Spending Your Kid’s Cash

We celebrated N’s birthday last Saturday. We kept the party small, inviting just family and close friends. We asked people forgo gifts and bring donations for the Pajama Program instead, but he still received a few things. And money.

Soooooooo…what are you doing with your kid’s money? Are you saving it, building up a nest egg to someday present them when you send them off into the world? Or are you keeping it and spending it for them?

I always imagined that parents save save save every dime that their child is given. They save it all for them until they are of an age at which they can responsibly manage their own money. I mean, it’s their money, so it’d be pretty fucked up for the parents to keep it or spend it themselves, right? Even if someone gives the parents a check and says, “I wasn’t sure what Baby Agador Spartacus would like, so you pick something out for him,” they should save it. That’s a test. You can’t really spend that money. You’re supposed to sock it away for college or so your kid and blow it all when they move to LA at 18 to become a star. So, that is what I did for P. I saved saved saved.

Until she was 2.5 years old.

When P was 2.5, her brother was born and I was unemployed. Ie, there was no paid maternity leave. Ie, every dollar Willy and I spent was cash out of our bank accounts. I had no plans to return to work, so we were careful with our money. But, we wanted to enroll P in ballet. We knew she’d love it, we wanted her to have something to do on the weekend, and we wanted her to have something that didn’t involve her brother. So, I decided to take money out of her bank account to pay for it. I paid for the class and for all of the clothing and accessories she needed.

I felt mostly OK about spending her money because it was on her and it was for something both fun and educational. But I felt a little guilty, like I was raiding her life savings because I was cheap. I still feel weird about it, and I’m about to pay for a third round of ballet out of her bank account. Now that I’m depositing money into N’s bank account, I’m thinking about the future hobbies and activities of his that I’ll spend it on. I’m thinking about how I will still feel a bit conflicted about spending his money on baseball or tuba lessons or color guard or whatever the hell he wants to do, even as I write the checks.

Overall though, I feel OK using the kid’s money on special items and activities that are specifically for them. I’m not going to burn through all of their money, just spend some here and there, on their behalf, on things I know they love. If it turns out they disagree with my decision when they are snot-nosed teens and claim I stole from their life savings, we can spend what is left on therapy.


Take It from Meg
Take It from Meg

P is so articulate that you could probably involve her in these conversations to some degree. I think what you're doing is totally appropriate. And as they get older, sure they could be nasty about how you spent their money. But they're your kids and you're teaching them what you teach them. Because of who you are, how you approach money, how you approach parenting, and how you approach your kids, I think that they'll take it as a lesson in money management and be grateful that you thought of using their money on them. Shit, Sam. Have you ever heard a teenager complain that her mom was spending her money on her? No, they would rather it not be saved for college (MORE SCHOOL?!) but rather given to them to do the activities they love. IMO.

Melissa Tratenberg Liguori
Melissa Tratenberg Liguori

they're both so little, I just put it in their savings account. When they're older, I'd probably let them use some % for spending (toys), and make them put the rest in the bank

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