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Allowances

Should kids get them?

If you give your kids an allowance—how much?

Do you have conditions, such as completion of household chores tied to earning their allowance? Do you use the allowance as a way to teach kids how to manage money?

For the past few years, I have given my kids a small allowance equal to half their grade level (example: my eighth grader gets $4/week). This year, I gave my son a raise to $10/week. My kids have chores they are expected to do, but I don’t tie them to their allowance.

I have a standing chore they can do to earn extra money—washing my car—but those of you who see me driving around town know that my kids don’t think it’s worth their time to do as frequently as I would like. I also come up with extra projects they can earn money for doing from time to time.

I wish I could teach my kids more about money management. I’ve read those articles about having a separate jar for savings—gifts, charity, discretionary (or some variation on that)—but  we’ve never had the discipline to do that.

Often they will remind me that I have not given them an allowance in a few weeks, and I find myself paying them monthly versus weekly. We still pay for many things for them—birthday party gifts, movie tickets, school lunches.

Sadly, it seems like allowance has come to be used to buy the things I say, “No!” to.  My daughter will use her allowance on what I consider frivolous things such as overnight shipping charges (for that mail-ordered shirt that she feels she MUST get in time to wear next week) or over-priced snacks at the airport gift shop.

I watched some of Susie Orman’s Money Class on KQED and learned I’m doing it all wrong, according to her:

  • Strike the word Allowance—call it Work pay or Salary. 
  • Do not tie work pay to age—tie it to the work they do. Don’t allow them to feel entitled to the pay.
  • Make a set of chores they are expected to do (with their input and agreement) as their household contribution to repay you for providing food and shelter.
  • Make a list of additional chores they can do to earn money. These chores should have dollar amounts tied to them, but can only be earned after completing the set chores.
  • Set a regular day/time for paying with consistency. Longer periods of time between payment as the kids get older, to teach them to budget and manage their money to last to the next pay day.

I’m thinking of revamping my “Work Pay” program accordingly. Whether my car will get washed more often remains to be seen!

Parents—please describe your allowance/work pay systems, and share your successes/challenges/lessons learned.

And if you do not give your kids an allowance/work pay—why not?

Susanne Millar June 09, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Hi Alysa, I loved this article and my situation is very much similar to yours and like you, I've been looking for a change. I'll go read more about Suzie's points. One thing I do like about my kids having their own allowance is exactly that they do buy cheap or frivolous things with that money, often ignoring my advice. Guess what? They learn a great lesson. You get what you pay for. When you buy a cheap doll from the dollar store, they often break...in the next hour! I really like that they are learning these lessons at a very small price point before they make those mistakes on bigger items. They'll be more discerning the next time around. However, I have also wanted to tie the chores more to the pay since they can often have a poor attitude when they are asked to tidy up the house. I make them do it anyhow, but if they were fiscally motivated...I might have to enforce less. Great article, Susanne Millar
Alysa Sakkas June 11, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Susanne- GREAT point that kids can learn about money management and consumer values through having regrets! Thanks for pointing that out! ...and making me feel better about having to watch my kids "wasting money" :) You are so right that it's better they do so with small amount now versus larger amounts later.
Alysa Sakkas June 21, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Off line, one of my teacher-friends pointed me to this site that she uses: http://firstkidbank.com It is a virtual banking system. Here's how they describe their solution: "A virtual bank that always knows your child's current balance and what chores they've completed. Make deposits & withdraws and track chore progress from your computer or mobile phone. Your child develops the financial smarts that come from managing their own money -- without the problems of cash. When your child’s ready, add: •savings accounts with interest •charity accounts •borrowing and finance charges" My friend puts in many of the other budget items that most kids (like mine) take for granted, including how much of thier work pay goes towards paying for their cell-phone plan and clothing. Each person in the family also contributes towards things like paying for their pets' visits to the vet. I may try this out!

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