An Experiment with Pocket Money in the PYM Young Friends Program

Young Friends

It’s a scene at many a Young Friends gathering: groups of high-schoolers streaming down the streets of a small city that we are visiting for the weekend with a handful of Friendly Adult Presences keeping pace. Some bee-line it for the coffee shop, others peruse the second-hand clothes store or shops of trinkets of local interest, or find the ice cream store which also sells candy and load up with enough for everyone to have a few intermittent sweet treats for the rest of the gathering. This is a dearly beloved free-time ritual in the Young Friends community, and I find that it brings people together to go out into the world and interact with it while being in the context of the Young Friends community.

However, there is a conundrum that I’ve been puzzling about, for which I’m glad to have come to a solution! Some Young Friends have more access to pocket money than others. In Young Friends we work hard to create conditions that mitigate the many oppressions our young people face in the outside world. At the next gathering we have an experiment to try to address this inequality: Everyone will receive 5 dollars before free time. The 5 dollars and no more than the 5 dollars can be spent on whatever a Young Friend might like to acquire (following the Young Friends guidelines) on a walk downtown. Often some Young Friends are less enthusiastic about going on such an outing and those Friends will simply receive the 5 dollars to do with what they will.

In my mind this system has many benefits. All Young Friends will have access to the joy of buying small delights in a downtown outing (as well as the joys of budgeting), should they desire it; no Young Friend will be able to buy enough that they ruin their appetite for the healthy and delicious dinner that shortly follows free time (a difficulty that arises all too often); and finally, while in the Young Friends community, participants will have (more) equal access to resources, regardless of access in the outside world. This is an experiment, to be implemented at the next gathering (taking place in Haddonfield, NJ, which has a lovely downtown!). I look forward to seeing and hearing about the impact. To give feedback email hmayer@pym.org.