Why We Give Our Kids an Allowance

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We give our children a set amount of money each month. They don’t have to “earn” it. It’s an allowance without strings.

legos and money

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I’m not sure exactly when we started, but after years of hemming and hawing, we began the practice of a weekly allowance. At the start of each month our kids get a set amount a money, one dollar for each year of age.

Amounts of $6, $8, $10, $12, $14, and $17  (totaling $67) leave my wallet and enter theirs. There are no requirements of what they do with their money, though we certainly talk about it. And we retain ultimate veto power on extreme purchases.

We give our kids an allowance so that they can learn about money.

An allowance serves as a teaching tool at our house. We give the kids a small amount of money to do with as they please. If they make mistakes, they make mistakes. We help them learn from them. If they make wise purchases or savings, we encourage their accomplishments.

While there are lots of arguments about chores for pay and chores not for pay and allowances linked to household participation, we have chosen to separate these skills.

Our kids have chores that they do, no questions asked.

Our kids are responsible to do their laundry, to manage a 3 times/day kitchen task, to tidy the living areas, to share cleaning of a bathroom and to maintain their rooms.

There really isn’t an option to do or not to do chores at our house. So far — knocks on wood — no one has bucked the system. Our kids know that there will be no play until they’ve fulfilled their responsibilities.

Sometimes they do extra work without any compensation other than our thanks. This past weekend FishBoy14 helped my husband rotate the tires on my car while FishBoy12 learned how to use the electric drill. We didn’t pay them, but they helped my husband who’s injured as well as learned valuable skills.

Kids Can Clean the Bathrooms

Our kids can choose some chores for pay.

Occasionally I have jobs that need to be done that don’t already fall under someone’s responsibility or they are too gross not to offer some compensation. Things like cleaning and vacuuming the car fall into this category where I pay a small amount of money in exchange for someone’s go-getter-ism.

If no one volunteers, I have been known to assign the job without pay. Ha!

Our kids get money to spend, unrelated to their chores.

Years ago at different homeschool events, I heard Susan Wise Bauer talk about teaching two new and  different skills separately. She said that kids struggle to do them together, particularly if they are new skills. Applying this to the area of allowances and chores makes sense to me.

We want our kids to make wise choices with their money as they age. They need practice to do this. What better time and place for them to get the practice than to do it now, in our home. I’d much rather they made mistakes while we’re here to help than later in the Big Bad World.

In the next couple months our eldest will be getting a job and a banking account. I’m thankful that he’s going to college locally so that we can guide him through the next steps.

This has worked for us for the past two years. Believe me when I say everyone looks forward to Payday! It took us fifteen years of parenting to land on a solution that worked for us.

Obviously, other families make different choices based on their own unique situations. I’d love to hear what works for you. See you in the comments!

Do you give an allowance?

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  1. We have commission and non-commission jobs around our house. Non-commission are garbage/recycling, setting table & post-meal clean up including dishes, daily sweeping and cleaning up post-school, folding & putting away laundry, cleaning up yard – everyone does their part. Commission jobs are weekly cleaning – one kid has vacuuming & mopping of all flooring, the other two split cleaning of the three bathrooms (pays the most) and dusting, and large projects like landscaping, mowing/weed-whacking, spring & fall deep cleaning. All my kids have started businesses – yard work, pet care, making pet products, household projects help, childcare, etc. Still working on a better system for bedrooms, but all of them are continually asking what extra jobs they can do to make money (instead of asking for money). They have made some great purchases and some not which they learned big lessons from. Going to start parsing out jobs like managing our checking account register to our oldest to give a real take on what it takes to run a household.

  2. We give allowance exactly as you do – their age, once a month. I found that once a week was just too hard to remember and keep track of. (Plus, it was way too much money for them and me!) I am really enjoying your site. We recently moved to California – Silicon Valley area – so I love all your California specific posts. Thanks!

  3. We do an allowance that is 500CFA (about $1) each week for the kids. It is tied to once/week room inspection, but everyone always passes that.

    There’s really nothing for them to buy here, so they save it up for when we’re on a trip. I do want to teach them to use their money wisely, so we do talk about spending and saving. They get to make decisions about what to use their money for- with some limitations. But since we’re not where it’s really practical for learning about spending/ saving, I hope that they are learning enough. Mostly, they are all good at saving for something that they want. I think some of what helps them is seeing that they don’t “need” so many things, but they’ve all made a few impulse buys- or even some thought out buys- that they have regretted. They are at least learning. 🙂

    Everyone has to do chores- assigned chores and extra things that come up. Our philosophy is that we work together as a family to get things done. My 15 yr old has a really good attitude about this, and it sets a good example for the younger 2. With extra chores, sometimes they are required, no pay. Sometimes, I will make them optional, but not offer a reward for them. Other times, I will offer a reward of their choice (can be a small amount of money, computer time or another privilege that they want.) I try to make sure to encourage good work and let them know that their contributions are appreciated.

