With four children at home, a list of chores, and a secondhand vending machine – one mum may have discovered the perfect lockdown life lesson.
Northumberland nurse Sarah Balsdon, 29, was getting so fed up with her children’s “constant arguments” over sugary snacks, she and husband Kyle devised a plan.
She spent £100 on the vending machine being thrown out by a shop that had closed down, and filled it with the family’s favourite sweets and drinks.
Then she told her four children – Shannon, aged nine, Lucy, eight, Jack, five, and Elijah, two – that they would be paid to do their schoolwork and help with chores around the house.
‘I get pop’
While healthy snacks were free, they could spend their housework income in the vending machine. Their initial reluctance disappeared as the treats began to topple down.
“At first I didn’t like it,” Shannon told BBC Breakfast. “But now I do because I get pop.”
Sarah may have landed on a perfect pocket money management course.
By working for their cash, saving it, then spending it on their favourite snack, the youngsters have been taught a vital lesson in delayed gratification.
Budgeting experts say such a policy would suit many adults too, to avoid getting caught up in a buy now, pay later culture.
With Sarah and Kyle also doing chores for their snacks, the family have thrown a bit of competition into the mix as well.
Extra time at home offers the perfect opportunity for others to join the Balsdon family in learning more about money, according to Will Carmichael, chief executive of pocket money app RoosterMoney.
“Creating a system to help kids earn their money and having tangible visual goals for them to aim at is a brilliant way to help kids focus on a target and learn the value of money,” he said.
“Varying the sizes of the prizes, a brand new Lego set for example, would be a great way to really get them thinking about what they want and what they value.”
Pocket money tips
- Get children started with money as young as possible
- Don’t worry how much to give in pocket money, or how often
- Parents who have no money at the end of the week should still talk to their children about the financial choices they make
- For those parents who no longer carry cash – get some coins, just so children have the opportunity to interact with them.
Source: Money and Pensions Service
His company’s research on lockdown pocket money suggests children already have some healthy financial habits.
Some 40% of pocket money is saved, its survey of 24,000 children suggested. On average, children aged four to 14 receive £4.60 a week.
Many have to work for their money, with 70% of chores involving cleaning around the house, topped by cleaning a bedroom, making the bed, and doing the laundry.
When they come to spend it, the most goes on digital games platform Roblox, followed by computer game Fortnite, then books and magazines, Lego, and sweets and chocolates.
Research by the Money and Pensions Service found that many money habits are formed by the age of seven.
Parents carry the biggest influence. Pocket money is one, but not the only, tool they can use in money lessons, especially with most children at home at the moment, according to one financial commentator.
Sarah Coles, from investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “There are a plenty of ways of introducing money ideas to the kids that can keep them entertained at the same time – and don’t require you to have endless reserves of time, patience and creativity.”
Some of her ideas include:
- Encouraging children to run an imaginary restaurant, shop, or cinema
- Watching films or TV programmes with money as the central subject
- Asking grandparents to reminisce about how much money they had during different times in their lives
For those who can afford it, offering to double any money they save can also help them learn about value or saving towards a goal.
In the end, that may prove to be more practical than trying to buy a vending machine.