Talk to me about allowance

Friends, we started paying our 6-yr.-old an allowance of $1/ week when she turned 6. I put no guidelines on how she spent the money, but rather, used the first six months as a sort of test period. Well, she spent it all on ridiculous things like silly bands, temporary tatoos and sticker albums. All of it. I think the most she ever saved was $4.  I wanted her to have the freedom to make mistakes … well at least I thought I wanted her to have that freedom. It made me too frustrated to watch. So now, at 6.5, I changed the parameters. I increased her allowance to $1.50, and she is only allowed to spend .50 of the amount. She must put .50 in the collection basket at Church and she must save the remaining .50. It is the whole save/share/spend philosophy. It isnn’t mine, I think it was probably on Oprah first or something.

I think this will work well once Mom can get her act together. The problem is that keeping that many quarters around is impractical. Even if it were dollars I would struggle, because we are a pure credit-card-for-airline-miles-family. I feel as if I am constantly saying, “oh, yeah, Viv, I guess I owe you $6 because I haven’t paid you for three weeks.” This seems to undermine the whole thing, because she can’t see the money growing incrementally as she should. Also, she has a ridiculous wallet that her brothers love to dismantle, so she is always claiming that she “should have more money than she does but X took some.” We clearly need some practical advice. How do you manage allowance in your family, and do you think it reasonable for me to increase the amount to $3/ week just to eliminate quarters from our life?


"Thank you for all your years of blogging. It has been such fun and a ..."

A Final Post
"Just for anyone researching this subject, I teach elementary music and most pop songs, lyrically ..."

Pop Music and Kids
"MA, it took me forever to comment on this post, but wanted to thank you ..."

Christmas to-do list
"Way to go, MA! That's the spirit, just one step at a time. I started ..."

Christmas to-do list

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mary Alice

    We kept an allowance bank book for a while because I did not want the cash around to get lost, but then I changed my mind and decided that since I meet all the children’s needs, and money for “wants” would have to be earned.u00a0 We now have a huge chart that we put small stickers on, each sticker is worth a nickel or 5 extra minutes of computer time.u00a0 You get a sticker for doing your chores without a reminder, each school subject without complaining, or putting away 15 things in the common areas of your house.u00a0 The clean up part was to work out the fact that the toddlers make the mess and the big kids help clean it up.nnThen, I really don’t buy them anything.u00a0 They can save up for Legos, candy, gifts, whatever.u00a0 The amount of money is so small that it takes a week to earn a candy bar, so if they use it that way it is fine with me.nnSo far I have not imposed a tithe, though some people do bring quarters to the poor box from time to time.nnWhat are the savings goals?u00a0 Is it 50c a week towards college or 50c towards a larger purchase for herself?u00a0 I find that my kids can do some savings towards medium goals — forego silly bands for a while to save for a $30 lego set.u00a0 Then, some of mine are just total savers and they are seriously rich, and some try harder to earn the money than others, so temperament has a role as well.nnLastly, for the “share” pile, some kids enjoy putting money in the collection basket but there is not as much of a sense of where it is going, so you might help her pick a specific charity and savings goal for that charity, like knowing that $7 can buy a weeks worth of meals for a child in Nairobi or something concrete like that.

  • Jurismater

    My parents did a great job with this. My dad has been teaching a Christian financial planning course called Crown Financial Ministries for a couple decades, and the curriculum recommends a method for teaching children. We had jars and set aside 10% for tithe, 30% for saving, 60% for spending. We started with a dollar–10 dimes. We received our 10 dimes in an envelope every Sunday at family brunch, so my parents knew to plan ahead to have lots of dimes, and we placed the money where it belonged immediately. It’s a blessing to be able to watch the tithe add up, as well as the savings and spendings. Savings were for bigger items or activities, and my parents counseled us on that. I think the key is being really intentional about this and conveying your own excitement about the kids having their own money and practicing stewardship. My parents started this so early that these principles are pretty naturally ingrained–namely that the tithe is mandatory and comes first, then we don’t just go spend everything that’s left over.nnWe haven’t started this with our own kids, but your post has me thinking it’s probably time. 6 seems like a good age. Thanks AWOL!!

