Around 6:30 PM, there’s a knock at the door and while my husband hides in the kitchen – always pretending he isn’t home – I open it. There, brandishing a charity box, is a smiling old lady collecting for a worthy cause.
Dashing to my handbag, I open my purse and as usual, discover I have zero cash; my life runs on cards you see. But I’ve kept the old lady waiting for five minutes now as I scrabble around in junk drawers and the bottom of my bag. No luck. So I bound into my son’s room, rip open his piggy bank, and borrow a shiny gold $1 coin.
“Sorry,” I exclaim. “I’ll pay you back!” And off I run down the stairs as he yells after me, “You said that last time!!”
It’s true – I constantly dip into my children’s piggy banks – in need of a pint of milk, or parking money, or the Sunday paper. The walk to the ATM is a good 10 minutes, so the easiest thing to do is to borrow from their humble stash. And it seems I am not alone – thank goodness!
According to a recent survey from Nationwide Savings, 46 percent of parents interviewed admit to being “piggy bank raiders” who occasionally dip into their children’s cash to cover costs such as parking, taxis, school trips, and paying the window cleaner.
The survey of 2,000 parents found that moms are more likely to swipe cash than dads, but when dads do dip their fingers into the piggy bank, they take more! This is certainly the case in our house, where my husband borrowed $60 from our son’s birthday money back in 2013, which he has yet to return!
Most of the time I am careful to give my kids the money back, mostly because they have memories of little elephants and NEVER let me forget what I owe them. But I have forgotten in the past and am sure I owe them the odd $5 here and there. Does that make me a bad parent?
Turns out the vast majority of parents (93 percent) are as good as their word, and they put the borrowed money back afterwards – with amazingly only 39 percent of children even noticing the money had disappeared in the first place. Surely though the point isn’t whether or not the children notice, but in the mere fact that we have taken something belonging to our child and therefore moralistically should put it back. How can we teach kids about the importance of not stealing if we don’t repay what we take, or admit to the borrowing in the first place?
Almost one-third of parents who took money said they had confessed to their child (as I think they should), while 23 percent sneaked the money back into their child’s piggy bank. In my house I would never get away with this, as my daughter is Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko and has a tight rein over her finances. She knows to the penny what she has and will hassle anyone who goes near her stash!
Fourteen percent of those surveyed added “interest” onto the amount they had borrowed, putting more money in than they had taken out. This is a sweet idea, but at this rate, my husband owes my son more than he can afford to pay!
So why do we need to touch our children’s savings? Most parents say it comes down to necessity in the moment – an urgency to find parking change or school lunch money. But it turns out that one in ten parents have borrowed more than $72 from their children in the last year – including to pay household bills. To me that isn’t really fair; harmless change is one thing but using big amounts feels wrong.
Most of all I want to instill in my kids responsibility for their own money. That their belongings and cash are their property and to be respected. I don’t want to send the message that it’s OK for a parent to borrow from their kid – after all, we are meant to be the adults here!
So hands up – who else has dipped into their kid’s piggy banks?More On