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Should Children Earn an Allowance?

The concept of earning an allowance for doing chores has changed vastly over the years. But what used to be a common practice has now become an exception.

When I was a child, most of the children I knew earned an allowance. We did our assigned household chores and received our allowance in return. We spent our allowances on special treats, little gifts for friends and family members, or saved it.

In talking to friends with children in their twenties, it seems that practice was still fairly common then. I’ve had some contrary thoughts on this subject regarding allowance for my children, so I posed the question to many friends.

What I received in return did not surprise me but also pointed out that what I experienced in this matter was quite common. It seems that at over half the people I queried did not give their children an allowance. Parents of children in middle school quite often said that it was a subject they were thinking of discussing but hadn’t yet. Parents of older teens said that they found it simpler to give their children money for activities or to pay them for extra chores that they did, but did not have a regular set allowance. Most families had the same expectations from the allowance system and quite often the same results (mostly negative).

Here are some of the more consistent comments I received:

  1. We started out giving an allowance for chores done, then ended up deducting from the allowance if the child did not do the chore or had to be constantly reminded. It ended up that the child said they’d rather not get an allowance and not have to do the chores.
  2. We gave our children an allowance to teach them budgeting. What resulted is that the children quite often hoarded their allowance money and either went without the treats we thought they would purchase or they managed to convince Mom to give them extra money for treats. Some parents were afraid that their child would opt not to spend their own money if the money was their own instead of their parent’s and instead leech off other children. Other parents were afraid that if the allowance was designed to include social events, the child would opt not to participate in events that could benefit them socially and if the allowance were to include clothing, they would opt to wear last year’s remains instead of purchasing new, stylish clothing.
  3. When a child would beg at a store for an item that Mom or Dad didn’t think they needed or really wanted as much as they insisted they did, Mom or Dad would suggest that the purchase price be split, with the child paying for half from his allowance. When this was the only option available, 90 percent of the time the child would change their mind on the necessary of this item.
  4. Most parents said that they found it simpler to have their children assigned to basic household chores that are not linked to an allowance – they are performed simply because the child is part of the family. Quite often, these parents said that they do give their children opportunities to earn extra money by doing extra chores outside of the norm -- window washing, vacuuming, washing the car, etc.
  5. Other parents felt that they wanted to teach their children to save their money, the value of saving money and interest, and how to decide when and how much to spend on items they choose. Whether it is allowance money, money earned from chores, or money given as gifts, they felt that the key is to give them total control of their money while rewarding them with saving it.

I started out giving my kids a minimal allowance when they were in middle school. What I thought would be spent on extra treats when they were with their friends or on things they found at the store that I didn’t feel they really needed, ended up being saved instead. None of us remembered “pay day” on a regular basis so the kids would keep a chart and let the allowance build to the point that I would owe the accumulation of two to three months allowance at one time – resulting in quite a hefty sum.

To me, this defeated the purpose – either the kids didn’t need the money for little expenditures or they were just using this as a savings account – neither of which was the purpose of allowance.

Is giving an allowance to our children basically turning them into employees, giving them the belief that chores are not a responsibility for every family member to share? Or, is the allowance a way to teach our children budgeting and the value of money and giving them the freedom to make some choices of their own? Considering the busy lives our children have and our expectations for their grades and their sports commitments, are we expecting too much of them by adding chores and is the responsibility of earning an allowance too much of a burden? What is your opinion?

Troy August 12, 2011 at 09:01 PM
It's tricky for sure. Luckily our daughter has always wanted to help out around the house. She want's to do the things she see's mom and dad doing. We have decided to give her some extra things to do every week for $10.00 a month. Last year she wanted a halloween costume that was more than the one we were willing to buy so she used some of her allowance money to pay the difference. I think it's good they learn the meaning of the dollar without the parents paying for what ever they want, as I know some parents do.
Erika Lawrence August 13, 2011 at 01:23 PM
I think it's great that kids want to save their money. It's a habit I wish I had learned early on - I tended to waste my allowance on whatever caught my eye.

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