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SuperMouse's avatar

Would you take gas money in this situation? (details inside)

Asked by SuperMouse (30845points) July 20th, 2012

My kids took a job watering for a co-worker of mine while she and her husband were on vacation. They got the job because my co-worker knew I had kids and asked if they would be interested in earning some money – two of them wanted to do it. The house is about five miles from our house and I drove them back and forth every other day for two weeks in order for them to get the job done. They were both paid very generously for their work. Some have suggested I take gas money off the top of their payment for providing transportation. Others say that is a pretty “hard ass” attitude. If it matters they are both in middle school, so they aren’t little kids. Thoughts?

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28 Answers

jca's avatar

I wouldn’t. I guess I’m a “soft-ass” instead of a “hard-ass.”

SpatzieLover's avatar

They should at least take mom out to lunch, IMO.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think that the co-worker owes you gas money. She was giving an opporutnity to your kids.

I also do not really think you should take as money from your children.

I’d just write it off.

nikipedia's avatar

What would be the point?

gailcalled's avatar

If you were serious about this idea, you should have made an oral contract with the kids before you signed on as chauffeur. It’s unfair to make it an ex post facto condition.

Next time, would you allow them to ride their bikes?

A gallon of gas should have taken you 25 or so miles. That’s about
$3.60. Do the math with them and then drop the subject.

Cruiser's avatar

Teach them exactly what driving there and back cost them. Calculate the total miles, then your MPG of the car and the cost per gallon of gas and then the total out of pocket cost for their transportation. That will give them a sense of what a real world person has to contend with just to get to work and get a paycheck.

I doubt I would now hit them up for any cash as this should have been discussed prior to their getting the gig. But you could suggest that they take the actual amount of gas money and ear mark it for some specific expenditure or perhaps simply put it away in a bank account instead of just letting them blow it on summer fun to further illustrate the hidden costs of earning money.

janbb's avatar

Would you charge them for driving them to soccer? Flute lessons? School? The thought would never even cross my mind.

SuperMouse's avatar

@marinelife just to clarify, I was not even considering asking the co-worker for gas. I figured she was thoughtful offering the boys the chance to earn the money.

augustlan's avatar

No, I wouldn’t. My oldest has an internship this summer that is actually costing us money (transportation, food, parking, etc). We don’t expect repayment from her for those expenses.

SuperMouse's avatar

@janbb I see this as different from the things you mention because it is a job where they are actually earning money. I also see it as different from your experience @augustlan for the same reason.

@Cruiser I like your idea of showing them the real world numbers here.

@nikipedia the point to me would be to teach them about “real world” financial issues and considerations. That’s why I like @Cruiser‘s idea.

janbb's avatar

@SuperMouse I get what you are saying – but they are in middle school! I just never charged my kids for gas even if it was taking them to a job – I was glad they were working. Of course, there is no right or wrong here except that any agreement you made about it should have been done up front.

SuperMouse's avatar

While I haven’t planned from the beginning to take cash from them, I figured they could each chip in and buy me a latte! Also, I didn’t enter into any kind of contract with them about it, but we have been discussing the transportation costs from the beginning.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, as long as you are talking real world costs, you should also charge them for your time waiting for them to do the work.

Don’t be absurd! This is not a lesson that needs to be taught. They’re in middle school. When they get a job that family cannot provide transportation to, they will quickly come to understand that transportation is part of the cost of doing work. This is unnecessary. Be happy they had a job, even if it was your job as much as theirs.

SuperMouse's avatar

@wundayatta absurd? Judgmental much? Part of being a responsible parent is to teach kids to think ahead, hopefully learn some lessons, and help them avoid taking a job and not having transportation. I tend to think of the teen years as a time when kids can learn things in a controlled environment where the stakes are not as high as what comes with supporting a family.

creative1's avatar

I wouldn’t because I would look at it as my children are wanting to work and getting a good work ethic at an early age. Why squash that by taking money for gas.

5 miles to go back and forth isn’t far considering most kids can ride their bike that far. I know I used to ride my bike to pick beans at a local farm at least that far every morning when I was that age. Maybe if its a safe area I would just have them ride their bikes to do a job like that.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would only charge if there was an understanding in advance.

wundayatta's avatar

Sorry, @SuperMouse. Did sound judgmental. My first reaction was incredulity, though, that you would even think of this. If you want to talk about hidden costs to things, there will be many opportunities. To do it here kind of hurts the excitement and reward and challenge of the first job. It is quite inappropriate, in my opinion (is that better for a judgment that is couched in acceptable terms?) Focus on the job. Get the job done well.

