Meeting needs or just wants?

It is dog eat dog out there in the marketplace and we need to be vigilant about the forces operating.

Virtually everything is done with the aim of prising money from your wallets and children are often enlisted to assist.

Big business does not provide schools with vending machines and sports equipment or other organisations with sponsorship because it does not know what to do with its money.

Many products for children, particularly toys and entertainment, are linked to carefully researched and developed marketing campaigns to make children feel they want something that, in fact, they do not need.

The market rules, and every parent needs to show their children what is behind the free gifts, the appealing television advertisements and the clothing that amounts to advertising billboards that you actually pay the company for the privilege of wearing.

Even then, it is not cheap keeping them happy by meeting their needs, let alone their wants.

I have heard it said that it now costs far more to amuse a child than it once did to educate his father, which brings me, in a roundabout way, to allowances.

I am a great believer in using allowances for teaching the value of money, learning the cost of items relative to money earned and the consequences of unwise decisions.

It is important to be clear about just what you will be expecting them to use their allowance for and what you will still be providing.

Are they to pay for clothing (all or just leisure), all entertainment, only non-family entertainment, family holiday spending, lunches, school trips, sports costs?

A 4-year-old should be able to handle an allowance.

Some parents settle for a weekly amount starting at 50c or $1, others for an amount half the child's age, or matching the child's age and raising it each birthday until an upper level is reached.

A teenager can then supplement this with part-time work, either at home for special tasks like spring cleaning, stacking the firewood or painting the house, or through an outside job.

Let them experience the consequences of unwise spending, of not budgeting, of frittering money away so there is nothing left when something they really want comes along. Be sympathetic, offer to help them draw up a savings plan, but resist the temptation to bail them out.

When faced with things they are being told they need, here are four questions for them to ask:

• What is this ad trying to sell me?

• What do I get: The sun? The sea? The girl? No, just the burger.

• What is missed out? Look for ''Special conditions apply'', ''Batteries not included''.

• Do I actually need it or do I just want it?


- Ian Munro 


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