With the new school term starting next week, many parents will certainly fall prey to the many tricks used by pupils in obtaining more ‘pocket’ money than they require.
The tragedy is that modern parents feel guilty of being absent in their children’s lives. They compensate this by showering them with excess money for their use in school.
Parents or guardians will also box themselves to a corner by setting their children’s conspicuous consumption for the next 14 weeks at the expense of urgent needs at homes.
There have been extreme cases in school where some parents give their children as much as Sh13,000 per term, Sh1,000 weekly, for their “personal use.” This translates to Sh39,000 per year and Sh159,000 over the entire four year course.
This money could buy a modest stake in the stock market doubling or tripling in four years and giving you a fabulous return. But often, such pampered children end up with discipline issues. They may try out drugs and alcohol or play truant.
Usually, they pay other less privileged students to do their washing, homework and assigned duties for them besides running errands for them to obtain contraband.
Besides growing up with the wrong notion that money can buy practically anything, including friendship, such spoilt children fail to get the all important lesson of financial discretion at a critical and impressionable age. So, how much money is enough to leave with your child in school?
Factoring in expenses
The acceptable amount of cash to entrust a child varies from one school to another. But one must factor in expenses such as bus fare back home on closing day, over-the-counter medication, occasional refreshment when on school outings and emergencies like loss of personal items. Most teachers say Sh1,000 is adequate. Harry Gachunji, a teacher and also a parent with children in secondary school, says soliciting for funds to pay for upcoming school trips is the oldest and most tenacious of all students’ money scams.
“Parents must verify all trips with the school authorities and, more importantly, the amount required,” he says. “Often, the charges are upped generously to leave the students a little stipend,” adds Gachunji. He advises parents to be keen when children suddenly come up with so many trips in a term.
“This is often a pointer to a spendthrift lifestyle that could be unsustainable given your resources and overheads of school fees,” he says.
Gachunji observes that a student desperate for cash will often fake a misfortune such as the theft of all of his or her personal effects. They use this guise to borrow cash from friends and request their parents to foot the bill. “It may look perfect and sensible, until you examine the nitty gritty,” warns Gachunji. Some items are likely to be overpriced or out of sync with the reality like too many set books that the school isn’t even studying.
Faith Muraya, a mother of two post-secondary children, says when a child demands extra cash, ostensibly to buy some special soap, ointments, medicines and other supplements, demand to see the note of whoever gave this prescription.
“Ask why the problem only arises in school and take your child to a medical practitioner you trust for a second opinion,” says Muraya. As Muraya has discovered through the hard way, a simple medical issue can be exaggerated with a calculated financial aim in mind.
Muraya adds that it’s a mark of maturity for pupils to handle school shopping on their own. “But many parents are often hoodwinked that things are so expensive nowadays in obscure shops or towns where their children do their shopping.”
She warns that if a child’s shopping always exceeds its budget, chances are that the youngster could be making a generous saving and using the extra money for other things, like phone credit for surfing the net.
“To stem this culture of careless spending, always demand a receipt and a full account of your money when your child does his or her back-to-school shopping,” she says.
You may leave a little margin, but there is something wrong if your child cannot account for anything upwards of Sh100 every time he or she goes out to do back-to-school shopping.
Tips on reining in children’s money excesses
• Verify all of your child’s school trips with the school authorities before parting with your money.
• If your child claims that he or she has borrowed money to buy lost items, demand to be brought all the creditors, in the school head’s office.
• Let your children help you with your work or business over the school holidays and earn their pocket money.
• This way, they are likely to understand the value of money and learn some prudence in its spending.
• Let your child learn of your rent, power and water bills and other overheads.
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