Most kids don’t really look forward to starting school. What they will welcome is receiving pocket money, and whatever tiny bit of financial freedom that comes with it.
Suddenly, they had their own cash to spend on anything they wanted at the canteen or the school bookshop. But how much should Singaporean parents give; and how often?
Pocket money rate for primary school children in Singapore
When setting pocket money rates for your primary school children, the main thing you need to do is to ensure that they have got enough to eat and spend, so survey the costs of food and stationery in school.
Another thing to remember is that pocket money should grow with the child. At the start of Primary 4 or 5 is usually a good time to review the rates.
How much pocket money to give primary school children
|Expenses||Lower primary (per day)||Upper primary (per day)|
Based on what a primary schooler will spend on, the going rate is $2 to $3. As long as your child has enough, you can probably err on the side of stingy when they are in lower primary. If you give as much as $5 a day, you really spoil market for other parents.
Also, you can adjust the figures accordingly according to your own parenting styles. If you do not want them to indulge in sugary beverages, you can decide not to give them money for drinks.
Food for recess and lunch: At most primary schools, meals are usually priced at $1.20. There are the hot favourites like Western or Japanese sets that would cost more – usually $1.80. Some school canteens charge higher prices for meals at $2, and do note that most schools offer meals in two sizes. If your little one has a big appetite, you might want to give him or her a bit more. If your child needs to stay back for co-curricular activities or remedial lessons, add at least $2 as they’ll need a bigger meal.
Public transport: If your primary-schooler takes public transport to and from school, you need to factor around $20 for student concession fares a month. A bus ride costs $0.37 to $0.58 and an MRT ride cost as little as $0.08. You can teach your child how to manage this money by giving about $5 per week for them to top up their ez-link cards, or simply buy the concession pass, which costs $22.50 a month for unlimited bus rides and up to $41 for unlimited bus and train rides.
Savings: It’s important to teach your child the principle of spending within their means and saving money. Teach that if they give up having a drink during recess and drink from the water cooler instead, they’d be able to save that $0.30 to $0.50 a day, which they can use for a rainy day, or for that special toy or lockable journal from the bookshop.
Emergencies: It will be good to keep a stash of emergency money separate from the daily allowance, in case you forget to give your child pocket money, or if he misplaces his own money.
When to give pocket money to primary school children
Kids don’t really know how to budget, at least not in primary school. If they have a week’s worth of money, they’d likely spend it quickly or misplace it. Give pocket money daily at the beginning and slowly teach them the concept of ownership. You probably can let them have weekly pocket money from primary 5 or 6. Since they are in primary school, you most likely only need to give them pocket money when they go to school from Monday to Friday.
Some parents give on an as-needed basis. One parent we surveyed puts $2 in the child’s wallet and checks daily to see if the money runs out. However, this makes it hard to keep track of things because there is no regularity, and also, your child would not learn to steward excess money.
Pocket money rate for secondary school children
The pocket money game changes at this stage because your kid’s school schedule will change quite dramatically.
How much pocket money to give secondary school children
|Expenses||Per day||Per week (5 days)|
|Lunch||$5 to $10||$25 to $50|
|Entertainment||$0 to $3||$0 to $15|
|Total||$12 to $20||$60 to $100|
Usually, a weekly sum of $60 to $100 per week should be enough for a secondary school student. However, it helps to be flexible when it comes to exigencies like a special movie outing with friends.
Food for recess and lunch: The average that parents give is around $3.50 to $5 for recess and $5 to $10 for lunch. While in primary school they don’t usually take lunch, a secondary school’s day is much longer, so they will need more lunches and even snacks in the late afternoon. Also, take note that instead of the school canteen, secondary school children may want to have lunch at nearby malls with friends. At this stage, you need not be too militant about whether they buy drinks and desserts, or not.
Transport: Instead of the school bus, secondary school students usually take their own public transport. You can either help to top up your child’s ez-link every week, or pass him the money to do so. Or, get the concession pass for secondary school students, which costs $27 for unlimited bus rides and up to $51 for unlimited bus and train rides.
Stationery money: With secondary school students, you can trust them a little more with the bookshop runs. Apportion some money for them to buy pens, pencils, foolscap paper, post-it notes and the like. This amount can be factored into the weekly pocket money or give on an as-needed basis.
Entertainment or hobby fund: We hear that even the most introverted of kids will start to want to spend time with their friends in their teenage years. You can blame it on herd instincts, peer pressure or the urge to become more independent. Some children also want to start developing their own hobby, be it books or video games. Either give the child money every time he or she goes out, or factor in a sum of money and tell your child to save and budget for those occasions.
