The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
When I was young, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. I was expected to work, first babysitting when I was a young teenager, and then at restaurant and retail jobs when I was in my later teen years. Doing so provided me with a strong work ethic, and I appreciate that my parents had this philosophy.
Before I worked, I wasn’t involved in any extracurricular activities. When I was old enough to have a job, I paid for my own extracurriculars as well as hobbies.
Today’s generation of kids seem to be involved in extracurricular activities from the time they’re small children—first Mommy and Me classes, then sports, then sometimes moving up to expensive traveling leagues. My children are no different.
Investing in Their Extracurriculars
My son started taking tap dance when he was five years old. When he was seven, I quit my job to stay home with our three kids full-time. Money was tight, so the dance teacher said I could clean the studio one Saturday a month to pay for his class.
My son came with me to clean and worked right beside me. He enjoyed helping to clean the studio (surprisingly), and I appreciated that he had a stake in his own class.
My son is 11.5 years old now, and he is not earning any income now besides an allowance. However, my husband and I feel it’s important for him to have a financial investment in his extracurricular activities.
When he was young, that meant cleaning the dance studio with me. Now that he’s older, it means paying 10% of the cost of his extracurriculars.
That’s right, we make our child pay a portion of his extracurriculars.
This year, he decided that he wanted to take archery for 4-H. We went to several practice sessions, and his friends were nice enough to let him try out several of the bows before he committed to the one he wanted.
The bow, arrow, and other supplies came to $200. We agreed he could participate in the group if he paid 10%, or $20 for the bow and arrows. He did, without complaint, and he loves participating in archery.
Why We Require Our Children to Pay 10%
This was the first year we made our son pay something for his activities. I’ll likely wait until my younger kids are 10 or 11 to institute this rule for them, too. There are a variety of reasons why we do this:
Commitment. Kids can be notoriously fickle. They may sign up for one activity and decide three months later that it’s not right for them. However, if they have invested their own money, they’re likely to consider carefully before they commit, and they are less likely to drop out.
Responsibility. We don’t want our kids to think that we’re an ATM available for all of their interests. We want them to take responsibility for the activities that they choose. We also want to teach them how to learn to responsibly manage their money.
My Question for You
Do you think tweens and teens should pay a percentage of their extracurricular activities, or do you feel that’s being unfair to kids and placing an undue burden on them?