All About Allowances – Ask The Readers

For a long time, I didn’t give my kids an allowance.

I know, most families do, but we didn’t. I wanted my kids to do chores because they’re part of the family, not because they got paid to do them. Back when the older boys were small, I didn’t think it was a good idea to give them money. They didn’t really need more “stuff” to buy with small amounts of money. And for their birthdays and holidays, they would receive more than enough in money gifts to practice making wise spending decisions. So I didn’t see a need.

Nowadays I do give them an allowance, mostly because my middle son asked if they could do some special chores to earn an allowance. I thought that was reasonable, so they now get $2 per week each. It’s small enough where they need to save up for some time to get anything substantial, but large enough where it doesn’t take that long. They’ll go for weeks – usually months – without asking for an allowance payout. It’s a great way to teach delayed gratification. But is it the wisest allowance policy? And how far away am I from other parents? Lets explore. And stay tuned for the end where I ask you to weigh in.

What’s Normal To You Is What’s Normal In Your House

Your own personal sense of what’s normal depends on two things – your upbringing, and your current environment. There are some families where an allowance of $20 per week would feel low, and others where no allowance is normal. Case in point – a brief interview with my sons.

Me: Hey boys, is your allowance normal for kids your age? Or do other kids get more, or less?

Nick, 14: I have no idea

Nathan, 10: I think other kids maybe get three dollars a week?

Alex, 2: Zzzzzz (napping)

So they have no clue if what they’re paid is “normal” or not. Lets turn to the internet to see.

Average Allowance For Kids

So what does the internet have to say is the average allowance for kids?

  • According to this article, the average allowance is $8.74 per week. It ranges from just under $4 for four year olds, to over $12 for 14 year olds. However, the source is an app that tracks allowances.  I couldn’t find their methodology for the survey (which is not a good sign with a study), so I hope they weren’t surveying their own users.
  • A different study by a more impartial group, the American Society of CPA’s, showed that about 60% of families paid allowances – meaning 40% do not. And only half started before their kids were eight, with the other half starting later. This was a small sample size of 268 parents.
  • This article says that kids are on average paid 50 cents per year of age, so a 10 year old gets $5 per week.

So, basically, you can’t find a straight answer online because the answers all conflict with each other.

One interesting point I found in my research was what parents pay their kids for. Many parents give allowances for specific chores, but others are paying their kids for good grades as well. In our house, certain basic chores are expected for living here. Cleaning rooms, making beds, cleaning up the downstairs, helping take in the groceries, watching siblings for short periods of time, and helping with gardening/snow clearing is expected. The specific chores they get paid for are taking out the dog and taking out the garbage (oldest) and feeding/watering the dog and taking out the recycling (middle). The little guy is too small for chores.

Since I pay them $2 per week each, we essentially pay a dollar a week for each chore. I have offered to pay them extra if they take on more chores, but neither is interested at this time. If there’s something special they want to save up for I repeat the offer, and sometimes they’ll take me up on it.

Why do I do this? Long time readers know there’s good reason behind what I do when it comes to my kids and money. I want to teach them that work = money. You don’t get a handout just for the honor of living here, and you certainly don’t get paid $20 per week or have an open credit card account like some kids.

We also don’t pay for good grades specifically, but we do all go out for a special dinner out in honor of the kid who got good grades. This is similar to paying them, because it’s expensive to take five people out to eat, but it’s a different kind of reward. Next time maybe I’ll ask them if they would prefer the money over the meal out.

They do also get tooth fairy money but only a dollar a tooth, and most of their baby teeth are gone now. They also get money on birthdays and Christmas, as mentioned before, which they use for spending money for months.

Should I Increase Their Allowance?

So reading all of this shows me that their allowance is on the low side, despite what they may think. Does that mean I should increase it?

Not so fast. In this house we don’t do things just because others are doing it. So lets consider what I could accomplish by increasing it:

  • More Chores – I could assign them each more chores to do around the house in exchange for more money.
  • More Savings/Investments/Giving – We don’t have any specific guidelines for savings, investments, and giving. I’ve often heard kids should put a third in each. My kids don’t have specific guidelines for these, although they do save and give a portion of their money. Perhaps I could triple their allowance, but tell them all the extra is for investments and giving.
  • More Spending Decisions – Since they don’t get much for an allowance, we cover all the typical costs that come with raising kids. Costs for drama club costumes, boy scouts, school supplies, clothes and shoes, etc.  I know some parents give their kids an annual budget for these things and rely on the kids to make spending decisions. Another approach is to give them money specifically for that bucket of spending (say, clothing) and have them make their own decisions.
    • I will note here that I have boys. Boys who don’t really care about their appearance and state of their clothing. Recently my oldest son was walking around with three holes in his shoes and a jacket that was falling apart, but saw no need to request new items. I finally had to take him shopping. Luckily I was able to teach him some smart shopping techniques while we were out.

So there are definitely advantages to increasing their allowances. Are there disadvantages?

