Kids and Allowances

Growing up, I did not receive an allowance. I’m not sure any of my friends did either; it’s not something we talked about. Everything I knew about having an allowance I learned on TV: 

  • your parents give it to you, 
  • sometimes it’s connected to chores, 
  • it can be taken away 
  •  once you run out of money that’s it.  

Once my children were old enough to understand the concept of money, we decided to begin paying them an allowance. As I had no first-hand knowledge of what an allowance looked like, I went to the source of all knowledge: the internet. There has been a lot of articles written about how-to kids allowances. We have tried many different methods of “paying” our kids over the years. Here’s what we have found:

The Give, Save, Spend method:

One of the methods of paying allowance we found was the Give Save Spend method. The idea is the kids get their allowances and then it’s divided into thirds. Let’s say they receive 3 dollars allowance: 1 dollar goes to giving (in our case the church collection plate); 1 dollar goes into the bank; 1 dollar is theirs to do with what they want.  

We tried this method for a while. It worked pretty well for our family. There was a lot of keeping track of money by me – I was also put in charge of carrying everyone’s giving to the church, which usually led to a lot of loud whispering as the collection plate started down our row. I also made a monthly trip to put money in the kids saving accounts. That was tedious, but I wanted the kids to be a part of putting the money away.  

We stopped using this method as it became clear the joy of both saving and giving was lost on the kids, as they were just handed 3 dollars and had to give 2 back. It began feeling more discouraging than a lesson in money so we went another way.  

Paying for Chores:

We’ve tried many different methods to allowance for chores. Generally, I found no way that this works for our family. Our kids belong in two camps for paying for chores:

  • Some are highly motivated by cash in hand and will do chore after chore to score some dough.
  • Some do not care if I am offering gold bars for folding laundry, they are not going to do it.

Overtime what it came down to was if they weren’t getting paid what was the point for them to do it? There was a regular refrain of “how much is unloading the dishwasher worth?” or “how much will you pay me to pick up the dog poop in the yard?” If I responded with nothing, that’s probably what they would do, unless I followed them around or threatened to take away their current allowance.  

This was a disaster – I was constantly fighting with people about doing chores and having to keep track of who was getting paid and whose allowance I had just taken away. So we went simple with our third, and the current attempt to pay allowance.

The Here’s Your Money Method:

The allowance method we have settled on is to give them some cold, hard cash, very few strings attached. Each month, everyone is given cash to match their age. Our 11-year-old gets 11 dollars, our 10-year-old 10 dollars, and the 8-year-olds 8 dollars. Each child needs to show me they know where their wallet is to receive their money; the money goes into the wallet. That’s it. It is not connected to chores and I don’t tell them what to do with their money.

And it works. When we go into a store, the kids have learned to bring their wallets along (mom doesn’t make loans anymore.) If they want to buy Pokemon cards or slime, it’s their money. They can’t buy candy or soda, but gum is ok. It’s interesting to see how different the kids are – some of our kids save their money and will drop 20 dollars at once; others, when they get 5 dollars they hit the pokemon cards and buy a new pack.  

The kids are also expected to tithe from their allowance, but it’s up to them to remember to do it. Now, when the collection plate comes by there are all these kids fishing out their wallets from the pockets and purses instead of asking me if I have their money.  

I think our kids are at the right age for this third method to work for them. They are old enough to count money and responsible enough to not lose their wallets. It is the right allowance format for this season of life, but might not always be.  

Do you give your kids an allowance? What works for your family?

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