Common Cents: Learning The Value Of a Dollar

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By Cate Drew
Our kids are always complaining they don’t have any money. And they don’t – we have it. Actually, we have half their money. The rule is that half of anything they get — graduation gifts, birthday money from grandma, 10 bucks for a good report card — goes into a savings account. They can spend the rest and they get a weekly allowance of $5. That’s pretty good, considering I used to get 25 cents a week. I remember those Saturday mornings, when my mom would line the five of us up, and give us each a quarter (she didn’t keep half, thank god).

We’d immediately run to the local store to spend the money. Comic books cost 29 cents, so they were out (it never occurred to us to save the quarter and wait until the following week…). Wax lips were popular or some other penny candy. Sometimes we’d wander to the toy store across the street and buy a yo-yo or a jump rope. Cool stuff.

During the summer, we’d earn extra money with a lemonade stand at the curb, but the traffic pattern in front of our house was non-existent – unless you count my dad, who would jump in his car and circle the block at least a dozen times, stopping each time and buying a cup.

“What? Lemonade? Boy, am I thirsty – ah! Delicious!”

Not only was he a great dad, he apparently had amazing bladder control.

I’m not really sure why my kids get allowances anyway. They don’t really earn the money, unless you count setting the table or taking out the garbage. Pretty menial stuff, considering that I earned my weekly quarter by completing a list of chores that would choke a horse.

My mom was pretty traditional: girl chores inside, boy chores outside. There was a chart tacked to the inside of the broom closet, and every time you finished an assigned task, she’d make a little check. Once all your chores were finished, you’d get the allowance quarter.

(Ma had another chart to encourage us to speak French – family heritage and all that – and you’d get an X if you spoke English at the dinner table. The fewest X’s meant an extra quarter come Saturday, but she finally figured out my younger sister kept winning because she wouldn’t talk at all. Mauvaise!)

So, like the Vice President of the United States and that DMV clerk you see every four years, my children get paid every week for doing not much of anything. They’re wonderful kids and all, but they haven’t learned to appreciate that even getting half is a good deal.

Our daughter Claire is looking for her first job this summer and says she is looking forward to leaving the poverty of allowances behind. She thinks she’ll be rolling in it.


Wait until she learns about withholding and FICA and all those wonderful things that come with adulthood and a paycheck.

Sacré bleu!
Cate Drew


About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.