Kiddo#1 asked for an allowance, and instead he got sent to money-school.
We had a system last year: at the beginning of the month, he selected whatever hot lunches he wanted off the calendar for the month, and I’d pay for them. On the other days, he brought lunch from home.
This year, he wanted an allowance, so we started with chores he had to do and a low dollar value for actually doing them. Kind of like employing him to be a kid. I don’t like that so much, but the system worked.
He came to us and said he wanted to do more chores to get more money. So we thought, and we came up with the idea for money-school, except we don’t call it that.
The new system is this: Kiddo#1 now has an increased set of chores he does every day of the week. He does these on his own without being reminded to do them (a plus to the whole Asperger’s thing, actually: once he accepts that a job is his, he will get it done or die trying.)
In return, he is paid $10, an amount equivalent to four hot lunches at school. That needs to last him for the whole week.
At any point in time, he can bring a lunch from home, and this costs him $0.00.
If he wants side dishes or ice cream at school, he pays for them himself ($.50 to $1.50, depending).
Any money left over at the end of the week is his. If he brings a bag lunch every day, he gets to pocket the whole $10.
The first week we did this, after he got his allowance, he and I sat down with a chart and the hot lunch menu. He decided which days he would buy lunch, which days he would bring lunch, how much this would cost him, and what he would do with the remainder.
It’s money-school. He’s learning how to make and stick to a budget, learning how to revise it on the fly. He’s learning to prioritize: if he has a taco boat lunch on Tuesday, he won’t have enough money for pizza and ice cream on Friday. If he wants to buy three packets of baseball cards, then he can’t haz cheezburger on Wednesday or a chicken patty on Thursday.
My Patient Husband and I like this plan because the Kiddo has a parachute: he’s not going to starve; he’s just got to bring a lunch from home if he runs out of money. And in the meantime, he learns to take charge a little bit, to decide his own priorities, and experience real-world consequences if he overspends. Even if that consequence is only a sandwich and a juice box instead of chicken nuggets and chocolate milk.
The Kiddo likes the plan too. He came to me yesterday and said that his net income has actually increased since he’s begun buying lunches, because he’s prioritizing and deciding that some of those lunches aren’t worth it, and therefore saving more of his allowance than before.
And so far, he hasn’t at all been like his mother, who used to begin journal entries with “Today is Tuesday and I have sixty-five cents left for the week.”
Wish us luck! So far, money-school has been working out well for us all.