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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