Today was the last allowance day of 2012. And what a lengthy allowance day it was. It was a day for sorting coins, counting change, trading up those coins for paper money, and doing some sharing.
My children get their allowance twice a month. There is nothing tied to this allowance - they do not need to do their chores, "be good", or anything else. And while most of their allowance money is theirs to spend, we expect them to set aside a small amount for saving and another small amount for sharing with others. If they receive money through the year, they are also asked to consider what amount of it will be reserved for saving and sharing.
The saving amount is "for a rainy day", and hopefully the rainy day comes when they no longer need to do paid work to support themselves financially. Ideally, they will continue this practice when they get older and will (relatively) quickly set aside enough money to live off the interest or dividends of their investments. Today, to encourage that practice, we counted up their savings and made sure it got into their bank accounts.
Then we talked about the sharing money they collected through the year. Each of the children had an opportunity to consider what cause they would like to help and my husband and I matched their donation. We started this practice when they were relatively young, when they really didn't know what a charitable organization was. To make it easier for them, we asked if they would like to help people, animals or the Earth. From there, we would ask more probing questions (would you like to help people who are sick? Who can't find a home? Who can't afford food? What kind of animal would you like to help?). Then, we could offer suggestions and take them to websites to see what would be a suitable match.
I should also be quick to mention that this doesn't necessarily always happen at the end of the year. If we run across a fundraising initiative that the children are interested in supporting, we'll happily open our sharing jars. We do, though, traditionally do larger donations during the holiday season and this year kept with that tradition.
Lastly, my husband and I selected several organizations that we would like to support. We find it important to also do these actions that we encourage of the children. There are so many charities that do such wonderful work. We had quite a deep discussion about where our support could be used most...local organizations, particularly those that don't have the large budget for advertising or aren't the media darlings, despite the tremendous work they do...strong national or international organizations that can advocate from a position of strength for environmental concerns...helping those who are victimized in war-torn countries...
While I know that our tokens of support are small in the scheme of things, I cling to the hope that small actions can make the world a better place, and that we can encourage three kind-hearted, generous souls to believe sharing with others is deeply meaningful.