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Several weeks ago I posed a question to my online group of Mommy friends and the subject has continued to roll around in my brain since.  So, I’m bringing the topic to you…

The situation:

Miss O was going to a friend’s birthday party, her first.  A few days before we went to Target to pick out a gift for her friend and I gave her a $10 limit.  I figured it would be a good opportunity to teach her about not spending more than you have.

As we were walking through the store I found about $18 in a small pocket in my purse.  It was Miss O’s money her grandparents had given her for Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.  Her money tends to pile up because she hasn’t yet learned she can ask for things at the store (and we’d like to keep it that way as long as we can).

Looking at the money made me wonder; is it okay to expect her, a 4-year-old, to pitch in for her friend’s present?

My decision:

In that moment I decided not to have her contribute her own money.  For one thing I’d already told her I’d spend $10, and for another that seemed like a decision that Mr. O and I should discuss.

We haven’t yet made the time to get together on this topic, so I’ll have to write about that later.  For now, here are some snippets from the debate going on in my head.

Should kids pay for things they want for themselves or for their friends?  In my mind, there’s no question that at some point kids should start kicking in for non-necessity items.  Miss O spent $1 of her stash on a book from the Target dollar section.  As I mentioned, she doesn’t ask for much (luckily), so this hasn’t been an issue, but she does have more than she needs.  Perhaps when she starts asking for more, she’ll have to start paying for more.

One key piece of this puzzle is access to money.  Miss O doesn’t get an allowance and she doesn’t get paid to help around the house – at this point, sweeping is still a game to her – so she doesn’t really have a way to earn money.  For that reason, I don’t think it’s fair to ask her to pay for things yet.


How can kids make money?  An allowance is one popular way.  Doing chores is another.  Some families expect their kids to be entrepreneurs right from the start and find their own way to make money.  Mr. O and I haven’t discussed this yet, but you can bet there will be at least 1 future blog post on the subject.

However they get/earn it, I don’t think it’s fair to ask kids to pay for things before they have regular, predictable access to money.

When do you start?  This one I think I have an answer to.  When your child starts showing interest!  Miss O doesn’t ask for things, so having her earn money wouldn’t have any meaning to her.  However, when she starts pointing out toys on tv or games in the stores, we’ll start providing her ways to earn what she wants.

Going back to the original problem… I still have no clue when kids should start paying (or helping to pay) for their friend’s gifts.  Somehow spending on others seems different to me.  Am I crazy?  (Don’t answer that.)

I could be opening a can of worms here, but hey, parenting is messy!

What do you think?  Should kids be expected to pay for things for themselves and their friends?

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