Do you give your kids an allowance?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  June 22, 2009 11:54 AM

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Does getting an allowance teach kids to manage money, or does it just condition them to expect a handout? Should you tie the allowance in to chores, or should chores be considered a non-negotiable family responsibility? And how much should a 10-year-old get, anyway?

When I was a kid (in the '70s), my dad used to solemnly dole out a dollar a week to me and my two brothers. Every Sunday, after dinner, we'd wait for my father to take that last sip of wine, fold his napkin, and reach into his pocket for his wallet so we could line up next to his chair and get our weekly allowance.

Kids today get much more. Some experts suggest that you give them $1 per week for each year of age -- which means that I'd be shelling out $44 a week for my five children, which means I'd soon go broke. Others suggest paying kids for the chores they do around the house, which means that some weeks my 13-year-old would be rich while my 15-year-old would be destitute. Or vice versa.

David McCurrach, founder of KidsMoney.org, says that giving kids an allowance is an essential step in helping them learn to manage money. "If your kids don't get allowances, you are managing their money for them by deciding what they will buy and what they will do," McCurrach writes. "Their role is salesperson and manipulator."

In order to determine how much to hand out each week, McCurrach says you should first figure out how much money you already give them and then decide what you expect them to pay for themselves. "Keep in mind the fact that kids have three uses for their money -- spending, saving and sharing," he writes. "Consider all three areas when you are coming up with the amount."

If you have never discussed money with your kids and you need to now in order to handle a financial crisis, keep things open and honest, upbeat, and to-the-point. Sharing household budget constraints can make it easier to save money and lets kids feel like they’re helping, and older kids can benefit from lessons in budgeting and a carefully monitored trial run in the real world. Give your teenager a budget for back-to-school clothes shopping, for example, and insist that she sticks to it. A pre-loaded gift card is a great tool for this; be sure to explain how checks and credit cards work, and if she budgets badly and needs to borrow from you to pay for a few extra items, take the opportunity to introduce her to interest payments and service charges.

While it seems to make sense to offer an allowance in exchange for doing chores around the house, experts contend that doing so might actually get in the way of teaching your child good money management skills. "Chores should be considered a family responsibility that should not be associated with money. Also, kids may not do their chores if they only have to give up a small allowance" or if the amount they're getting is not consistent, an article at MoneyInstructor.com advises.

Parents are split over the allowance-for-free vs. allowance-for-chores issue. If it's essential to you to tie allowances to chores in some way, consider these compromises:

1.) Give extra money for extra work. Kids can get a base allowance each week, and have opportunities to earn more money by completing extra chores. Use a chore chart to determine the value of additional chores or to help kids keep themselves on schedule.

2.) Make chores mandatory, but easy. Designate as "chores" some of the things you want them to learn to do by themselves anyway -- brushing their teeth twice a day, making their beds, putting their dirty laundry in the hamper instead of on the floor of their rooms.

3.) Earn something other than money. If you use an allowance to teach kids about money, use a point system to teach kids that there are rewards that come with hard work. Handipoints offers a system that allows parents to customize chore charts and set goals for kids, who earn points that they can trade in online.

Do you give your kids an allowance? How did you decide what to give, or whether to give any at all?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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5 comments so far...
  1. Allowances seem to be one of many my parenting pitfalls. For a year and a half, I faithfully gave my kids a $3/week allowance and in no time they accumulated more money than I had and were always talking about what they wanted to buy. Both of these made me uncomfortable. I stopped the allowance and haven't gone back. We openly discuss money, we live frugally and let our kids in on how we make financial decisions and both (14 & 11) seem to have picked up on our frugal personality but only time will tell.

    I do believe chores & allowance go hand in hand, just my opinion. If I don't work I don't get money just for being part of society. Right now I expect my kids to contribute to the household, we don't give an allowance but I do provide them with a reasonable amount of $ for activities, clothes, small trinkets.

    They get quite a bit of $ for gifts (birthday and Xmas). They have to save some and can use the rest for splurges through out the year.

    Posted by Jayne June 23, 09 09:08 AM
  1. We do give our kids a very modest allowance. If they want anything outside of birthday or Christmas gifts, they have to use their money. When we went to a carnival recently, they had to spend their money to play games for trinkets and such. It is amazing how much less they spend when they are the ones coughing up for it.

    Posted by BMS June 23, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Great article thanks

    Posted by Daniel Britton June 23, 09 04:07 PM
  1. Absolutely not. I will not pay my children to do things they should be doing anyway. It's called being part of a family. Neither I nor Dad get paid anything extra for the things we do. neither should the kids. Period. They've never asked for it b/c we talked about how we feel and they understand.

    Posted by DMa June 24, 09 05:28 PM
  1. I never gave my daughter an allowance. She had chores such as laundry, helping with dishes(no dishwasher), dusting, vacuuming etc. When she needed money for something, I gave it to her. As for her own spending money, she would always get cash at birthdays, xmas, and from Grandparents and she could earn extra cash from me for things beyond chores. She's very good at managing money and saving it. She never complained about the situation and now at 20 still does not regret how she was raised. Which was done soley by me, her Dad.

    Posted by Ricardo87 June 25, 09 07:59 AM
 
5 comments so far...
  1. Allowances seem to be one of many my parenting pitfalls. For a year and a half, I faithfully gave my kids a $3/week allowance and in no time they accumulated more money than I had and were always talking about what they wanted to buy. Both of these made me uncomfortable. I stopped the allowance and haven't gone back. We openly discuss money, we live frugally and let our kids in on how we make financial decisions and both (14 & 11) seem to have picked up on our frugal personality but only time will tell.

    I do believe chores & allowance go hand in hand, just my opinion. If I don't work I don't get money just for being part of society. Right now I expect my kids to contribute to the household, we don't give an allowance but I do provide them with a reasonable amount of $ for activities, clothes, small trinkets.

    They get quite a bit of $ for gifts (birthday and Xmas). They have to save some and can use the rest for splurges through out the year.

    Posted by Jayne June 23, 09 09:08 AM
  1. We do give our kids a very modest allowance. If they want anything outside of birthday or Christmas gifts, they have to use their money. When we went to a carnival recently, they had to spend their money to play games for trinkets and such. It is amazing how much less they spend when they are the ones coughing up for it.

    Posted by BMS June 23, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Great article thanks

    Posted by Daniel Britton June 23, 09 04:07 PM
  1. Absolutely not. I will not pay my children to do things they should be doing anyway. It's called being part of a family. Neither I nor Dad get paid anything extra for the things we do. neither should the kids. Period. They've never asked for it b/c we talked about how we feel and they understand.

    Posted by DMa June 24, 09 05:28 PM
  1. I never gave my daughter an allowance. She had chores such as laundry, helping with dishes(no dishwasher), dusting, vacuuming etc. When she needed money for something, I gave it to her. As for her own spending money, she would always get cash at birthdays, xmas, and from Grandparents and she could earn extra cash from me for things beyond chores. She's very good at managing money and saving it. She never complained about the situation and now at 20 still does not regret how she was raised. Which was done soley by me, her Dad.

    Posted by Ricardo87 June 25, 09 07:59 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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