"After reading your column on clothes and a teen-ager, I feel compelled to write: A clothing allowance can work.
"It worked with our son from the time he was 13 because he wanted it to work. He liked doing his own shopping and to handle the money. We went through the items he would need in a year and figured the cost. He received a certain amount every two weeks, plus $50 in the spring and fall to help with the heavier purchases, such as coats.
"He did quite well with it, making some mistakes, but learning to comparison-shop. It made him especially happy when he was old enough to drive to the stores himself, even though we had made it a point to stay out of the way and give advice only when he asked for it.
"Now he's in college and we give him a fixed amount each semester, which he budgets and handles well. He is expected to earn money to cover his extra expenses, such as dating.
"I feel the clothing allowance was a good training device and contributed to his independence.
"My sister and I got clothing allowances, starting between 11 and 13. We received $15.45 a month (3 per cent sales tax, my idea) for everything but coats and shoes. It worked beautifully, but then, neither we nor our father ever questioned that it would. Also we were experienced money managers by then because we had had a weekly allowances since we were 5 and 6.
"We learned how to handle money then by being placed on an annual budget which each of us negotiated in private with our father each Sept. 1, the start of our fiscal year.
"My father made a list of budget items: school supplies (new crayons every other year); Sunday School; savings bonds; birthday gifts (how many birthday parties do you anticipate attending this year?). Our father also prepared a payment sheet each year showing the allowance dates and our names and we initialed the right box each time we received an allowance."
"Your response about the clothing allowances was far off the mark.
"I was placed a strict clothing allowance nearly 20 years ago and bless my parents for it. It worked for me and both my sisters. We were able to handle budgets when we got our own apartments, while our friends were still borrowing from home.
"I do agree that you keep a ledger on the budget, similar to a checkbook, with credit entered at the start of the month, including any left from the month before, with purchases subtracted as they occur. Major purchases are saved for or done without. If last year's winter coat has sleeves that are too short, you can grit your teeth and insist she wear it with a long-sleeved sweater or give her an advance with no other purchases permitted until the coat is paid for.
"A teen-ager shops the sales and the discount stores, and quits the impulse buying, because she has to stick to a budget, not because she is told. Parents do make certain rules -- no see-through blouses or topless swimsuits, for instance -- but advice is given only when requested.
"The whole thing works, but only if it is adhered to strictly.
"My own daughter is just a year old, but when she's ready to go to high school, she will get a clothing allowance. I don't think I could find a higher recommendation than that."
A. As these mothers attest, the clothing allowance -- so far beyond out scope -- can be quite successful. Perhaps it's a matter of knowing who you are.
These parents seem to be organized, regulated, temperate people who carry through with every rule they set, every time, and that's going to make a clothing allowance much easier to administer than it would be for those of us who live by the muddle-through method of parenthood.
There are two aspects that still bother us, however. One is the money and where it comes from. By 14, a child should begin to earn enough to pay for some of his own clothes. While he does learn to budget on a well-run allowance, he learns a lot quicker if he has to earn it.
The second uneasiness comes from the emphasis on clothes. Teen-agers think about them so much that an elaborate system of payments and credits may mulitply their concern and encourage superficiality.