  4. Our daughters get $8.00 per month for an allowance, which is not tied to chores. They also earn money by walking dogs for neighbors when they are out of town. They have three regular customers. Last year they each earned more than $75 walking dogs. We occasionally pay for chores that require substantial effort or are particularly nasty such as fall yard cleanup and spring mulching. For an afternoon of 4 to 6 hours daddy usually pays them $5 each. We do not have any saving, spending, giving requirements. However, each has saved nearly $200 – one wants to purchase a laptop and the other is still deciding. They both insist that family birthday and Christmas presents are not really from them unless they use their own money to pay for the gifts. This past Christmas they each made a list of recipients and saved $50 to purchase their presents.

  5. Your philosophy about allowances is a lot like ours. We aren’t quite so generous though at this point – we do age/2 rounded down, so our 13 yr old gets $6/wk, for example. We also do require distributing the money into spend/save/give categories, 25%/50%/25%. The save category gets used for bigger items that help further their personal interests – things like a nice set of colored pencils, a Kindle, and tools. I think we should probably consider upping the amounts as the kids get older and have them be responsible for buying more of their craft/project supplies.

    I really don’t like the chores for money thing because I don’t think the chores can be optional. I remember having conversations with my mom where I would decide, well, I don’t need the money, so I won’t do the chore. And then my poor mom was faced with either making me do the chore anyway (and where’s the fairness in that – and what lesson does that teach?) or having to do it herself. I also remember asking, when asked to do something, “how much will you pay me for it?” And yes, I cringe as I remember this! It isn’t something I want to hear from my own kids, that’s for sure. But I know at least one family that applauds that sort of question, seeing it as enterprising.

      1. Oops! Blushing over here… 🙂 Sorry, I obviously didn’t read that carefully enough. I just looked at our YNAB file and I see we’re not doing the rounding thing anymore. With the distributions, my daughter (at 13) gets $6.50 for spending, $6.50 for giving, and $13 for savings per month. I think the spending ends up being a little low, although since the savings is more for bigger purchases rather than for, say college expenses (not like $13 a month is going to make a dent in that *sigh*) perhaps it works out. We’ve been doing this for a couple years now and it seems to work reasonably well. The kids get a little extra money from family at birthdays, and they sometimes have the opportunity to earn money by doing work for their grandparents. Anyway… thanks for the correction!

  6. Our kids are grown now, my baby turned 19 today! When our oldest hit 8th grade she started asking for money to go to the movies with her friends or to teen bowling night, or whatever, we wold give her that amount, then it started being every weekend, our boys just liked playing video games or computer games and our younger daughter liked hanging out at friends houses, we weren’t going to give our older daughter $10 every weekend and nothing to the rest so we started giving everyone $20 a month. We also taught them that you live in the same house and therefore must contribute to the upkeep of our household.

  7. We’re the same way – you live in the home and you share in the income.

    One thing I remember from my 20s is a sudden revelation that I wasn’t “helping mom with the chores” when I was a kid at home. The chores weren’t automatically mom’s – they were actions that had to be done to live in a clean, orderly home.

    I don’t want my kids to think that they’re helping me or my husband with the chores. I want them to know that living together harmoniously requires that we all do a bit of work, and that they need to pitch in and do their part.

    So they get a share in the income, once a month, deposited into their bank account. They have debit cards but usually they buy something by asking me to buy it then reimbursing me from their account. They use one of those paper checking account registers to keep track of their balance, debits, transfers, and deposits.

      1. We’re members at USAA so we make accounts for the kids there, too. That makes transfers easy. In practice, I usually end up purchasing things and then reimburse myself from their accounts. I ordered extra check registers and the kids keep track of their allowances and expenditures in the register.

        We give $45/mo for each child (a number picked years ago when that would get one a new video game or perhaps two used games – I never have to hear whining about games!).

        They each choose to give some of their money to help support the llama/alpaca they’re training at a nearby non-profit farm (their charity). Otherwise, whenever they want something that doesn’t come under my definition of “family expenses” it comes from their allowance. I’m pretty generous – basic clothes, most books, a treat at the grocery store every now and then I include in family expenses. A rainbow tutu or fishnet gauntlets – allowance. A $60 Lego set months away from b’day or other holidays – allowance.

  8. My 6 year old gets $6 a week. I’m a single mom and I don’t have a lot of extra money so he gets his allowance and I don’t buy him anything except for birthdays and Christmas and other holidays… though I tend to keep it simple because he doesn’t need anything. It cuts down on mommy guilt and whining. He’s pretty good at saving for what he wants but he’s been known to blow it all… once at a carnival we could see from our house… on games!

  9. Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I are struggling with this (kids are 3,5,&7) so this is a great springboard for a new discussion with the kids. Can’t wait to hear others thoughts.

  10. I find it interesting that so many folks who do the ‘frugal’ or ‘personal finance thing’ talk about the allowance for chore ‘work’ aspect as if it’s the best system. I have at least one child that would rather be broke forever than do extra chores for it LOL. But for the most part I have THREE OUT OF THREE. ;p
    I do much the same as you – you’re part of this household, this family, and you get to share in the work and the wealth. And my reason is the same – learn to handle our money here, make mistakes HERE – it’s not a perfect system but it helps.
    And woe be to the child who rolls their eyes when Mom tells them to do a chore of some sort!