  • More Spending Money – My ten year old is still working on controlling his impulse spending. He’s good with his allowance, because it virtually accumulates until he wants something. Also he knows better than to ask me to buy him something at the grocery store checkout or Target. If his allowance were increased, he would spend it. And my fourteen year old would also spend it, but a bit more wisely. He’s fine with not getting things for months at a time so he can get a bigger thing down the line
  • More Cost for Me – Unless I give them additional allowance specifically to pay for something I currently pay for, it would be a net increase in my expenses. This is because, as mentioned above, I don’t buy my kids “stuff” other than birthdays and Christmas. So I can’t give them more money and say “now you have to buy your own X” because I don’t buy X. Unless X is a necessity like clothing, or an activity like scouts. And there’s no way I’m allowing them to buy a dozen video games and quit scouts.

Ask The Readers

Should I increase my kids allowances? If so, what to? What would the additional allowance be for, and what should they do with it? Let me know in the comments!

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IT professional, MBA, working mother of three, avid reader, geek and personal finance nerd

18 thoughts on “All About Allowances – Ask The Readers

  • March 9, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Since you asked 🙂 I think that, yes, you should increase the amount your boys are given. They are 14 and 10, in that golden age where they’re too young to earn money at traditional jobs, but old enough to benefit from managing more money. I give my boys (7 and 10) $6 a week if they do their three chores ($2 per chore), but some of that has to go to their saving and giving jars. They are required to pay for anything extra they want. For example, my older son wants a new Minecraft book, but he doesn’t have enough money, so he’s saving up for a few weeks (or may come to me for extra chores).

    When I was 12, my parents started to give me quite a bit of money each week ($25 back in the 90s). I asked them to, because I got the idea from a teacher who did the same with his kids. The deal was that I would pay for absolutely everything–clothes, shoes, lunch money, field trips. It all came from my pocket. I had a checking account, and got an ID from the DMV, and then could write checks and manage that money. My parents taught me how to balance my checkbook (remember that?) and it was an incredible learning experience in managing money. I had to be really careful not to spend all my money so I’d have enough for lunch. I made some stupid decisions. But I learned that I was in control of my own money, and that experience taught me so much.

    I know you’re constantly teaching your boys about money, but I think that giving them control of a little bit more would allow them to practice managing some of their expenses more. 🙂

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      My 10 year old is definitely not ready to manage his own money. 14 year old, maybe. But also if it was up to him he would never buy clothes and shoes 😆

  • March 9, 2018 at 11:53 am

    This sounds similar to my allowance growing up. Most chores were part of living in the household and until I had my own job (independent of work at home), my parents would cover basics of clothing, extracurriculars, etc. I think I was paid $2 early on, then raised to $4 a week but it was split (mandatory) into 4 categories (Charity, Spending, Saving, College). My parents opened savings accounts for the Saving & College for periodical deposits and my Charity and Spending would stay in a jar until I found the use for it.

    Still no idea what we’ll do with our kiddo!

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      I’ve thought about doing the split-maybe I’ll do that instead.

  • March 9, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I think paying per (extraordinary) task is a good lesson in effort = reward.

    When I was a child, I visited a friend and saw that they had a chart on the wall listing each week’s chores and their monetary value. I asked my mother if we could implement a similar cents-per-task system. Why? Because being the only girl, I was socialised to do a lot more of the chores at home than my brothers, but we got the same weekly allowance, which felt quite unfair. (she said no, which is a different story)

    I think such a system also gives an incentive. If they want something, they know that they can volunteer to do more of the extraordinary tasks around the house to save up faster.

    I also did get paid for good grades… for a while, and not a whole lot ($5-10). But only if I got the top grade, there was no payout for being second best.This was more of a perk than an incentive. Each sibling just did their own thing anyway.

    To the latter point – make sure you actually have enough to cover them if you implement such a system and they ace through everything. After only a few months in junior high, I had already beat my older brother’s total junior high tally, and got some complaints that I was “too expensive” for the system.

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:21 pm

      I’ve definitely offered to pay them for extraordinary tasks, but there’s almost never something they want enough to do them!

      • March 10, 2018 at 6:07 am

        That’s their priority then! 😉

  • March 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    I would say yes, increase the allowance, but I’d also increase the chores or at least shift some “expected chores” into the allowance category. To what level to raise it though, I don’t know. You’d know best as to what would be a good motivator for them and what works best for your family. Our kids 4 and 6 get allowance, but it’s mainly thru doing chores. I think it’s about $1/week maybe less, I don’t know… Mrs. SSC tracks it on an app on her phone so she can add money, take away money, and check it when we’re out if they want to buy something. I think she has it set to maybe add $0.50/week assuming they do everything they’re supposed to, so maybe it’s less, but it’s somewhere around that range.

