Putting the kids on the payroll

by DaniGirl on September 29, 2008 · 12 comments

in Mothering without a licence

Last month, we started giving the big boys an allowance. Tristan and Simon each get $2 a week, paid each Saturday. Simon now thinks of the weekend not as a day without school, but as the day he gets paid. That didn’t take long!

We debated for a bit about whether to tie the allowance to chores. I’ve seen it argued both ways: either you do, and the kids have to do their chores to get paid, or you pay the allowance out of the benevolence of your parental goodness and the chores are something that are done simply as a cost of being a member of the family. In the end, we leaned more toward the latter, but I have already threatened Tristan a few times with withholding part of his allowance if he didn’t do a better job of keeping up with his chores.

At four and six, their chores are fairly simple. They are also things I am not overly fond of doing. Fancy that! Simon is responsible for putting away the cutlery after the dishwasher is run, which happens at least once a day. Tristan is responsible for giving the dog food and water twice a day. They are both responsible for putting their schoolbags in their cubbies, putting their own clothes in the laundry hamper, and cleaning up after themselves if they’ve made a particularly spectacular mess (art projects come to mind.) I’m working on getting them to clear their breakfast dishes, too. And they’re on the hook for assignment of random chores, too: bring this basket of laundry upstairs, shuck this corn (that was a fun one!), go entertain your baby brother for two minutes while mommy finishes this blog post. So far, they’ve not only endured their chores without complaint but have actually said they like their assigned tasks. I’m obviously not working them hard enough!

The tricky part has been letting them spend their money on whatever they want. To me, the allowance is as much about introducing money management as it is about chores. So far, Tristan has spent the entirety of his allowance each week on Pokemon cards. Sigh. It’s his money, though, and he’s earned it, so we’ve been letting him get what he wants even though his mother is mildly offended by the idea of a universe in which Pokemon exists.

Even though he’s younger, it’s Simon who seems to be more willing to save up for something for a couple of weeks. He’s got his eye on a black cat Webkinz that would cost about two months worth of allowance. We’ll see if he makes it that far. He also said he’s saving for a remote control R2D2 they saw at the retro toy store. It’s only $169. Think he’ll still want it in a year and a half?

How do you work allowance and chores with your kids?


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 andrea from the fishbowl September 29, 2008 at 10:05 am

Great topic!
My girls get pocket money once a month. I read a lot about kids/allowance before we started out and the once-monthly idea appealed to me because it forces them to budget. And it works. The money is not tied to chores and I haven’t (yet) threatened to withhold it. They’re expected to do certain things around here, just like your boys. Why would I pay them to unload the dishwasher? They should do it because they’re members of this family.

Also, the pocket money is only part of their allowance. There are two other parts. One is money for charity, the other is money for saving in the bank. I’m pretty happy with that.

I have to admit that I also have difficulties letting them buy whatever they want with their own money. How many toys do they need? I have so far successfully managed to steer them away from dollar store crap. Sarah impressed me the other day with her purchase of a lovely wooden play food set … and it cost her two months of allowance. (!)

2 Mad Hatter September 29, 2008 at 10:14 am

We just started the allowance thing two weeks ago b/c Miss M decided she needed another stuffed elephant and I decided now was the time to teach her the value of money and saving. Yesterday she earned her third twoonie. All she has to do to get her money is pitch in on Sunday afternoon when MadDad and I do chores. So far, half the time is spent convincing her to help and the other half the time is spent helping her help. I’m not convinced our system is working yet.

We do get her to help out at other times in the week but we don’t tie that to allowance. That’s just part of being in the family. I try to get her to think of Sunday aft as her “job” partly b/c she hates day care and doesn’t understand the concept of what a job is and why Mommy and Daddy have to go to them.

Anyway, getting back to the allowance thing. Once she gets her $15 elephant in a few weeks, I am going to up her allowance so that we can start the 3 piggy bank system: one to save, one to spend, and one for charity. The allowance will likely go up to $4 a loon going in the latter two and a twoonie in the first.

3 Rev Dr Mom September 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

For me at least, tying allowance to chores and withholding it for chores undone quickly became too punitive–maybe it’s the control freak in me. Just didn’t work for me.

My kids always had some chores; they didn’t always have an allowance but they learned about saving etc. when they got money for Christmas and birthdays. For whatever reason “allowances” just didn’t become a workable part of our family ethos.

Interestingly to me, the Kid who I don’t think has ever had an allowance but knew that getting things required some saving up has more than once expressed dismay at the idea that some kids are “paid” to get good grades or do chores.

