cash is involved at all.

Kids quickly get the idea that you can buy stuff without using cash. They simply swipe a piece of plastic that looks like a credit card. Works like magic!

To get your kids in the habit of recording their transactions, pay their allowance as a number written in an account. You become the banker and your kid is the account owner.

Then hand them a pencil and an allowance log to record their transactions. Require them to record every transaction in writing. Start with these basic codes.

AD    Allowance deposit

Parent:  Today is Saturday, time to record your allowance.

Child gets allowance log and writes in the weekly amount and adds to the previous balance. Notice how the kid has to use some addition skills here to get the new balance.

Child: Wow! Now I have enough money to go to the movie.

ATM   Teller withdrawal

Child: Can I withdraw ten dollars. I need cash for the book fair.

Parent digs in purse or pocket and hands over the cash.

Parent: Here it is .

Notice the the kids is seeing that the money is coming from a real person, not a machine. And, more importantly the kid has to subtract the amount from the balance. It’s not free money after all.

DC   This is the no-cash allowance version of debit card spending where parent pays for child’s purchases while shopping.

Child: I have enough money in my account to buy this today.

Parent and child roll into the check out line.

Parent: Okay. I’ll pay for it with my stuff. When we get home you write the number from the receipt in your account to get your new balance.

There is one more code on these allowance logs that you can gradually work into your system. This is the AP (Automatic Payment) code. This code introduces your kids to the idea of paying bills that are regularly subtracted from their account, whether they like it or not.

Suppose your child pays a share of the cell phone bill. Have your child treat this as a recurring subtraction on the due date. As a parent you review the account occasionally to see that these payments were recorded.

Parent: I see you remember to subtract your cell phone bill yesterday. Good work.

Download allowance logs here.

Basic Account  This is for younger kids with larger spaces for writing.

Checkbook Account Older kids can use this version that looks more like a bank’s transaction register.

Spreadsheet Account Kids can use a computer to track their allowance, but need to print it out regularly for parents to review.

While this writing of numbers may seem trivial to you, this hands-on activity is very significant to a child. Every time your child subtracts an expense and sees the number get smaller he is learning that every money choice has a consequence. Likewise, everytime he gets to add money through a deposit he sees his balance increase.

Already we are seeing a generation of young adults who do not keep any type of transaction log. No record-keeping at all! They log in to their online account and wiggle their thumbs to see how much money is left.

That’s the grown-up version of dumping out a piggy bank with that one nagging problem. Those automatic withdrawals or a check that clears could very well sneak in overnight and create an overdraft tomorrow.

If you want your kids understand how money travels in today’s digital world, start now by requiring them to record every transaction in writing. Knowing how to manage the numbers on paper will give kids hands-on practice now before they become adults.