When to give pocket money to secondary school children
By secondary 1, it’s a good time to start teaching your child how to manage a sum of money by giving their pocket money on a weekly basis. Initially, they might eat like a king at the start of the week and only end up only having enough for snacks at the end of the week (not unlike many adults when they receive their pay-check). But as they learn budgeting skills, they will get better at it.
If you find that your child is more responsible, perhaps by secondary 3 or 4, you could choose to give him or her monthly allowance or even deposit to a bank account and teach him or her how to withdraw for daily expenses.
Pocket money rate for JC or Polytechnic students
By this stage, monthly pocket money is probably the norm. If your kid stays till late in school, you might have to factor in dinner money as well. Canteens are closed by then so you have to give enough for meals outside of the school. $8 to $10 should more enough than cover dinner and a drink.
How much pocket money to give JC or polytechnic students
|Expenses||JC or polytechnic students’ pocket money (per month)|
|Lunch and dinner||$80|
$200 to $300 is acceptable for JC kids; $250 to $350 for poly kids since food prices tend to be higher. At this stage, they still can enjoy monthly concession rates that cost up to $51 for unlimited bus and train rides, but it’d be good to factor in some extra money for cab or grab.
Pocket money for JC or polytechnic students do not vary that much from secondary school students, except for two other things:
Materials for school: There are fewer textbooks to buy but now the kids have to pay for notes their lecturer prepares for them (whatever happened to copying your own notes)? This can come up to a few hundred dollars at the start of the school term. You can give them a lump sum every quarter or pay for it as and when.
Fashion items: This is especially important if your kid is going to a polytechnic rather than a JC. For better control and to teach them to spend wisely, a fashion fund is probably better than as-needed policy. Factor in around $80 every month or $300 quarterly. If your kid’s a fashionista and you yourself are a brands diva, you might give more.
Pocket money rate for university students
Usually by university days, your child would be dabbling in some form of part-time work or freelance tuition. If you would like to instill in them the values of earning money, you could potentially limit their pocket money to only food and transport, which could be covered by $300 – $400 a month.
If you are uncomfortable with them having to juggle work and school together, a good range to give is around $500 to $750 a month, which will be able to cover food, transport, stationery and fashion items. There are parents who give as high as $1,000 a month.
How do you teach your children to manage their pocket money?
Generally, there are two parts to money management: learning to spend within your means and learning to save. In order to teach kids how to do these two things, you can:
Be reasonable with the amount: Neither too little nor too much is the motto. Too much and the kid won’t ever learn how to spend within his means because everything would be within his means. His appetite may grow to the point where you won’t be able to finance all his wants. But if you give too little, he won’t ever have enough to save.
Be firm: In the beginning, you probably have to be militant about teaching ownership. When they are in primary school, empty out their wallets daily and put aside any unspent money, telling them then you are helping them put aside as savings. Use a little piggy bank so that your child can see his or her savings grow, or, regularly show them their bank book so they can see how their money is multiplying.
Talk about money: When you first give pocket money, it is important to talk about what your child should spend on. If you do not, you may find that your child opted for snacks rather than a proper meal so he can buy stationery like country erasers, which we all know are timelessly irresistible to primary-schoolers, especially boys.
Show by example: If you spend freely without thought to budget and savings, so will your kids. As money management begins with you, regularly talk about how you decide which is the most money-smart decision. Discuss questions like: What is expensive? What is value-for-money? What are the steps you are taking to save up for an indulgent item? Teach them how you save and budget.
Limit access to savings: Some people are great savers but big spenders. They accumulate for a while, splurge and then start over again. Until your kid has learnt to manage his money wisely, limit access to his savings, or at least the bank savings.
Try the carrot method: Some families do “dollar-matching” (as learnt from the government, no less). When the kids save, you can match it with dollar for dollar. This encourages kids to save because they know the opportunity lost for every dollar spent. Or, you can reward them with a little bit of money if they help out with chores at home.
When should you stop giving pocket money?
Pocket money should stop when your kid can earn his own keep. The question is: when?
Some parents stop during University or even earlier during JC or Poly when the children can get part-time jobs or freelance work. By the time boys hit National Service age or when girls enter university, parents usually stop giving pocket money, save for big ticket items like an iPhone or a trip overseas.
Then, there’s the final tricky bit. What happens after they graduate but before they get a job? Most parents surveyed gave a grace period of three to six months during which they continued to give pocket money. This bought the kids time to find a job but prevented them from turning into slackers.
How much pocket money do you give your children? Tell us in the comments!