    We recently also implemented a ticket system where 10 tickets = $1 more or less. They get a ticket for putting away silverware, or a couple of tickets for helping out with other things. Mainly the tickets help with motivating them (read our oldest) to focus at school and get a smiley face, or study to do well on his word list, read books, etc… We tried everything with him from incentives to removing things and he didn’t seem phased by anything. But after implementing the ticket system, he’s really stepped up. Plus, you’d think I murdered one of the dogs when I take tickets away for bad behavior. I don’t know why they value thems o much, but man, they see them as gold. Like Kristine’s comment above our youngest can get spendy with the ticket system when she wants something. She’ll do all kinds of extra stuff to earn more tickets, but that’s fine with me, because I like seeing her motivated and working towards something.

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      Tickets would have been fun when they were younger-great suggestion for people with younger kids!

  • March 9, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    I’d suggest increasing it above the $2 for your 10 and 14 year old. $5 sounds more reasonable for their age. I like the incentive based approach which we used for our three kids.We did give them a base allowance, and they were expected to do some standard chores each week, but If they wanted to earn more than had to do more. I also think it’s important for them to seek out things to do on their own, without always being asked or told. Good luck!

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks! I’ve always offered to let them do extraordinary chores for more money but I can only think of one or two times they’ve taken me up on it

  • March 9, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    My parents sat us down when we were about 13-14 and had us write out a budget for all of the stuff they paid for for us except needs like school supplies. Clothing, hanging out with friends, etc. We ended up all agreeing that we got $100/month that my mom deposited semimonthly to our checking accounts. We had debit cards attached to the accounts. I think it was a great learning experience to start managing money and then we weren’t asking my parents randomly for money, ever. The allowance wasn’t linked to chores directly, but if we didn’t do our chores, we got a deduction from our allowance. I think it was a really great system!

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      What an interesting idea!

    • March 13, 2018 at 1:13 am

      This sounds like a great strategy to help teenagers start to learn how to manage their own finances.

  • March 9, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    For us, paying for tasks didn’t work. My son decided that he could go without toys and stuff provided he did’t have to do anything – Early retirement at age 5.

    We revised our tactics – He has to do his tasks. That is part of living here. I don’t get paid for what I do for the family. Neither should he. And the number of tasks go up with time. He also gets an allowance every week. Our rate is 1 dollar per each birthday he finished. He is 9 now, so he gets 9 dollars every week. However, that is a huge number. So half of that automatically goes to his college fund. He basically gets $4.50 every week. He doesn’t spend all of it, so whatever is left is doubled once again (to encourage savings) and goes into his college fund. He has saved up about $1400 in three years or so.

    • March 9, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      Interesting! I suppose I could technically do that because they all get an automatic deposit into college funds every month.

  • March 13, 2018 at 1:10 am

    It is entirely up to you if you increase their allowance. Whatever works for you and your household is key. Around our house, we do allowance a little difference. We have 5 kids ranging in age from 4-12. The each have daily chores that they need to accomplish in order to get their “allowance” and if they do not complete their daily chore, they do not get an “allowance” for tat day. If they go above and beyond, for example, my oldest two kids recently deep cleaned the bathroom for us, they get additional “allowance”.

    Our allowance is video game/tablet screen time. They get 20 min a day for completed their daily chores and extra time at our discretion if they go above and beyond to help out.

    The daily chores are age appropriate and they very seldom do not complete their chores.

    It might not work for everyone, but it allows me to still reward the kids without actually paying them in cash for an allowance.

  • March 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    It is totally up to you how much money you are giving to your kids as an allowance. In general, if it works well, no need to change it just for a change’s sake. Also no need to copy what others are doing either. Every family’s situation and values are different.
    Now about our household. Our kids are ~6y old and about half a year ago we decided to open them a “bank account” with daddy (basically just a spreadsheet) to teach them about interest. We told them they will get “free money” (interest) at the end of each month just for keeping their money in the bank. The more money they have in the bank, the more “free money” they get. If they want to spend money on something, they can withdraw it anytime. It took couple of months to get them excited about it and now they are looking forward to putting more money in. Their balance after all this time is about $20 (of which interest is $1-2) which is a decent amount for kids that don’t really have a need nor opportunity to spend money on anything. Maybe we’ll use that money to buy them a share in some company like you did for your kids so they get that first hand investing experience.
    As for the sources of their money – we do not give them any allowance, but offer them 5-25c for different chores around the house (washing dishes, taking out garbage, wiping floors, emptying dishwasher…). The idea behind it is to teach them that money is a reward for a job well done just like in the real life outside of home. They don’t get money or get less of it for a job that is poorly done. And they love it so far! They still have tasks they are supposed to do with no money attached to them, like cleaning up their toys, putting their dirty laundry in the laundry basket, their dirty dishes in the dishwasher – basically taking care of their own things and messes they make.
    Our state takes deposit for bottles and cans and collecting empty ones and turning them back in is their other source of money and at this point probably more lucrative than doing chores.
    And they occasionally get some gift money from different family members.


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