  • Anonymous

    “putting away 15 things in the common areas of your house.u00a0 The clean up npart was to work out the fact that the toddlers make the mess and the nbig kids help clean it up.”nnThis is a GREAT idea Mary Alice.u00a0 I’ve been looking for a way, to help encourage my older two to help out more without complaining, since it really is the younger two (really just the youngest) who makes the mess… most of the time.u00a0 nnnAs for us, when my oldest was 5 we started him on an allowance, he got a dollar for every year old he was every week.u00a0 So he got 5 dollars a week, providing his chores were done without too much complaint.u00a0 However, half of the money was automatically deposited into his savings account.u00a0 The other half he received, but he either had to put half of that into the collection basket, or save it for a different charity.u00a0 nnWhen my oldest turned 5, we had just moved to MI and had one other child.u00a0 5 years, 2 more states and 2 going 3 children later and the allowance has kind of fizzled out. nnHowever, I’m liking Mary Alice’s sticker idea so perhaps instating something else this summer would be a good summer project.

  • Karen

    We use family dollars. u00a0Tasks that are not chores, but are on top of chores, get paid anywhere between 1 to 3 family dollars. u00a0Each family dollar is worth 25 cents in real money. u00a0This helps with having enough change and remembering to pay. u00a0The family money is reusable, so I always have some on hand. Much simpler. u00a0Also, I have found it motivates them to work hard to reach their goal, take work when available and plan for purchases. u00a0nnFor my younger ones, it can help to have a box of item, like a family store, that they can buy from with their family dollars. u00a0Items that are $1 to $3 in real money. u00a0It helps them catch onto the idea.What I love is if the job was done badly or not in a reasonable amount of time, they get FIRED! u00a0They don’t earn their money, but get to try that particular job again another day. u00a0They also see training = skills = better paying jobs. The jobs are posted on our magnet chore board in the kitchen. u00a0They get a bonus occasionally for showing initiative, or doing an extra good job. u00a0One rule is they don’t get a bonus if they ask for one. u00a0This way I get the help I need and they don’t feel taken advantage of. u00a0They each have a cup that they save their family money in. u00a0Usually it is redeemed for a object. u00a0That makes it much easier for me because I don’t need to have a variety bills and coins around. u00a0However, because it is redeemed for an object, it makes it much harder to tithe or save for their long term (college/ down payment for their house). u00a0I will have to figure that out. u00a0I love the idea about the dimes. u00a0But at least I am being faithful in the small things, I sure long term saving and tithing can be built on in the near future. u00a0

  • JMB

    I don’t do allowance, never have or will for the simple reason that cash (singles, fives) are so rare in my life that I can’t part with them easily.u00a0 Instead, I order my children to do various jobs, like vacuum the stairs, walk the dogs, clean up the towels in the pool yard, fold the laundry, make beds, tidy up basement, etc.u00a0 Then when they need $ for town or whatever, and if I have some, I gladly give it away.u00a0u00a0 It’s simple but it works for us.

  • Queen B

    I never thought of doing a separate “family money” system for little ones, but I love the idea. That way they still learn about money but if “cash” is lost or ripped or whatever they still learn the lesson but I won’t be frustrated by the loss of real cash. u00a0Thanks, Karen for talking about your great system!

  • Mary Alice

    That would also be a great way to make snack treats available, I would love to have a family concession stand for little bags of pretzels, gatorades for sports events, etc.u00a0 (water is free!)

  • Mary Alice

    Oh, and I also make my kids pay for or replace school supplies that they break, so money goes towards that.

  • Kat

    I love all of these suggestions, especially those that include details on how to make your family’s system work! I love the idea of “family dollars,” and JM, it sounds like you grew up with a really solid understanding of finances.u00a0nThanks, AWOL, for bringing up this topic. Summer is a good time to begin something like this.

  • Bailey0729

    We don’t do an “allowance”. We have the “work, you get paid philosophy”. Meaning my kids don’t get paid to help with dishes, laundry, and regular daily tasks or chores. They get paid for the extras that require more work. $3 for scooping a weeks worth of dog poop, $5 for cleaning the van out (vacuum, windows, etc). raking, shoveling etc. I want them to value working hard. Some weeks they race to the extras and have to split the money, others we have only one that will volunteer. Then they have to save until they reach a certain amount before I let them spend a portion. Currently, Jordan has $88 (he’s nine) and Ava has $56. They are trying to save for a trampoline together. Something that i dont really want them to have, but I am strongly reconsidering due to there determination. They’ve been saving for months. Both are starting a dog-sitting job tomorrow and are set to earn quite a bit of money for the next five days. They give a $1 at church every week. Good luck with this! Miss you guys.

  • This is interesting to read all these different approaches.u00a0 My top two just earned some money for cat sitting and they were over the moon.u00a0 I think now is the time to capitalize on their enthusiasum!!!u00a0 Thanks for all the ideas!

  • Anonymous

    33% tithe?u00a0 WOW!u00a0 That’s more than the church even asks for.