There will be plenty of time for doing cost/benefit analysis in college. I think you’re missing the point, I guess. Penny wise, pound foolish. That sort of thing.

funkdaddy's avatar

How many of their friends have found work over the summer? How many adults don’t try as hard?

Tell them you’re proud of them. If you want to teach lessons, ask them how they’d expand on their current business and teach them the value of their time. Teach them to think big. It’s worth more than a latte.

In my humble opinion, the real world comes soon enough and if you’re going to charge them for gas you might as well make them file taxes and set up liability insurance as well. I’d rather see them proud of their work and excited to find more, whatever that takes.

Fly's avatar

To me, the more important thing to teach them at this age is a work ethic, not that even if you work your hardest and earn your pay, you won’t get the full reward. Later in high school when they are looking at getting real jobs and are in charge of transporting themselves to and from work is when the lessons of the real world of employment and money should be learned. Yes, these lessons should be learned in a controlled environment in that they are still under your roof and have your help so that the risks of screwing up out on their own are much smaller, but it doesn’t mean that the first time they experience something remotely related is the time to teach these lessons. Would you charge a five-year-old for the costs of supplies if they set up a lemonade stand?

I understand where you are coming from in wanting to teach them early on, but I think you’re getting ahead of yourself here; they can’t learn about employment and expenses until they are at a point where they could and are prepared to actually enter the real world because they have nothing to apply it to. Think of it this way: Imagine that your kids only know addition and subtraction but you want to prepare them for the dreaded and difficult-to-learn multiplication, so you teach them the “times tables.” So now your kids know all of the times tables and know what a pain it is to multiply, but they don’t actually know how to multiply, so the information is just useless and discouraging.

In my experience, knowing that “gas costs money and you’ll have to pay for it and drive yourself once you get a job” ultimately did me no good until I actually got a job. Though I was fully aware by around age 15 that there would be serious expenses, it didn’t really click with me until I got a job on my own and was totally unprepared for the amount of my paycheck that was going towards gas, food, etc. It was then that I needed my parents’ help and advice. It helped a little bit knowing beforehand that there would be expenses that I would be responsible for, but nothing that they could have said beforehand would have really prepared me for it.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Do they have any idea how expensive gas is, and what a pain in the ass it is to pay for it? If no then make them pay for gas, if yes then have them put 5 or 10% away for university or their first car or something. Unless they have something important they are already working on, in that case just let them spend it on that.

creative1's avatar

@SuperMouse When you were the age of your children did your parents try to teach you this lesson. I know that mine didn’t but they did encourage me to work and have a strong work ethic. I believe that you come to learn the expenses of things like gas and car insurance when you first get your license. I would however have them take and put half the money in the bank so they can learn how to save. Saving I feel is a harder more important lesson to learn. This way when they get old enough for that all important car they will have the cash to pay for it rather than need a loan. I feel everyone relys on credit too much these days, learning how to save to pay for things in full is a very important lesson to learn. My plan is when my girls to begin working is to have them take half of everything they make and put it in the bank. So that they are both saving for their future needs but it also leaves them with the all important pocket money.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I personally wouldn’t take money for taking my child to/from work, but I understand your reasoning behind it. My son already knows that you have to pay for gas to keep your car moving just from us talking about it. As he gets older and closer to driving, we’ll talk about it more. He can start paying for gas when he is the one putting it in the tank. I plan to do the same thing with our younger children as well.

SuperMouse's avatar

@creative1 one of the reasons I thought about this is that my parents taught me absolutely nothing about managing money. I had a paper route when I was around 10 and the money I earned was spent before it even made it to my wallet! It took me a long time as a grown up to learn to manage money responsibly and learn the true value of a dollar. With my own kids my husband and I have told them they have to have a certain amount in savings and can have some for themselves. We have also encouraged them to donate some of their earnings. I really want my kids to understand what things cost and learn how to manage their money wisely.

