Parenting Blog

Quick Thoughts: Giving Kids An Allowance

We did it. We finally did it.

And not because anyone asked either.

It felt like the right time to us. That’s why, effectively immediately, the Bear will be getting $3 per week, the Mouse $1. It is important to note that neither child must earn the money, not exactly anyway.  They can, however, earn the right to have their allowance withheld if certain basic weekly conditions are not met, for I rule with an iron fist and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  😉

The Mrs. made each girl a snazzy, customized expected behavior chart and hung them in the kitchen, in plain sight of their cereal bowls and Trader Joe’s breakfast bar wrappers. These are not chores to us as much as they are items and activities that two growing, responsible children are expected to be doing each and every day.  We’re talking about simple tasks like putting away into the appropriate drawers their clean & folded laundry, doing homework straightaway upon coming home from school, and straightening up their beds; we’re not even asking the Bear and Mouse to make them properly – no hotel corners required!  This is how impossibly hip and modern we are.

Also on the lists are clearing plates after meals and snacks, rinsing said plates and cups, then putting them properly into the dishwasher.  Also, brushing their damn hair.  If the girls fail that assignment the cash won’t be the only thing they’ll be missing.  I’m going to chop off their locks too.  We’re instituting a zero tolerance policy for back-of-head rat nests.  Starting now.  Because ya gotta take a stand somewhere in life.

It is important to me that allowance not be directly connected to chores.  Kids should put toys away when they are done playing.  Financial stimulus needn’t be, um, needed for this kind of thing to be accomplished.  So my girls will get their duckets every week to do with what they will, be that saved for turning into Euros ahead of our Spring Break vacation overseas or for buying a milkshake here in the States.

All they have to do is not regress as human beings.  That’s not too much to ask, right?

How do you handle allowances?  Sharing is caring.  Let me hear what works and what doesn’t in your home.

Tags: , , ,


  1. Agree 100%. At our house, allowance is not tied to chores. Chores are just something we all have to do to keep the house running. Allowance is a way for the kids to learn about how to handle money. We do have 4 jars for each kid – spend, save, give, and invest. It’s not an even split, of course, but we found a percentage of each week’s allowance that works for us. Now our oldest has a debit card, and her weekly funds are automatically deposited into different accounts for each purpose. And we don’t have to have cash on hand to give to her, or for her to lose. She knows she is under no circumstances allowed to purchase anything online without our permission.

    Elder Child, thus far, has always chosen to save up for big purchases (a video camera, her Nook, her DS). Occasionally we will split the cost with her if she’s saved up at least half and an occasion is coming up. The Boy doesn’t really get a formal allowance yet, but it’s getting close to time. He does like to save up his birthday and xmas money, mostly for the purpose of getting it out, counting it, and feeling it, it seems. He says he’s saving up for a car that goes really, really fast when he’s old enough to drive. I am doomed.

  2. Bill Hooper says:

    Agree with your model; the strife of cleaning up after a whole family is greatly alleviated when the kids are motivated to be actively involved.

    Breaking the financial ties to the chore, however, can be difficult when the chores *aren’t* getting done and begrudging and whining ensue when we take away Computer/TV privileges–we often give a second chance for our kids to complete the chore, and if they continue to grumble, we will give their rationed allowance to whichever child will voluntarily complete their job for them.

    Computer/TV time is its own allowance system, but is closely related to chores. 30 minutes a day, 90 minute maximum, deducted or supplemented by their general cooperation with the rule of law.

  3. Let me start by saying that my daughters are now both in their late 30s, and that I now have grandchildren, but we struggled with the question of allowances then just as you are now.

    Our girls’ allowances were not dependent on their chores. I always said that everyone that lived in our house should help to take care of the house. Period. If chores were not done then other consequences were enacted, such as losing phone privileges or TV time, depending on what was important to that particular child. But they always got their spending money. Also I NEVER paid them EXTRA for doing EXTRA chores. We all have to do extra chores sometimes. When things need to get done around the house, they just need to get done…

    They got paid monthly because my husband was paid monthly. When he got a raise, they got a corresponding raise. They learned quickly that raises don’t always amount to a whole lot.

    When I was a kid, my grandmother (who lived in another state) sent me $5 for every gift-giving occasion — Christmas, birthdays, etc. My parents MADE me put it all directly in the bank. As a young child, I did not understand the value of money, so my grandmother’s gifts meant NOTHING to me. So when my kids were growing up, I wanted them to learn to save money, but I also wanted them to APPRECIATE the gifts of money that some people would choose to give them. I came up with the idea of having them put half of every monetary gift in the bank. The other half could be spent on whatever they wanted to spend it on, OR it could be put in the bank too if they chose to do so. (Neither one ever chose to do so!) These rules had to be tweaked when our younger daughter spent over $10 on penny candy after one birthday (yes they still had penny candy then!)– I think we added an “amendment” limiting the amount of candy purchases. The bank accounts were supposed to be for some large future purchase such as a bike or a (gulp) car.

    The wonderful news is that both girls, as adults, have come to me and thanked me for teaching them how to handle their money — how to budget, how to save, how to plan expenditures, etc. They tell me that none of their friends know how to do any of those things. As a parent, I love to hear that I DID do some things right.

  4. I think allowance can be a great tool for teaching money management skills to your kids. They need to practice saving, spending (thoughtfully), sharing and investing so that when they grow up & leave home, they are ready for the world of credit cards and student loans. There are many online resources that can help organize and teach money management to kids. Full disclosure — I am a bit partial to My husband and I developed the MoneyTrail system to help with the financial transactions between us and our four kids. It is a free resource for families. Kids & teens learn to keep track of their allowance, cash, IOUs and gift cards. I would love for you to check it out.

  5. I’ve been giving consideration to this topic. By kids are 9 and 7 and I’m not convinced they understand the concept of money at this age. While they think they do, they’ll also go to the dollar store and blow a buck on the cheapest toy they can find, all because it’s cheap and looks fun.

    My gut is telling me to hold off a while longer, they have chores they must do now and their payment is a roof over their head, meals, etc. They don’t get that and I’m fine with it.

    I think that when my son (7) gets to be 9 I’ll move forward with an allowance but that will be dependent on how they progress with understanding dollars and cents.

  6. What is wrong with allowance being directly connected to chores? Isn’t that real life? Aren’t we supposed to prepare our kids for the real world? If you’re a free-lancer and you don’t turn in an assignment, do you get paid just ’cause they love you?

  7. I dunno Bruce, my editors REALLY love me. Hah. Seriously though, I discourage the idea of chores-for-pay because I’m not getting paid to do the laundry. My wife doesn’t get a few dollars for making the bed. These are living condition tasks that must be shared. Your example is one of doing work for another entity not your own. My plan is actually preparing them for real life; to take care of themselves and their property out of respect for both, not because there is going to be a fiscal reward for it. Because when they own their own place someday no one is giving them cash for brushing their teeth or putting away toys.