To-do lists and weekly pocket money are common tools for teaching kids how to manage money, but One Family on TikTok goes viral for an approach to children’s financial education that’s a little more unique.
Jessica and Dub McCorkle, traveling parents who run the popular @family.of.nomads TikTok account, recently introduced fellow parents to the “hygiene budget.” It’s a quarterly allowance that each of their three children can track and spend on hygiene and personal care items, and there are mixed reactions.
What is a “hygiene budget”?
In a video on TikTok, Jessica McCorkle explains how her family’s hygiene budget system works in detail.
Each of their three children gets a set amount that they can spend on hygiene products of their choice for three months. For example, the couple’s 9-year-old son receives $100 every three months. From there, it’s every child’s responsibility to keep track of what items they have, what new products they need, and how much money they have left to spend.
Budget amounts are determined by the unique age and needs of each child. If the children save on products at the end of the three months or don’t use their money to try to rake in the leftover hygiene budget, their future budget will be cut.
“It doesn’t mean they don’t have access to hygiene products,” the mother explains. “It just means they don’t get the money that’s left over at the end, and I’ll pick out the toiletries for them.”
In another video, McCorkle shows her 11-year-old daughter, who is given a $115 hygiene budget, using a calculator to total up her purchases as she buys everything from shampoo to nails and hair accessories.
“We homeschool our kids on the go, and it’s very important that we teach our kids about finance as part of our homeschooling,” McCorkle explains alongside the footage. “As our children grow up, we want them to be confident about making good financial decisions. We want them to know that it’s important to meet your needs before your wants.”
Should children have to “budget” things they need?
The McCorkles’ sanitation budget idea sparked a heated debate online about how best to teach kids about money. Some people said they wouldn’t mind a grant for fun and frivolous purchases, but they dismiss the idea of setting spending limits on essential items like toothpaste, soap or period products.
“Parents should meet the basic needs of the child,” writes one person. “If she wants makeup, iTunes cards, keep pushing [nails], yes, she pays for it. But personal items?”
Others believe that parents are preparing their children for a future full of financial worries. “My dad did this to my brother and I, and we’re both extremely afraid to spend money on necessities even though we’re financially comfortable,” explains one person.
Not all had negative things to say about the parents’ strategy. Many people applauded the McCorkle’s for teaching their children a smart financial lesson and encouraging independence.
“Have you ever let your kids buy things for themselves? They love it,” one person wrote. “They are still becoming children as they prepare to be independent. This is fantastic!”
“I wish my parents would have done something like that,” adds another person. “It helps kids learn from a young age how to save money and get things they need first and want last. It’s smart!
The benefits of teaching children how to manage money
A hygiene budget may not be for everyone, but the science supports teaching financial literacy to kids. A 2022 study from Brigham Young University found that children who learn about money management from their parents may have more fulfilling relationships as young adults. Another Brookings Institution study shows that financial literacy in teens correlates with greater wealth accumulation and net worth by age 25.
Jessica McCorkle says her goal with her children isn’t to create stress or force them to give up things they need. Instead, they’re given a generous budget that they can use to learn about money and even have a little fun.
“It’s money that we would have spent on toiletries anyway, but it’s up to the kids how the money is spent,” she explains. “It gives them a better understanding of how much things cost and teaches them about money and budgeting.”