One question I hear all the time, that soooo many parents struggle with, is exactly how much money to give their kids for an allowance.
If you look up “average allowance”, you’ll find a recent study from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that found that kids are paid an average of $30 per week – and that two thirds of kids receive an allowance.
Seems high? At least, that’s what I thought. Like many averages this number may be skewed higher by people who pay their kids very large amounts each week. Other advice I’ve seen is to pay your child the same amount of money as they are years old (e.g., $10 for a ten year old, $12 for a twelve year old, etc.).
I’ll say that my perspective is there’s no one right amount to pay a child for an allowance. It depends heavily on what you expect to use that money for, the lessons you want them to learn, and how you’re calculating the amount.
So today I’m going to outline four major methods parents use to calculate just how much money to pay their kids for an allowance each week – and how you can mix them together to find something that works for your family.
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Pay A Fixed Amount For Set Chores
This is the “set it and forget it” method of exchanging work (chores) for money (an allowance). With this method, you pick a few specific chores that your child is expected to do every week. If they complete the chores, they get the money. Fail to complete the chores? No money for you!
Doing allowance payments this way helps take out some of the time needed for tracking chores, figuring out allowance amounts that change week to week, and paying varied amounts each week. If you’re a busy working parent, sometimes doing that can just seem like it takes too much time out of the day.
How might this work? You might have one child whose job it is to take out the trash, do the dishes, walk the dog, and clean their room every week – and another who takes out the recycling, feeds and waters the dog, and cleans their room. Each child gets a fixed amount of money each week for these chores, and if they don’t do them all, gets a penalty of some kind.
How much to pay exactly? I would suggest this is where the rule of thumb of $1 per year of age could come in handy.
Pay A Fixed Amount Per Chore
A popular method with many, this is where parents set a fixed amount they’re willing to pay per chore. They may have specific chores that they tell their kids they’re expected to complete every week, leave the selection of chores totally up to their kids to decide, or somewhere in between. An example of this might be doing a load of laundry for $5, or dishes for a week for $3.
This is where a “chore chart” or “chore ticket” is vital to keeping track of who’s done what chore – and what they’re worth. You can of course buy chore charts – like this adorable chore chart that goes on your fridge, or this cool whiteboard version of the chart – but only do that if you think your kids will find it more engaging and you’ll find it easier to remember. Otherwise, you might want to just write it on a plain whiteboard, or create a self-service chore ticket in excel and have your child fill it out.
Also, as an aside, while researching this series I found these interesting chore sticks. Apparently they have 42 standard chores, eight customizable options, and some “fun sticks” mixed in with the chores to keep it interesting. If you used this product, you might set an amount you’ll pay per stick, to help incentivize your kids to keep pulling another stick. I think it’s a cool product idea, although I haven’t tried it myself – if you do let us know how it goes.
This method is more complex and time consuming than the “fixed chores” method, but has the advantage of allowing kids to ramp up (or down) their work efforts in exchange for more (or less) money. It lets them see more directly how the exchange of work for money actually works.
How much to offer per chore? I would suggest varying it depending on the complexity, duration, and frequency of the chore. Doing dishes by hand seven days a week should be worth more than putting dishes into the dishwasher once a week.
Paying A Small Fixed Amount Each Week
If you don’t believe in paying for chores, but still want your kids to get experience managing money, you might go down the path of giving them a small amount of money each week for them to spend on incidentals.
This method is even easier than either of the two above – you don’t need to track specific chores, and you don’t even need to track whether they’ve done their chores at all. Instead, you just give them a fixed amount each and every week, and then tell them to stop bugging you for toys at the Target checkout because they can use their own darned money.
What’s a “small amount”? I would consider this something that’s plenty for incidentals, but doesn’t let them buy, say, a new video game every week. It could be something like $5 or $10 each week.
Paying A Large Amount For A Longer Time Period
As your child gets older, and especially as they approach the teenage years, you might consider moving away from small amounts for incidentals to paying them large amounts and making them responsible for larger expenses. After all, this is a skill they’re going to need as an adult, and there’s no better time to learn how to budget and spend wisely than when the stakes are low.
If you add up everything you pay for on behalf of your kids, you’re likely to be surprised at just how much you shell out every month. Everything from field trips (and field trip spending money), to picture day, yearbooks to extracurriculars, new shoes to haircuts, kids are small money drains. And often, they don’t realize or appreciate just how much you spend on things they take for granted.
What better way to show them than by setting a budget, giving them a larger amount (say monthly, or every other week), and having them pay for larger expenses? You could call this approach the “family payroll” method of allowances.
How much is a “large amount”? It depends on your family, and what expenses you want your kids to pay for. This could be $50, $100, or $200 (or more) a month. I would suggest starting smaller and ramping up over time, as they start to show that they’re spending responsibly.
Just like with the chore debate, you don’t need to stick just with one of the above methods. You could mix and match the methods above to suit your family.
For example, you might do the following:
- Every week your kids get a base $5 allowance
- They earn $5 more by doing a set of chores – doing the dishes, feeding the dog, and cleaning their room, for example
- Extra chores are available for an extra payment – e.g., if they want another $10 they could mow the lawn
- Every month you give them a fixed amount with which to buy their clothes – and once it’s gone it’s gone
So take any of these ideas and mix and match them to your hearts content!
Final Thoughts – And Your Ideas
As a parent for sixteen years now, I’ve learned a few important lessons:
1 – If you try something and it doesn’t work for you, that’s OK. Try something else. Try again, but do it differently. Basically, just don’t give up.
2 – What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for your family. Maybe you have a friend who keeps a detailed chore chart, pays in cash, and the entire family loves it – but you try it and half the time forget to fill out the chart, and your kids just complain at you all day. Don’t worry about doing what others do – you do you.
3 – What works for your family will change as your kids age. The method that works when they’re five and have just learned what a quarter is, is different than what’s going to work when they’re sixteen and can get a part-time job. I would suggest re-assessing every year or so to see if you need to make a tweak in what you’re doing as your kids age.
Whatever you do, the important thing is consistency. It needs to be something you stick with in order to teach your kids the lessons you want them to learn. So if you can’t be consistent with one method, just tweak what you’re doing until it works.
Readers – tell me what’s helped you to be consistent? Which of these methods do you use? And how much are you paying your kids? Let me know in the comments or on social media.
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