I started earning an allowance when I was nine years old. This was somewhat annoying because my brothers also began to receive an allowance, and they were three and four grades younger than me. I loved having my own money when I was a child, and I grew into a frugal adult. There are some pitfalls to the allowance mentality, though, that I would like to talk about.
The main problem with an allowance is that it starts with the background lifestyle as a baseline. There is no connection made between money and the costs of a home, utilities, car payment, various types of insurance, savings, and all the rest. An allowance is like a mint on the pillow in a fancy hotel. I distinctly remember the first time I had to buy my own tube of toothpaste as a young adult. I had no idea how expensive toothpaste was, and it felt unfair that I had to buy it out of my measly wage. (It was equivalent to an hour of work for me at the time).
A chart from The Atlantic shows something that I found quite interesting. Each decile of the population spent roughly the same percentage of income on entertainment, while spending on other categories varied widely. It looks very much like a de facto mandatory budget line item.
One thing about clutter is that we tend to accumulate a large number of small things, as opposed to a small number of large things. We may buy many books, DVDs, T-shirts, knickknacks, craft supplies, skeins of yarn, etc. We may also be eating lots of "treats" such as cans of soda, bags of chips, cookies, candy, and the list goes on. This is all the exact same type of thing that I would save my allowance to buy. One day, I realized that I could actually afford nicer things than I thought I could by buying fewer cheap things.
$400 sofa = 25 $16 paperback books
$100 shoes = 10 $10 discount shoes
$40 blouse = 10 $4 Goodwill t-shirts
$125 bookcase = no $1 soda for 4 months
The allowance mindset teaches us that we "deserve" "treats." We save up and splurge on relatively small items. Often, we feel like we need these treats precisely because of the sense of scarcity that develops from not having a more comfortable background lifestyle. A savings cushion, a better quality vacuum cleaner, or regular visits to the dentist are all things that ultimately provide more satisfaction and comfort than smaller "fun" purchases. The core of minimalism is to have only things that enrich our lives as much as possible. Sometimes that may mean spending more on fewer, more "boring" things.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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