Establishing an allowance for your kiddos has the potential to reduce whining and begging at the store, as well as cultivate responsibility, healthy spending habits, and self-esteem. This episode also covers other sources of income like chores, grades, and gift money. [music credit: bigmanjoe] (If you are interested in the optional Kids Activity, see previous episode #46B.)
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Hello, Hello! We are winding up this season of Short and Sweet Parenting Tips with a series on allowances. We’re going to help you out by dividing the episodes by approximate age, because allowances will morph as your kid grows. But first, an overview. Today, we’ll cover the big picture on establishing an allowance for your kids – actually we’ll touch on other ways your kids might earn money, because they’ll all tie together when we talk about spending next week. Establishing an allowance and helping kids manage their money are interwoven, so you definitely want to listen to both of these episodes.
We started giving our kids a weekly allowance around pre-k, and it really was out of desperation because we were so sick of the constant begging and whining at the store. Honestly though, it’s tricky going to the store with any age kid, not just your small tykes…Heck, sometimes it’s hard for me to go through the store without wanting everything, and my girls have to remind me [Brooke: Mom, put your blinders on!] – ahhh, the student becomes the master… Well, it can be extremely stressful to go shopping with a kid who’s complaining, wailing, or even threatening because they want something.
So, you may be wondering, “Anne, how will an allowance cut down begging and whining in the store?” Thank you, I’m glad you asked. You see, it gets the kid out of the habit of you buying them things at the store. And, truth be told, it develops new approach for you, when your kids ask for something at the store.
Quick example: If you’re at the store and the “I wants” start up, simply ask your child, “Did you bring your money?” If they didn’t then say – very matter-of-fact, “Well I’m sorry. Maybe next time you can buy it, just remember to bring your money”. That pretty much ends the discussion. Don’t lecture or get pulled in to negotiations. If they’ve already spent their allowance for that week, tell them to remember the item, and maybe they can come back next week with their allowance. Again, end of discussion. Are there exceptions? Of course! But until you’ve solidly established that them paying with their allowance is the process of buying things at the store, I would hold off on the gray area. Of course, if they did bring their money then allow them to buy the item of their choice, as long as they can afford it, and have them pay the cashier themselves. I know that bordered on the spending topic, but I wanted to get that out there.
Next week, we’ll elaborate more including tricks to reward delayed gratification and discourage impulse buys.
When establishing an allowance with your very young child, you may not even need to set a specific dollar amount, at least at the beginning. If you start out this way, keep in mind to stay consistent with the amount of money you spend on them now, compared to the specific dollar amount that you will likely choose in the future. So, if you begin by spending $20 a week on your kid during store visits, but then when they turn 5-years-old, you end up giving them say…. $1.50 a week, this would make ZERO sense to your kiddo. This discrepancy may (to say the least) lessen your kids’ enthusiasm about having their own spending money.
But when your kid gets older, $1.50 a week, just ain’t gonna cut it. You may want to approach it like we do and give your kids a ‘raise’ each birthday. With our first kid, we kind of winged it. Now we try to give our second kid proportional raises in order to work her allowance up to what we currently pay the older one. All said, we probably raise our kids’ allowances anywhere from .75 cents to $1.50 per birthday. So currently, we pay our 12-year-old $9 a week. (If that seems a little low, you’ll definitely want to tune in next week, when we’ll share an approach to doubling the money when our kids save and plan ahead.) Our 16-year-old gets $16. Her allowance is proportionally more because she’s expected to pay for more of her needs, not just her wants. Also, I hadn’t realized until now that her allowance amount was her age because we actually pay her twice a month. But, we’ll dive deeper into all of that during the last episode on older teens. These are just our family’s amounts for an example! I’m sure every expert on the topic has scientific-y ways to determine the right amounts for your kids. I just wanted to give you some round numbers.
Now, I would be amiss if I didn’t bring up chores around the house while we’re talking about allowances. And this is why: [epic music] the age old dilemma: should allowances be linked to chores around the house? I have had many discussions with other parents about this, and I honestly don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach here. In our house though, allowance is free. Here’s our thought-process.
