Deciding if an Allowance is Right for Your Children

July 2012

by rebecca stewart

To give an allowance, or not to give an allowance: How do you decide when and if an allowance is the right choice for your children? There are factors to weigh, kids’ opinions and pleas echoing loudly in your ears, and decisions to make.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of this parenting conundrum, I went straight to the source – moms hanging out at the park and moms willing to share their two cents on Facebook.

The moms who were not in the allowance fan club felt as though the family makes the mess, therefore everyone should have a hand in cleaning it up, and that shouldn’t equal getting paid. One mom jokingly noted that “living in my house, eating my food…That’s their allowance.” Joking aside, they’re not wrong. Being a part of a family means having responsibilities and taking care of your home together – it shouldn’t fall on any one person’s shoulders. Kids should be responsible for their rooms, their toys and belongings, dishes, but what if they go above and beyond…

Ah, now that changes the ballgame just a bit because regardless which side of the fence the moms came down on, all agreed that kids should have to work in order to earn an allowance. Keyword being earn. Nothing in life comes free so why should we condition our children with a monetary reward if they’re not going to work for it. Handing out $20 a month (or whatever amount you choose), just because, teaches them nothing. Every mom who gave an allowance or is considering an allowance or was just remembering her own childhood said that they didn’t get paid for the chores on their “list,” but if they went beyond their list? Well, that was a different story.

So if keeping their room clean and putting laundry away is what’s expected of your child, then cleaning the bathroom or raking leaves or vacuuming the family room would be considered those bonus things they can do to earn an allowance. When I was a kid, I made a list of those “extras” and then negotiated a price for each task. My mom had her input and I didn’t get paid unless I followed through.

As an interesting side note, several of the moms I spoke with said an allowance is a summer thing only because their kids simply don’t have time during the school year to go beyond the regular, I’m-a-part-of-this-family chores.

For families who either don’t have room in the family budget for an allowance or would rather take a different approach, some parents have gotten creative and found another way. Basically it’s: no work, then no play. Some of the activities at stake are going to the pool, movies, having slumber parties…

We’ve talked about the importance of working for the allowance, but what about the other part – the side that teaches them about money management? This factor alone might be one of the biggest bonuses when making the ultimate allowance decision. You now have the opportunity to teach about saving and being there for those teachable moments when impulse buying gets the best of your mini-budgeter. Or watch them blossom as they begin to realize the value of that dollar and whether or not they really need something.

Finally, when you’re weighing all of the pros and cons of whether or not to do the allowance, something to keep in mind is the money you might be spending on extracurricular activities. The expenses involved in all of the activities available to children nowadays could easily replace an actual allowance, maintaining the same guidelines.

In the end, when you’re on the verge taking the plunge and giving the allowance a shot, do everyone a favor and make sure that the expectations are clearly spelled out. Know what it is you want your children to get out of having an allowance and be consistent. Good luck!