British children became a task force of home helpers during the last lockdown while others discovered online selling to boost a drop in pocket money as research shows Covid has prompted a shift in attitude.
With entertainment limited and schools closed, almost a third of the nation’s children got stuck into new household chores during lockdown – but few seem to be doing it for the money, according to the latest Halifax Pocket Money survey.
Parents who give their children pocket money say that a quarter of children began gardening, a sixth looked after children and one in 10 went shopping for a vulnerable person – all jobs they weren’t doing before lockdown. Just 4 per cent of children helped out less around the house than before lockdown.
But most parents say they haven’t used pocket money as an incentive during lockdown, and a quarter have had to reduce the amount on offer due to changing financial circumstances.
Children say they now receive £6.48 each week in pocket money from their parents – a fall on the £7.55 reported in 2020 – with more than half of children becoming aware of a change in financial affairs at home during the pandemic.
In January, the Office for National Statistics reported that employed parents were almost twice as likely to report a reduction in income than the general employed population throughout the pandemic, although this gap gradually narrowed as schools reopened.
Despite all that, a quarter of parents say they hand over £20 or more a week, including to children as young as six. But the most common handout is now £5 a week. Around a fifth of children don’t receive pocket money and for many, the amount will vary depending on how much parents can afford at the time.
A further fifth receive cash equivalent to the amount earnt through housework.
“My kids have definitely been doing more for their pocket money around the house during lockdown – although they’ve also been making a lot more mess,” says Keely Mitchell from Watford, whose three children are aged between 4 and 10.
“Life has been very different and, if I’m honest, it has been easier to get cross with one another. So I’ve tended to give pocket money as a reward for kind and thoughtful behaviour, something I probably didn’t do as much before.
“Lockdown has been hard on the children and overall I think I’ve probably given them a bit more pocket money than they might have usually had – but I think that’s because they’ve had more of an opportunity to help me out – it’s certainly not bribery to do school work or chores.
“The average weekly pocket money of £6.48 seems a bit high for my younger children who are 4 and 6 but I think it’s about right for an older child. My eldest daughter Violet is 10 and I would feel comfortable giving her that much.
“We have a ‘marble’ system in the house,” Keely adds. “Every time one of the kids does a good deed they get a marble in their own jar and once the jar is filled I convert it into cash. It’s a great motivator for good behaviour, as they can see their ‘money marbles’ growing in the jar, and can compete with their siblings.”
“Our research also shows that the majority of parents have worried about money more due to the pandemic,” says Emma Abrahams, head of savings for Halifax. “Having open conversations as a family about budgeting will help build kids’ understanding of money management and will start the process of building good habits for the future.”
But some youngsters are already well on the way with more than one in 10 (14 per cent) topping up their pocket money by selling second-hand items online.
Representing a huge rise from just 2 per cent before the pandemic hit, children under 14 are using sites including Shpock, eBay, Etsy, Depop and Vinted to raise cash for new purchases – often online games – while books, magazines and sweets have seen a drop in popularity as children have stayed at home and bought online.
Crucially, data from pocket money app RoosterMoney reveals that, as well as earning more, kids are also saving more.
Reflecting a dramatic rise in the savings rates among the UK’s adults, children too have stashed their cash with half now setting aside money compared with a third in the first quarter of 2020.
With many older children and young adults already demonstrating a far more responsible attitude to saving than older generations, particularly in light of concerns around education and housing affordability, it seems that even the youngest members of the next generation are developing a healthier relationship with financial affairs too.