Money, that’s what I want!

I find the Money song echoes in my head lately.

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
Money don’t get everything it’s true
But what it don’t get I can’t use
I want money
That’s what I want
I want money
I want lots of money
In fact I want so much money
Give me your money
Just give me money

The song isn’t in my head because it is the Holiday Season and many people are spending money on gifts; it is playing in my head, because this continues to be a challenge in our house – the maiden and money management. I know I have written about it before, The Maiden and Managing Money, but a year later and I don’t feel we are any further ahead. I know people without FASD struggle with managing money, but thought I would share the latest experiment we tried in seeking solutions on how best to let the maiden manage her money.

First, let me say how thankful I am that the maiden is not spending her money on alcohol or illegal drugs.  However, a large portion of her money is spent on lottery tickets – which in itself is an addiction issue. That is a post for another time.

The Crone and I have tried different approaches to help the maiden understand money over the years. We tried tracking charts, mason jars, and stickers. In school she has studied budgeting, money management and other money related courses. Nothing so far has stuck. She gets money, she spends money. She has stolen money.  Perseverance, impulsivity, not understanding abstract concepts or consequences of actions all come in to play. The first item she stole money for was a Littlest Pet Shop toy, then it was for Pokemon cards, now it’s for lottery scratch tickets or iTunes cards for an on-line horse game. I think money can also become an addiction. A certain “high” can come from purchasing and acquiring. We have spoken to her psychiatrist about the lottery tickets (gambling) but currently there are no programs to help her manage this compulsion. I think the management will come from the people who surround her.

As I wrote in the post last year, when the maiden turned 18, she began receiving money through the Ontario Disability Support Program. When she moved into an apartment with her grandmother (the Crone) so she could attend College, she began sharing living costs. She has been good with allowing me to immediately e-transfer the Crone enough to cover the bills, and up until last month, she was okay with being given $50 a week to spend on whatever she chose.

On the day she receives her $50, it is usually gone within 30 minutes – a trip to the variety store for scratch tickets or iTunes card. No money the rest of the week to buy lunch at College or go out with classmates.  If she does go out with the Crone or myself, she constantly asks to borrow money to buy a drink, or food (because she is always starving or thirsty), or asks for a scratch ticket. Before the next Friday arrives, she begins to ask for her next allotment. Anyone who has gone through this knows how taxing it can be to have someone constantly, day after day, week after week, year after year, ask for money. It never lets up.

I asked for advice on a forum I belong to for parents, caregivers and people with FASD. I wondered if I was being “mean” holding the money and only giving it out once a week, or if there were other suggestions on how to help the Maiden understand money. Most caregivers that answered said they too were looking for ideas.  One person with FASD told me to lower my expectations and stop expecting so much from my daughter. I thought holding the money each week was lowering the expectation that she could manage money.

I’m an adult now

Last month, she started with “I’m an adult, I should be able to have my money whenever I want. I shouldn’t have to ask for it.” She is correct. No one wants to have to ask for money that belongs to them. We know however, if we give it all to her, then it would be gone that day and there would be nothing left for the rest of the month. And while she would have to live with that as a natural consequence, it also means a month of her asking, pleading, begging and possibly stealing to get more money. Echoes of the “too high expectations” played in my head.

We decided we would let her have the entire $200. Didn’t know if it was the correct thing to do, but it was her money and who are we to determine what she does with it. As long as her responsibilities are covered, she deserved a chance to have it all at once. We reminded her she would not get any loans from either of us, if she chose to spend it all at once. We braced ourselves.

Sure enough, even before the money was deposited into her account, she had arranged to buy Pokemon cards from a woman for $120. We suggested she (or her grandmother) set aside $20 a week from the leftover, so she had spending money each of the remaining weeks.  Friday came, she bought the cards. Then took the rest of the money and walked to the variety store and bought scratch tickets, iTunes cards, eggnog, chips and pop. It was all gone within an hour of receiving it.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, if she would have kept the cards ….. Saturday came, and she posted the Pokemon cards for sale. She sold the ones she had just bought (for $120) to a man for $80. We could not convince her she was “losing” $40.  All she could see was “gaining” $80. She walked back to the variety store and purchased more scratch tickets and more iTunes cards and more snacks. She was broke again.

No money? No problem!

There was a sale the next week at College. She had no money, but she managed to convince a classmate how much she really loved Wonder Woman and wished she could purchase a poster. The classmate offered to buy her the poster (for $9). Not only did she buy her the poster, she bought her a frame for it – costing this student $40! And on top of that, bought her lunch.

