managing domestic costs and children – the iPhone and pocket money deduction method


OUR CHILDREN are not infants any more.

They therefore have a much closer association today with the real world than they did ten years ago, which has a direct impact on the personal finances of their parents.

But their parents operate on a tight domestic budget, what with mortgages and school fees and groceries and whatnot.

So, thinking like all sensible people out there, we spent the first part of their childhood keeping them distracted by easily affordable childish things. But now that they won’t be distracted by ice cream and screechy toys, we have to keep devising means of lowering the operational costs of having children.

Taking a leaf from years of observing companies and the way they do things, we started picking off one item after another to cut down on, while motivating the children to perform well, to provide us with shareholder value.

First, we got the kids to learn the value of money to each of them personally – the way employees do when they start buying things like nice dinners, furniture and then maybe even cars and houses.

At some point they – the children – started earning pocket money allowances for good deeds or behaviour including attending school. That school attendance allowance was really free money because they honestly had no other choice and were eager to go anyway; but if they ever got tempted to lie in because of heavy morning rains, for instance, we didn’t have to remind them about their account balances.

Plus, our system was so clear that even if a child got admitted to hospital they had no such thing as as sympathy allowance – but they didn’t get a school attendance allowance either.

But they don’t receive cash daily. Instead, they are required to maintain a pocket money allowance record in a book against which we both sign and update almost weekly.

So every weekend, if the children wanted to spend money on treats like snacks, trinkets, toys and fast food, it came out of their own personal money. If ever they find a need to spend any money, they have to whip out their records and make a withdrawal from the parents.

That’s a lesson we learnt early on in our own lives, and when we departed from it as young adults and kept cash on our persons we suffered for it shortly into the month – mostly on Mondays.

This arrangement for the children, with time, became precarious for us: one day the eldest walked up with a large sheet of paper on which she had written mathematical workings to back her case for me to place an order for an iPhone she had seen online.

I audited her records and she passed the audit.

I didn’t have all that money handy and used only one delaying tactic – she hadn’t factored in the shipping costs. She went back and returned with a notification of how many school days she was going to attend in order to reach the desired amount.

We’ve never looked back.

Sometimes they’ll do extra bits of work that doesn’t involve domestic chores but to earn extra money so they can hit personal targets that require said money.

And then there are the penalties. If any of them misbehaved they got fined on the spot, losing some of their allowances. And, again taking a leaf from some companies observed, some domestic fixes have been tied to these allowances.

A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to hear them having a major argument over who had left the lights on in one room.

See, to cut down on electricity costs I used to run patrols around the house switching lights off while shouting about it. Somehow they’d get switched back on again.

So I started a Ushs500 deduction for every time I find a room empty but with lights on – Ushs500 off each of their allowances for the day, to create some group responsibility.

That worked perfectly. Where before they stampede off to school leaving every lightbulb burning, today the house is in quiet darkness as they go.

Most sensible companies do this.

You earn a monthly salary for doing your job. Sometimes even when you don’t do your job you still earn your monthly salary – just like the kids going to school and getting their daily allowance for just showing up.

When your eyes are set on a target you work even harder, if you’re sensible, and avoid getting into any shenanigans that could lose you any earnings.

Some companies will even arrange for furniture and electronics suppliers to come to the offices to make a pitch so you work harder to earn the money required. Like the internet does to make the iPhone so attractive to the children that they stay on their best behaviour all through.

And companies offer incentives based on targets that also include cost-cutting initiatives and adherence to budgets and plans – just like my energy saving one at home.

Next…? Perhaps it’s time to move the incentives upwards to mid-management level. Don’t tell them till we’ve finalised the strategy, but the domestic staff are getting in on this soon.

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