Ela's avatar

I believe it’s unfair to ask for gas payment when no prior arrangement was made. I think you would lose the value of the lesson if you did so. For me, I wouldn’t feel right giving them something, then turning around and taking part of it away. Which is essentially what you’d be doing. That may or may not be how they would also see it.

In a way, this is almost more a lesson for you (and me also. I wouldn’t have thought to ask for any sort of payment). Maybe next time be sure to make arrangements for compensation if you feel there needs to be some and be sure to explain the reasons to your children?

Buttonstc's avatar

The ways that parents choose (or not choose) to teach their children are as varied as snowflakes. But I certainly understand your motivation based upon. Your childhood experience (or rather the lack of it).

This would be a good impetus for you to think about the entire subject and begin to develop a consistent plan that works for your family.

Regarding this specific situation, I think it would leave a sour taste in their mouths for you to be requiring payment for gas and time retroactively no matter how small the amount. It’s the principle involved.

HOWEVER, I think that there is one really good lesson they could learn from this. I see no problem with sitting down with them, pen, paper and calculator and going through the costs realistically no matter how minor. Gas, normal per mile costs for wear on vehicle, time; essentially the real costs they would experience in the real world dealing with companies, bosses or perfect strangers providing services.

Once that’s all added up you could hint playfully about a latte or whatever. Not as a requirement but to get the basic point across that if someone (anyone) does you a solid which is costing them something (time, money, whatever) it’s a good idea not to just take it for granted. Nothing in life is totally free.

The basic lesdon for them is: “Acknowledge your gratitude to whoever is doing you a favor in SOME way. Offer them some type of appreciation, an offer of payment, a nice gift with a beautiful thank you card (even handmade) but SOMETHING VOLUNTARILY without them asking. Don’t take it for granted

If you go through life mooching off your friends, eventually you won’t have any.

No matter how glad someone is to do you a favor, Dont Be a Mooch. Show some appreciation no matter who it is or how small the favor. Don’t take things for granted.”

And then drop the subject. Let them make up their own minds. If you’ve done as good a job raising them, (as I sense you have) let them surprise you with their response.

Speaking generally, I’ve been very impressed by people with financial wisdom (such as Clarke Howard and others) who begin training their children about money from the first time they’re old enough to hold it in their hands and understand how it’s used.

One fairly common method discussed by family experts is the 3 jars. Even young children who get allowances and birthday present money from relatives understand it.

The first jar is long term savings. Real long term. 20–30 percent right off the top.

Second jar is giving to others. That’s 10%. The child picks a cause meaningful to them.

The third jar is a combo of short term saving for a goal of personal luxury (video game, expensive sneakers, electronic device, etc.) and misc. stuff. Candy, mags, whatever. The child makes their own decisions and also mistakes and learns from them.

This way money doesn’t flow in and out of their pockets like water. But the kids have some amount of autonomy and accountability.

Even a very young child can have a passbook savings acct. and watch their money grow.

And they can also watch that 10% jar grow to an amount to donate to a charity that they choose all on their own.

There are also lots of variations on the above and some develop whatever method suits them and the family value system.

I liked the simplicity of the three jars the first time I heard it because even a young child can understand it and begin to make decisions about money from the get go.

The parents who do this treat these lessons as naturally as they do safety, good study habits, morals and values and whatever else they teach their children about. It just becomes part of the overall picture.

Anyhow, each family figures these things out according tonwhat they feel is best for them and their kids.

Buttonstc's avatar

Obviously you can do this without a website. Most people use actual physical jars rather than numbers on a website

But the operative principles are the same and there’s lots of good info here which you can adapt to suit you.

They explain it much better than my rudimentary efforts :)


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OpryLeigh's avatar

I probably wouldn’t take gas money from my kids (you know, the hypothetical ones) in this situation. The fact that they are willing to work for some pocket money would be enough for me at that age, they aren’t just expecting hand outs.

Zaku's avatar

I think you’re selling your well-behaving children short on what you think you have to teach them, and also risking teaching them negative lessons and undermining their respect and affection for you.

What I would learn from a parent doing that to me would tend to be “even my parents can be jerks about money”, and it would tend to spoil my enthusiasm for doing such work.

As others have pointed out, if you didn’t make them agree to it up front, it’d also be a lesson in unfair after-the-fact petty money grabs by insensitive jerks in power, and modelling that. Maybe when you’re elderly and they’re taking care of you, they’ll want to charge you fees.

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