Now, this isn’t the biggest reason, but since we rarely spend money on our kids outside of allowance, we choose not to have them work for it. I will discuss this more in the next episode about spending, but we make a conscious effort not to fund our kids’ interests, wishes, whims etc. Next week, we’ll talk over some tricks of the trade…especially if your kid likes video games, or other costly activities.
Back to the chores. Even though we don’t have allowances linked to chores, the girls are responsible for specific jobs around the house every week. We feel like we’d rather make chores part of working as a family and being a team. So, the kiddos contribute to the running of the household rather than working only when getting paid. By the way, I covered other ways to cultivate a TEAM atmosphere in your family in Episodes #36-39.
Another bonus to not paying for basic chores is that when we task our kids’ with an additional duty, they accept it without expecting monetary compensation. Like, when I had my oldest start bringing in the trashcan from the curb. She took on that added responsibility, and wasn’t like: [Katy: how much more are you gonna pay me?] Hear me: I am not saying that linking chores to your kids allowance is wrong. It is whatever works best for your family. I’m just letting you know the reasons behind our choice to have our kid’s allowances be free and clear.
If you’d like more information on establishing chores and creating incentives, check out Pre-launch #9 called “There is no ‘I’ in chore”. It covers completely different information than what we’re discussing in this series.
In that episode on chores though, I did not discuss paying your kids for extra jobs around the house. Let’s go ahead and cover it now because any income will apply to our spending episode next week. One of our daughters is very industrious and pretty motivated to do chores. The other would rather delay the purchase – or even do without the item – rather than do extra jobs. Either way is perfectly fine. Don’t make one approach a “right or wrong”. The natural consequence is: if your child doesn’t do the extra jobs around the house, they can’t buy the item, or it will take longer to save up. There’s the lesson right there. Leave it alone as a natural consequence, and don’t editorialize – guilty as charged here, probably more often than not.
Anyway, it’s up to you how much you would like to compensate your kiddo for odd jobs around the house. To me, I try to pay based on the difficulty of the job relative to the age of the kid. Let’s take laundry for example. When my kiddo, who’s interested in extra jobs, started doing towel laundry, we tried to base the pay on the difficulty of the job for her. So, it was $2.50 for loading, washing, and drying the laundry. Then we paid her per item that is folded and put away. Yes, I have certain ways things need to be folded, and my kiddos need to meet those standards, or re-do the work. So, we pay 10 cents for washcloths, 25 cents for hand towels, and 75 cents for bath towels. 75 cents may seem like a lot, but have you ever watched a petite 9-year-old trying to fold a large bath towel? Oh, and by the way, they have to do the math!
I just now thought of another way our kids earn money! We pay them for school grades. This started in middle school for our girls. My parents did this when I was growing up because they said that school was like ‘my job’. As for my hubby and I, we just wanted to encourage our oldest to take her grades seriously. Each semester when grades come out, she gets $20 for As, and $10 for Bs. If she has a C, we subtract $10 per C from the amount she earned. This is based on our particular child’s abilities and capabilities. Some kids may work extremely hard to get Cs. Please congratulate them and acknowledge this accomplishment. Other kids may get Bs with hardly any effort, and you want to encourage them to get As. Like most things, know your kids and adjust your scale to that. It may even differ between siblings. You’ll need to really talk to the older kiddo about that, though. Some ideas on how to approach that are covered in Episode #5 about reducing sibling rivalry.
Finally, gift money is another source of income for your kids. This option gets a lot more popular as your kids get older and harder to buy for. We’ll cover gift money a little bit more in the next episode.
That wraps up part 1 on the hows and whys of establishing an allowance for your kiddos, plus other sources of income like chores, grades, and gift money. Next week, we’ll tie this all into teaching your kid about spending…Even as I say that, it sounds like just another boring money-management lecture, but I have some fun ways to work this with your kids. It really is a small up-front effort that will pay off in the long run – even into adulthood.
Thanks for tuning in. Catch you next week.
This is Short and Sweet Parenting Tips signing off…Fresh Ideas in Bite-sized portions.