How Allowances Can Offer Valuable Lessons
I’ve been asked a number of times how we approach the subject of allowances for our kids.
First of all, I think most of us will agree that the purpose of the allowance is to teach kids responsibility. They receive a small amount of money periodically and it’s up to them to decide what they will do with it. When it’s gone it’s gone. By going through that process they will (hopefully) understand and appreciate the value of money. They’ll grasp what a few dollars can and can’t buy. They’ll see what happens if they spend it all on something and later regret their decision when they see something they want more. Therefore, learning that spending money (or saving it) is about making choices. In essence, they get a mini-example of being a grown-up and having paydays.
Here are the strategies I’ve heard the most:
- Just give it to them-no strings attached. The thinking is something like this: “I’m tired of always shelling out money every time they want to do something. I’ll give a set amount every so often and it’s up to them to decide how to spend it. They won’t get any more until the next allowance.”
- Tie it to good grades.
- Give it to them after they complete a list of chores around the home. (This is what is what I did when I was a kid.)
I struggle with the concept of tying it to doing chores because I feel that the kids should be doing things to help around the house without getting paid. It’s their responsibility as part of the family. Everyone should pitch in to help. Otherwise, at least in my head, it sounds like we are saying that we need to pay them to help around the house otherwise they could just sit on the couch while their mom and I do all the work. That just bothers me.
As for paying for good grades, I understand why people do it that way. It’s to be a reward for doing well in school. I get it. What you really want to see, though, is for them to have tried their hardest at school. However, not every kid will have the same ability in school.
What if kids are expected to do a certain amount of chores around the house as just without getting paid. Examples could be making their beds in the morning, cleaning up their room before bed, vacuuming or sweeping on certain days of the week, and putting away their own dishes after meals.
Then they earn money doing special projects that you really don’t want to do. For example, we have a bunch of big trees that drop thousands of pine cones in our yard each year. I hate picking them up. So I paid my son $1 per one gallon bucket that he filled up and brought me.
Obviously, I’m splitting hairs here to some degree. It’s still work around house (or outside it). But you are distinctly separating certain duties that they should be expected to do without pay and offering others that they can do to earn money. The object is to give them the opportunity to earn money while sending the message you want. I tend to prefer the seasonal outside duties for earn money jobs and consider the inside house cleaning ones for non-paid duties.
Here are some special project ideas:
- Rake leaves
- Pick up pine cones
- Paint/stain the fence
- Wash/vacuum your car
- Pull weeds
Another idea with additional benefits: Encourage them to come up with their own business ideas to earn money. Kids are capable of much more than they often times realize. They’ll see that they’re only limited by what they can think up. My daughter came up with the idea of making bath bombs and selling them to her friends on Instagram. She figured out what ingredients she needed and priced them out on Amazon.com. Then I showed her how to do a simple spreadsheet to figure out what her cost was for each one. She was then able to figure out what price she needed to sell them for in order to make money. Ultimately, she made some money, learned some basic lessons about business and realized that she can accomplish whatever she puts her mind to.
I think some combination of all of the above is a good recipe. Consider having them do some chores around the house just because it’s their duty as a member of the family. Then give them opportunities to earn money doing other projects. My son thought he’d struck it rich because all he had to do was fill buckets with pine cones. I really didn’t want to pick them up myself so I was happy. It also kept him busy for a couple of hours and got him some exercise outside.
It’s even better if you can encourage them to start a business to earn the money. You will be teaching them some very valuable lessons and possibly plant the seeds of a successful entrepreneur.