Since I was a kid, I have been very careful with my money. It certainly has a lot to do with how my parents raised us, but I think my personality must play a part too.
When we were in Primary school (aged 7 - 12), my parents used to give my siblings and I daily pocket money instead of weekly allowance. I believe the main reason was to prevent us from splurging it all the very moment we got them.
That was what E used to do. He would run out of the house, straight to the first candy store and spend the entire week allowance on an assortment of sweets and comics! :)
I remember getting only 80 cents per day even when I was 12 to spend on snack food/drinks at the school canteen and stationery store if we ever need something. No money on weekends or any special days, except for the Ang Pow money we received during the Chinese New Year.
Even with just $4 a week, I was able to save close to half of that amount every month. With no intention to spend it on anything in particular. I just saved it for rainy days because I didn't need to spend it.
Once a year, my dad would count the change and tell me how much I had saved and the sum was deposited into my bank account. My sister was just like me, accumulating her little wealth from our meagre sum of allowances. Actually she saved even more than me, if I remember correctly, as for a few years, she was known as the miser in the family.
It was a different story with my brothers who spent every penny they had in the canteen. To them, the money was given to be spent. If they were not spent on food, they headed to the small mama shops (neighbourhood shops) to buy stickers and lollipops on the way home.
Like my family, there were savers and spenders among E and his siblings.
The thing is, these very habits of being mindful of the value of money, money management and saving for rainy days remain with us all even when we entered adulthood.
The ones who were never mindful of savings before are more of a spendthrift by the time they started earning their own keep. Or maybe they are just plain generous with their money. The savers continue to think thrice before treating themselves with their hard-earned money.
As a parent now, naturally, I want my boys to appreciate early enough the value of money and to realize what count as necessary expenses versus the frivolous wants.
But I also want them to know that it is fine to give themselves a little treat now and again, as long as they don't overspend. In fact, it should be encouraged, as I believe it is tied to the development of self-worth.
The night before M's first day of school, I was showing him his wallet and all the compartments. Noting that only the coin compartment was filled, M made a few suggestions.
'Mummy, how about putting a few hundred dollars into here?' (pointing at the note compartment).
'These are for cards, right? Can you also put my credit card in here please, so I won't forget tomorrow?'