When we found out, we told her that while it was very generous of this friend to buy the poster, she should not have allowed her to buy the frame. The maiden assured us she told the friend she didn’t have to, but the friend insisted. I suggested when she gets her money in January she should pay the friend back for the frame.

Last week she did some Christmas shopping for her birth family – who live out-of-town. I asked how she was going to get the gifts to them. She said she would mail them. I said: With what? She had no money left. She said she would deliver them. I aked, how? She had no money left for a train ticket. I told her there was some money left in her account, that she could use to mail or purchase a train ticket, but when she found out it was going to be $80 she decided she did not want to spend that much on postage or a ticket.

This weekend, we were finishing up some Christmas shopping, and she asked about the $80 she had in her account. I told her that money was in case of an emergency (like winter boots) or for something special (like visiting her birth family or going out with friends unexpectedly). That night she told me she owed money to a girl on her on-line horse game.  If she didn’t send her the money the girl was going to report her.

I told her she had no money. She said “I do so, in my bank. You told me I had $80.” I said, “That is for an emergency.” She said, “This is an emergency. To me it’s an emergency. And it’s my money.”  She is correct. It is her money. So, I transferred some of the money so she could resolve the issue. I don’t really know if it happened months ago, as she claims, or it happened because she found out she had some money – and this was a way to get access to it.

A New Year. A New Way?

The end of the month is approaching, and the cycle begins again. Despite my best efforts to find help with managing money, there really doesn’t seem to be anything different from what we are doing: ensure her bills and obligations are looked after, make sure she has an amount set aside for larger purchases (like winter boots) and just give her the rest and let her spend it as she sees fit. And remain stead fast that we not provide “loans” to carry her over once the money has been spent.

On a positive note, she isn’t always spending her money on herself. Quite often she will buy items for other people.  If she sees something she knows other people will like she will buy it. I suspect that is just like her friend from College who bought her the poster and the frame. This has caused issues in the past though, as she freely buys things for others, as much as she accepts purchases from others.

If you are looking for some advice on money management, I found this information on the website for Lutherwood.

Teaching  Children with FASD About Money

  • Children and teens with FASD have trouble with abstract concepts such as money. Although you can touch money and hold it in your hand, the value of money and the worth of items are abstract ideas.
  • Because children with FASD have difficulty grasping the abstract thinking skills related to understanding money, their ability to manage money can be very poor. Forgetting to pay bills is common for adults with FASD.
  • Individuals with FASD ‘live in the moment’ – they do not always think about their past mistakes or future consequences of their actions.
  • Individuals with FASD often do not understand that a certain amount of money must last a certain amount of time. Thus, they will make impulsive purchases without considering future expenses.

Strategies

  • Use a budget book: Help your child keep track of his expenses, when he owes money, and when and what he spends his money on. Plan for monthly bills to help him understand time and money concepts.
  • Teach value: Use real money at home to equate sums of money with the value of clothing, groceries, etc.
  • Teach handling money in real places: Have your child budget for weekly groceries, and help her practice selecting the items at the grocery store, calculating the total, and purchasing the items.
  • Caution about lending money and selling belongings: Make a rule that your child needs to ask a parent before these activities to avoid losing money and/or possessions to those who may take advantage of her.
  • Set an allowance for your child that is broken up into smaller payments.
  •  Help your child spend wisely by planning out exactly where the money should go, writing it down, and supervising your child’s purchases.
  • Praise good spending decisions.

For a printable tip sheet of this information, click here.

To be honest, I think we have tried all of the above strategies. Some worked for a while, but so far, none of it has remained with the maiden.

Happiness is: lowering expectations

What we have done:

  • We lowered expectations: we stopped trying to “convince” her she “should do this”.
  • We struck a balance: we make sure her responsibilities are covered and allow her to decide how she spends the rest of her money.
  • What we will continue: stay close for support, advice and guidance as needed.

Despite this ongoing challenge, it is the season of giving. I give thanks that I have a wonderful, thoughtful, and creative daughter. She brings me joy and is a sweet and kind person. And in the larger scheme of life, this challenge is being managed, and could be considered minor given some of the other struggles we have faced.

I share it because sometimes we can get stuck on our expectations. The Crone saw a sign last week that she said really struck home for her. It said, Happiness Is: Lowering Your Expectations. Sometimes there is no solution. Sometimes the solution is removing or lowering expectations, and managing the best we can. I think I will make the Crone a sign for Christmas to keep as a reminder of what happiness is.

Feel free to share your experiences or wisdom in the comments below.


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