Opinion

How Much Would a Child’s Allowance Need to be in Singapore?

Peter Lin

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I love my parents very, very much. However, one of the things I wish they taught me was the true value of money. Growing up, we were not very well off, but my parents ensured that I had more than enough pocket money for my basic needs. Ironically, as a result, I never really learnt how important money was until later in life. In today’s Singapore society, how much allowance should you be giving your Primary School child? We look at two basic needs – food and transport.

 

Food

Forget hawker centres, cafes and restaurants. School canteens are where you can find food that’s the most bang for your buck. A typical meal and a drink at recess should cost no more than $2. Unless your kid buys multiple portions of food and canned drinks, of course. In those situations, limiting your child’s allowance is probably saving them from a future filled with diabetes and other health issues.

How much should you give your child for food? In a typical school day for a Primary School student, they should need no more than $2 a day or $50 a month. However, if your child has to stay back in school for remedial classes or CCA, then you might want to give them extra allowance for their lunch.

 

Transport

You may already know that children below 0.9 metres in height travel for free. They need to travel with a fare-paying passenger at all times, though. Did you know that nowadays, if your kid is taller than 0.9 metres and not in Primary School yet, you can get a Child Concession Card? The Child Concession Card gives them free travel on basic bus services, express bus services and trains.

The freebies stop once they reach Primary 1, and they get their School Smartcard from their respective schools. But don’t worry. As most of us would remember from our own childhood, students get concession fares for all public transport journeys.

If you’re going to factor in transport costs into your child’s allowance, here’s the two things you should look out for:

 

1. Concession Fares

These days, the cheapest journey by bus or train is 38 cents, while the most expensive journey, because of the fare cap, will cost no more than 59 cents regardless of distance. Yes, that means even if your kid’s journey involves transferring from bus to train to bus again, they are not going to pay more than 59 cents per journey.

Technically, if your child just travels to and from school each day by public transport? They shouldn’t need more than $1.20 for transport a day.

That said, don’t just give them $1.20 a day for transport costs. There is a minimum top-up amount of $5 for their School Smartcard.

 

2. Monthly Concession Passes

Primary and Secondary School students also have the option of buying monthly concession passes that gives them unlimited travel on buses or trains or both.

Monthly Concession Pass Primary Secondary
Unlimited travel on basic bus services $22.50 $27.50
Unlimited travel on train rides $20.00 $25.00
Unlimited travel on buses and trains $41.00 $51.00

 

Monthly concession passes can be purchased at TransitLink Ticket Offices, Passenger Service Centres at MRT Stations, the older Add Value Machines or the new General Ticketing Machines.

While buying a Monthly Concession Pass might seem like the convenient thing to do, it might not be cost effective if your kid doesn’t travel that often, or only travels short distances.

Say your kid only takes public transport to and from school daily. It’ll cost a maximum of $1.18 a day. Say there are 23 school days in a month – that’s only $27.14. In fairness, if your kid takes only buses OR trains, you’ll be able to save money by buying the specific Monthly Concession Pass.

However, $27.14 is significantly less than the $41 for Primary School students or $51 for Secondary School students that you’re paying for the Hybrid Monthly Concession Pass – the one that gives unlimited rides on both buses and trains. So your kids will need to make sure to use the pass as much as they can – especially on weekends.

How much should you give your child for transport? Depending on their travel needs, they should need anything between $25 to $50 a month. That translates to about $1 to $2 a day.

 

Is it better to give your child allowance daily, weekly or monthly?

For Primary School students, the common practice seems to start them off with a small daily allowance of $2 to $5. Not only will this teach them the value of money – so that they don’t feel like they can spend on whatever they want, but it’ll also mean that they’re less likely to lose a big amount of money due to carelessness or worse, to opportunistic bullies.

However, once they’ve learnt to be more careful with money, you definitely may want to consider encouraging them to take control of their spending by transitioning to weekly or even monthly allowances.

By giving them a lump sum, they will be able to decide for themselves how they spend their money. If they want to splurge at the start of the week or the month, they will have less to spend at the end of it.

And that’s an important lesson for your child to learn. Especially since some adults who live paycheck to paycheck would probably have benefitted from such a lesson in childhood.

 

So how much total allowance should a Primary School student get each month?

Assuming only food and transport for school purposes – $100 a month. But of course, that’s the bare minimum. Giving only this amount might seem like the actions of a shrewd parent, but you run the risk of a child getting into the habit of spending whatever they get from you. It’s a dangerous habit that, if left unchecked, could lead to a lifetime of living paycheck to paycheck.

What may be better is giving a child a larger allowance, but encouraging them to set aside part of it for various purposes. Don’t just tell them that they need to save money, but let them suggest goals that they may want to save up for. For example, they could choose to save up to buy games, or clothes, or even gifts for family and friends.

If you want to take it one step further? Suggest that they could set aside part of their allowance to give to a charitable organisation, or to a church collection or zakat. This way you instill in your child the understanding that the money they have doesn’t need to go to them alone. Alternatively, here are some other suggestions on what you should do before you give them their allowance.

Of course, if you really want to teach them the realities of life, take 20% of their monthly pocket money, set it aside and tell them they’ll only get it back when they’re 65. I’m joking. Or am I?

 

How much allowance do you give your child? How do you teach them the value of money? We want to hear from you.

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Peter Lin

I am the poster boy for reinventing one's self. I've been a broadcast journalist, technical writer, banking customer service officer and a Catholic friar. My life experiences have made me the most cynical idealist you'll ever meet, which is why I'm also the co-founder of a local pop culture website. I believe ignorance is not bliss, and that money is the root of all evil only if you allow it to be.