Gone are the days when bus fare was the only amount of cash carefully pressed into a child’s hand at the start of the day. Most children today get allowances from their parents at the start of each month; the amount can range from a low of Rs70 to an average of Rs1,000 per month, and skyrocket to a truly indulgent no-limits allowance.

According to a survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), Current Pocket Money Trends in Urban India, released earlier this month, schoolchildren and college students who were getting an average of Rs500 as monthly allowance till 2005 now get approximately Rs3,600. Over 3,000 teenagers and young adults from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Chennai and Kolkata were surveyed.

Pocket money seems to begin as soon as children are able to count and start wanting things they can buy without necessarily taking the permission of parents. Children in the age group of 7-10 get an average of Rs100 per week as pocket money, which they normally spend on eatables such as chocolates and chips. For older children, around 35% of the pocket money is spent on gadgets such as digital cameras, iPods, MP3 players, game consoles and cellphones. Movies, malls, food and eating out took up a sizeable chunk of allowances.

Interestingly, children in the north get a much higher allowance than children in the south, with children from Chennai at the bottom of the heap in the survey. The Chennai parent, it seems, is most insistent on inculcating financial discipline.

We spoke to children inthe 12-14 age group about their allowances.

Ahona Dutt, 13 Class VII, Delhi

Allowance:Rs70 a month. Her allowance increases by Rs10 every year.

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Main expense: Ahona mainly spends her pocket money on the cakes and besan ke laddoo sold in her school premises, or ice cream at the Mother Dairy outlet. “I really don’t go out for a movie or a burger or pizzas with my friends, and if it is my birthday, my mother gives me the money to treat my friends," she says. “I keep telling my mother to increase my allowance to at least Rs100, but she is determined that it stay at Rs70."

Parental guidance: According to mother Ajanta Dutt, pocket money as a concept came down from Enid Blyton books, where the children were actually dependent on pocket money they received for everything they needed. “I want her to be aware that this is not money she has earned but cash she is getting, and realize its value, the effort that goes behind earning it," says Ajanta. “We take care of her daily expenses, and she doesn’t really need any additional money."

Hriday Akashdeep, 12, Class VII, Mumbai

Allowance:Rs500 a month. As this is never enough, Hriday takes extra cash as and when he needs it from his parents.

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Main expense: He spends money on edibles such as chocolates, chips and juices, or the occasional toy. “Whatever I buy with my pocket money, I show my parents before buying it because it is better to get their approval rather than have them not approve of it after I’ve bought it," says Hriday.

Parental guidance:Mother Sheeba Akashdeep says, “Initially, I gave both my sons wallets with cash to buy what they wanted and to learn to plan out their purchases. But that didn’t really work. Now, they tell me when they want a specific CD, game, book or a toy or whatever, and I have to get it. I am their pocket money."

Akarsh Sharma, 12, Class VII, Mumbai

Allowance:Rs100-500 a month, depending upon his behaviour and the hours put in studying.

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Main expense: Akarsh spends the money on gifts such as perfumes and books for his parents and toys or books for his younger brother on birthdays, or saves up pocket money for a few months to buy himself a game CD. “My parents don’t let me spend it when we go out. They buy me whatever I want, so often I end up saving my pocket money to buy something for them or my brother."

Parental guidance: Manju Sharma, Akarsh’s mother, says he is financially disciplined for a child. “He rarely wants something, and is careful about money."

Rhea Sastry, 14, Class IX, Bangalore

Allowance:It used to be Rs500 a month, but has been stopped recently.

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Main expense: “My mom’s deal was that I save half of my pocket money, but that was something I didn’t end up doing, so she has stopped it," says Rhea. Now, Rhea takes money as and when she requires something. “If I’m going for lunch with my friends, I ask my mom for money, and she might give me Rs500-1,000, depending on where we are going and how long I plan to stay out, so I actually prefer it this way."

Parental guidance: Meena Sastry, her mother, says, “I thought having a fixed amount of pocket money would make her more responsible about money, but that didn’t happen, so now she gets no pocket money."

Riddhi Bisani, 13, Class VIII, Chennai

Allowance: Riddhi lives in a joint family and her uncle is responsible for handling the children’s allowances in the family. She used to get Rs20 per week as “emergency" money but recently, her uncle decided to give her Rs200 per month.

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Main expense: She spends the money when she goes out with friends. “The other day we decided to treat ourselves at a bakery near school, and I spent Rs30. Another day, we just hung around eating pani puri from a roadside stall. That cost me only Rs10." Riddhi also uses her allowance to buy birthday gifts for her friends. “We always pool money for a gift. After I got my allowance, I put in Rs50 for a friend’s gift." She likes to buy trinkets, such as hair clips, with her allowance and hopes she will soon be able to get nail polish of all shades too. “Anything else I need, like clothes or paying for my dance lessons, will come from my parents"

Parental guidance: Manoj Bisani, Riddhi’s uncle, says: “It’s better to give children money at the beginning of the month than have them ask you for money on a daily basis. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable for the child as well as us. I’ve also told Riddhi that she’ll get her next allowance only after she has finished spending the first one. An allowance is not meant for saving, but spending."

Tamanna Kapila , 14, Class VIII, Mumbai

Allowance: Rs2,000 a month.

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Main expense: Tamanna uses this money to eat in the school canteen once or twice a week. She is a voracious reader, so she buys books ranging from classics such as Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, to young adult fiction from authors such as Stephenie Meyer or Lauren Weisberger. She also spends on CDs with music by Justin Bieber, Akon and Bollywood dance numbers. “I budget for what I want to spend my allowance on at the start of the month itself. If I decide to buy books, then I won’t buy myself the CD that month." Her priorities in terms of spending her pocket money are books, CDs and games. For outings or movies with friends, she gets money over and above her pocket money.

Parental guidance: “She is a sensible child," says Chavi Kapila, her mother. “Often, she brings back the money left over from such outings and returns it to us."

“We are always around when she spends her money, and sometimes, if we feel something is not worth it, we do tell her frankly. But we leave the decision to buy or not to her. She also uses her allowance to buy gifts for her friends on their birthdays."

Niranjana Ramesh contributed to this story.

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