4 Karyn September 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I laughed out loud when I got to the Pokemon cards! Our youngest son, who was 7 at the time, was exactly the same way. And it frustrated me and my husband because we view saving some of your money as an important life skill. The Pokemon cards spending drove us to design a kids’ savings and money management software program called KidsSave. When we showed him what could happen to his money over time (a little spreadsheet excersise), he realized he would end up with more money even if he never added a single penny. It was that excersise that started KidsSave.

We do not tie allowance to chores. We, too, feel chores is a family responsibility. We view allowance as their tool to learn how to manage their money effectively. An allowance should shift responsibility from parents paying for things to the kids (movies, video games, and, yes, Pokemon cards, etc.). This is how kids learn to value money.

That said, neither of our boys is currently receiving an allowance. They are both old enough to earn money reffing soccer and running a once-a-week paper route. We do, however, continue to give them a small monthly interest payout on their savings. We want to continue to encourage the savings even they are both excellent money managers.

Learning to manage money takes time. It’s like teaching our kids to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. But just like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, it’s a life skill that works best when started young.

5 Windex September 29, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Our system is:
Allowance each week not tied to chores….
We give a mix of coins and tell them each week what they are worth (5 and 3 yrs) and than they have three jars Savings, Donations, Spend – the rule they have to place at minimum one coin in each jar – it is their choice on which coin – after that is done they choose where to place the remaining coin. Savings is for big family trips etc, and spending we have no say in how they spend but we no longer buy them any toys outside the birthday/Christmas days…so they are slowly learning that if they spend it all and have nothing else than they are out of luck.

6 Batman September 29, 2008 at 4:28 pm

We don’t do allowances in our house although we have had chats about giving money for chores. That’s as far as we got though. One of the kids seems eager to get involved in the whole chores for cash routine. I suppose we should take her up on it.

I started to think about it last year when I was thinking about hiring a maid a couple of times a month. Dani, I think we may have more of those jobs that we don’t like to do than you do. Then I started to think about why I should pay $100 or more per month for a cleaning service when we could pay the kids to do it instead. It would teach them about money and teach them about responsibility too.

As I said, that’s as far as we’ve gotten.

7 Shan September 29, 2008 at 6:59 pm

We give our daughter $6 a week. I had read or heard somewhere that the dollar value should equal their age. She’s 6 so $6 it is. Some she gets to spend, some goes in her piggy bank and the rest she donates, usually to the celebration bank at church. While the rest of the congregation is celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and the like, there’s my daughter in line waiting to drop her change in so she can celebrate Mommy making her pancakes or that the fall fair is in town. She’s actually been really great about saving up for stuff and I’ve been impressed with her purchases for the most part. A clock radio for her room and lots of books.

We don’t tie chores to allowance, but she’s tried. She sets the table for dinner, with some help, cleans up her own laundry and mops the floor once a week. Plus all the other little jobs that may come up during the week. There will be times when she doesn’t want to set the table and she’ll tell me to keep her allowance she doesn’t want to set the table. I always tell her I can keep her allowance if she likes, but she’s still setting the table.

8 APL September 29, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Thanks for sharing this (and thanks to your commenters!). I know this is on our horizon (Angry Boy just turned 5), and I have no clue what we should do…

9 meanie September 30, 2008 at 6:35 am

we don’t do allowances yet. but they do chores. and if they don’t do them, i certainly remember that next time i’m out shopping with them and they want something SO BADLY i just gently remind them that i need a little more cooperation around the house if they want something new.
i think i may instill an allowance though – for the sake of consistency.

10 jennyandtim September 30, 2008 at 7:36 am

I wish someone could explain why children love Pokemon. Jordan woould rather watch Pokemon than some nice normal cartoon.

11 Susan September 30, 2008 at 11:29 am

We just started a new allowance program two weeks ago. Like you, we haven’t attached it to chores because chores are just part of being in a family. They get $5.00/week–$1.00 goes into their savings accounts (not much, I know, but I don’t want to increase the total!), $1.00 goes into a “charity jar” and they get $3.00 to spend how they want. And we do let them spend it however they want, but they can’t pester continually to take them to a store. The only way to teach them how to save or spend money is to make it accessible to them and let them make their own choices. Hopefully, they’ll figure it out and learn a lifeskill.

12 Marianne September 30, 2008 at 7:19 pm

My daughter’s only 11 months old, so we’re still a ways away from allowance time, but I’ve enjoyed reading the different ideas and approaches here.

I agree with the idea that chores are part of being in a family, so they shouldn’t be tied to receiveing an allowance or not. My husband just suggested, though that basic chores can be expected, but he’d be open to negotiating with the kids for a bigger allowance if they take on additional chores, and that extra part of their allowance WOULD be tied to whether or not they did that task.

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