Pay For Chores – Or Not? Allowance Week

Pay For Chores Or No? Allowance Week

It’s one of the great debates of kids and allowance – do you make it a payment for specific chores? Or do you give them an allowance not based on chores at all?

There are strong arguments, and lots of passion, on both sides of the debate. Today I’m going to cover both perspectives and ask you to chime in with your perspective in the comments or on social media.

Paying For Chores – The Arguments For

The most typical case for paying your kids to do chores is so they learn that the receipt of money is tied to work.

As a child under the age of sixteen, their options for earning money outside of the family are limited. Yes, they could start a babysitting business (which would likely require a parent with time to drive them there), a lemonade stand, a newspaper route, or some other endeavor. If you’re looking for ideas on businesses kids can start I recommend you check out the book “How To Turn $100 Into $1,000,000“, which my kids enjoyed (affiliate link).

But not every child is so motivated, so paying for chores is seen as an easy way to help kids learn important money lessons like saving for something they want, and budgeting limited funds.

It also teaches them a valuable life lesson – you only receive money when you work for it. Even so-called passive income is typically obtained by first working hard for seed money to invest, money to start a business, or work to set up a rental property.

No one in the real world will be handing you money in exchange simply for existing. Well, unless you’re a trust fund recipient, I suppose.

Please note my financial advice is not applicable to the super-rich. They need to learn how to pay other people to do chores for them.

Not Paying For Chores – The Arguments For

Most parents that go the path of not paying money in exchange for chores feel strongly that kids should do chores in exchange for living in the house – not for money.

You see, part of being a member of the family is helping that family run smoothly and well. Kids are also well-known for being the reason for much of the dirt, grime, mess, laundry, dishes. and so on. Given that so much work results from them being a member of the family – isn’t it only fair that they are responsible for helping with related chores?

Perhaps they wanted to get a dog, and swore up and down that they would feed it, water it, take it for walks and clean up the dog fur everywhere. Those are chores, but you could argue they should be done for free. Why? Because the kid made a commitment, and they need to follow-through.

Besides, when you’re an adult, no one’s paying for you to clean your house and do your own laundry. Although if someone’s offering, I’m not turning them down. Learning to do chores for zero reward is sadly one of those things that we all have to do as adults, lest we end up starring in an episode of Hoarders.

What your house looks like if you don’t learn that lesson

A Hybrid Approach

On top of those two black and white approaches to making allowance contingent on chores, there is a more grey, or hybrid approach.

Under this approach you have a set of chores that’s done just because you’re a member of the family, and another set where you pay your kids to do them. This might be a set dollar amount for a standard set of chores, or different payments for different chores.

How might this work? For example, you might require the kids to keep their rooms clean, put laundry in the hamper, and help neaten the living room weekly for free, but they get $5 a week for taking out the trash every night and taking the dog outside.

Another way this might work is that the kids help with washing and drying the dishes, setting the table, and giving the cat water for no payment, but then there are additional chores where they can earn money, like $2 for helping weed the garden.

Or you can pay them to instagram for you. Gotta keep up with the times!

What About You?

I’d love to know if you think people should always base allowances on performance of chores, if you think that teaches the wrong lessons, or if you take a hybrid approach, in the comments and on social media.

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7 thoughts on “Pay For Chores – Or Not? Allowance Week”

  1. Great article! This is something I’ve been contemplating for awhile. My kids are young – 1.5 and 3.5 years old – but I would like to try a modified hybrid approach with them. I say “modified” to adjust for their young age. Sorta related: on my long to-do list is to research books on how to introduce my kids to money.

  2. We do a sort of hybrid approach. We have set chores we expect them to do every day that are not tied to money, just part of taking care of the house. We also have allowance that is not tied to chores, but it is tied to school. Starting in kindergarten I pay one dollar a week, and I increase it each year. I also expect them to use that money to buy things with that money that I used to provide, like a weekly treat. As they get older, I expect them to pay for more and more like birthday and Christmas gifts and eventually have them buy their own clothes. School and learning is like their job, and I have deducted from their allowance when they seriously misbehave at school or refuse to do school work. I also have a variety of money making chores kids can do to earn extra money. These cannot be done for money until they get their regular daily chores done.

  3. We’ve been struggling with this debate with my step-kids over the past year. We used to give the kids allowance to do weekly chores. But then they learned that they can just skip out on the chores at our house, and get as much money as they want when they go to their mom’s. Needless to say, the chores never got done. It’s a whole other ball game when the kids have another source of income. Right now, we’re currently operating on a pay-by-chore basis, and we can sometimes get the kids to do the laundry in exchange for a couple bucks.


  4. Great article! We do the hybrid approach. We give the kids an allowance that is not tied to chores- they include laundry, unloading groceries, unloading the dishwasher, trash, hauling firewood, and of course maintaining their rooms. Optional chores are available for extra pay- like weeding the flower beds, etc.

    We talk to the kids about our financial decisions, and theirs- sometimes we’ll veto one of their purchases, and sometimes we’ll recommend against, but let them buy something and let them learn that lesson the hard way. We try to talk about things with our kids that we wish out parents had talked about with us!

  5. I think whatever you choose, consistency matters. If your kids see you slacking off and not enforcing the rules around chores and allowance, it’s easy for them to become complacent. I love this series and thank you for putting it together 🙂

  6. In general we are in the “do NOT pay for chores” camp. The kids are part of the family, they need to help out. Mostly this is because as a kid I went on a chores strike and didn’t clean my room for months – I didn’t care that I no longer got allowance. (If I was smart, I would’ve stopped doing the dishes, too, since I wasn’t getting paid anymore.) I didn’t want to give them the option of “quitting” chores if the money didn’t motivate them.

    If they want to do something extra, like gardening or washing the car, they can earn additional payments. We also increase what they need to pay for out of their allowance as they get older. In middle school they pay for their own school lunches. Grade 10+ they pay whatever they want to do with their friends (like going to the movies). All along they must also contribute $2 to the “charity jar” each week and at the end of the year they decide where they would like to donate those funds. I wrote about our allowance system myself a couple of months ago! Oh, and for the record, my kids are ages 10-19 (the eldest no longer gets allowance, but we’ve saved for post-secondary costs so she gets that).

  7. I’m in the “allowance is separate from chores” camp. My rule of thumb has been that if it’s a job that I’d pay someone outside of the family to do (e.g. raking leaves, mowing the lawn, etc.) then I’ll pay one of my children the same amount. We don’t hire out the dishes, cleaning bedrooms, vacuuming, etc., so those are all unpaid chores and each child has their share of the household chores. I tend to see allowance as an opportunity to learn how to manage money, giving a child whose too young to get a job a chance to learn the lessons of compound interest and balancing their desires and wants and purchase tradeoffs. I try hard to not moralize about purchases, finding that the best way for a child to learn whether a purchase was “good” or not is through their own experience. If you’re interested, here’s some more details on how we run the “Bank of Dad” in our home:

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