Keep It Simple to “Spark Joy” with Your Art of Allowance Program

Thank you, Marie Kondo

I owe a debt of gratitude to Marie Kondo for helping me write my own book, The Art of Allowance. Pretty soon after I’d completed a first draft (truthfully, a “shitty first draft” as Anne Lamott would say), my writer-friend, Sylvia Jaunzarins, suggested I read Kondo’s book for inspiration. 

I realized that Sylvia meant to encourage my writing by suggesting I read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but it did much more than that. Sure, I was inspired by the simplicity of the book’s approach, but I was also taken with her approach: The KonMari Method. I had been dabbling with the idea of going more minimal, and Kondo’s method provided an easy-to-follow plan. (Note: The plan may be simple, but the execution requires some hard work.)

Simplify by Sparking Joy

More than two-thirds of my wardrobe and many trips to Goodwill later, I had thanked my clothes for their service. Yes, I almost ashamed to admit I talked to my clothes. I was left only with those pieces that would “spark joy,” Kondo’s filter for what one should keep and let go. Despite its “new agey” sound, when put into practice, “spark joy” is a remarkably helpful means of reducing your personal inventory.

Having gone “full Kondo” for more than a year, here are my key takeaways:

  1. I love having less choice, as it simplifies my mornings. In fact, I’ve taken to wearing what amounts to a daily uniform (an idea I stole from the likes of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, though I’ve yet to transcend my particular field like each of them).
  2. Nobody notices that you’re wearing the same clothes more frequently. Unless, of course, you neglect to wash them regularly.
  3. I’ve freed up mental space to focus on what matters: writing, creating and generating ideas to help parents raise money-smart kids. The real stuff that knowledge workers like us need to do. Stuff really does seem to contain some psychic weight and KonMari helped me reduce some baggage.

Back to The Art of Allowance

Just as I was inspired by the simplicity of Kondo’s approach, her book’s structure and size also helped me focus my own thoughts and streamline my message in The Art of Allowance

Simplicity and the Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

I recently interviewed Breanna Reisch, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), on my Art of Allowance Podcast. In our wide-ranging discussion about raising money-smart kids, I asked what she liked most about The Art of Allowance approach. Here’s what she said:

“I love The Art of Allowance because it took the complication out of the allowance concept. I knew I wanted to teach my kids about money management, and giving my kids money was a hard concept to wrap my head around. I needed a nudge in the right direction, and I now have 100% buy-in. It’s a simple concept to keep up with, and we have noticed a positive shift in dynamic in our household since incorporating the allowance. I will push many towards this concept because it opens up money discussions in the household and gives kids hands-on experience with managing money and making decisions.

    —Breanna Reisch, CFP

Like many other parents, Breanna had discovered that setting up the allowance program had significantly simplified life in her household:

  • Her kids were no longer begging for money for things at the store.
  • Her kids weren’t asking her to dig into her pocket for every purchase.
  • Her kids were much more responsible about spending their own money.

In short, she had simplified her own life and that led to outcomes that are not surprising. Kids are much more mindful of their OWN money than they are of your money. Of course, I was excited to hear this from someone like Breanna, who not only helps people of all ages improve their money-smarts but also has pursued frugality for her entire life.

Occam’s Razor

I try to abide by Occam’s Razor (and expect to be called out when I don’t). This principle dictates that the simplest solution to a problem is typically the right one. Admittedly, this rule oversimplifies problems, but it’s a helpful concept to apply to decisions. For example:

Kelsa Dickey, an insightful financial coach whom I interviewed on the podcast, suggested that we “[not] think of [allowance] as a separate line item.” You’re already spending money on your children. With an allowance, though, you’re purposefully using that money to help your kids learn valuable financial lessons, including:

  • How to make smart money choices
  • How to distinguish between needs and wants 
  • How to set and save for goals

Keep your system simple, and begin that all-important lifelong conversation about money with your kids. Let them learn the basics and perhaps learn how to use money to “spark joy” for themselves.


Post image courtesy of Unsplash.

unsplash-logoMae Mu