At What Age Can I Give My Kids Money Instead of Presents?

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Being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world, but it’s also the hardest — especially when shopping for gifts. While this task can certainly be fun, it’s also time-consuming and often very hit or miss.

Therefore, you’re thinking about giving yourself a break from all the shopping, wrapping and inevitable trips back to the store to return unwanted presents and just giving cash instead. Of course, the last thing you want to do is disappoint your kids, so you want to make sure they’re old enough to appreciate getting cold, hard cash instead of traditional gifts.

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Jennifer Porter, a Seattle-based etiquette expert and customer care coach, said generally speaking, age 13 is an appropriate age to start giving monetary gifts, as this is the stage they’re beginning to transition into young adulthood.

Make Your Money Work for You

“Kids should be working toward early financial maturity with concepts of saving, giving and spending,” she said. “Money can be a great tool for kids at this age, as they investigate fun and meaningful ways to spend money.”

However, she said it’s important to take each child’s personality into account, as different kids are ready to receive cash gifts at different ages. Additionally, she said money can feel like a sterile gift unless it’s tied to a goal that really inspires the child.

“That’s to say that if a younger child, even 9 years old, has her heart set on a new camera because she wants to learn photography, money toward that goal — that she is also saving her allowance for — is very appropriate,” she said.

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Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, agreed that money or a gift card is often what kids in their tween years and above prefer to receive as a present.

Make Your Money Work for You

However, she reiterated that giving money to a young child can be tricky.

“Hand a 2-year-old a dollar bill and to them it is just funny green paper,” she said. “The child must understand that money is used as a medium of exchange, and later, that money stores value for the gift of money to have any meaning.”

She also warned that people in different cultures and even different families don’t share the same perception of monetary gifts.

“In some situations, money is a welcomed gift whereas others may find it gauche,” she said.

If you’re at all unsure about how a monetary gift will be received, Smith recommended speaking with the child’s parents first.

She also noted that there are different ways to give money as a gift, that can make it fun for the child.

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“For younger children, a money sorting bank along with rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters can be a great way to begin teaching about money,” she said. “For elementary children, money to be put into a bank account or college fund along with a small toy or book might be best.”

Make Your Money Work for You

Lisa Grotts, a San Francisco-based etiquette expert known as the ‘Golden Rules Gal,’ also reiterated that monetary gift gifting largely depends on the parents. She said young children — those ages 13 and under — will not appreciate a check or even cash.

“What might be fun for a young child is to put a roll of coins in their stocking that they can use for small purchases, such as candy,” she said. “Many adults don’t even understand the value of a dollar.”

Generally speaking, she recommended giving gifts to anyone under 18 years old.

“After that, kids become young adults and have a mind of their own of what they may want,” she said.

Ultimately, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding when to start giving cash as gifts. Instead of setting an age limit, take the individual personality of the child into account — and the beliefs of their family, if not your own kids — when making a decision.

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