Is your child's allowance dependent on chores?
May 5, 2014 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Hi, My ten year old daughter wants to start getting an allowance this summer when school is out. My husband and I thought about it and we thought 10 dollars a week would be good. But we are trying to decide the pros and cons of attaching the allowance to chores.

She already does some things around the house, of course. She does make her bed (sometimes) and she puts her stuff away (sometimes) and she sets the table (sometimes), you get the idea. And we have always talked to her about the fact that she is part of a family and so doing things around the house helps out the family.

I guess what we want is two-fold. We want to increase the idea of "chores", and we want to teach her the responsibility of money, but we are not sure if we want to connect the two. We have read articles on the web saying that a child should help out and do chores because they are a part of the family. But at the same time, if we just give her money I don't want her to just think money just comes to you. For in real life you need to do a skill or service for money. So I guess we just need some imput.

I know for sure I want to teach her how to save her money. So I bought one of those piggy banks online that have several slots in them, and one is for saving, one is for charity, one is for spending, etc. I think that is a great tool.

But as far as to attach the chores to the allowance, I'm not sure. If I did not attach chores, I'm not sure what I would say to her, as far as why she is getting the money every week.

Please help. You guys always amaze me with your ideas.

posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Work & Money (44 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
We have a baseline of chores that have to be done each week. Then we have a dollar value attached to extra chores that work up to the amount of allowance we thought was the right number. What I can tell you is that we have tried a number of different methods of allowance with our 10 year old and this is what works best for HIM. I'd recommend that you try a method for a bit, and then tailor as needed to your daughter and what works best for your family.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:09 AM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Have a two-tier system for chores. Decide what gets done without compensation just because you're a person and a family member (i.e. self care like making the bed, cleaning one's own room; pitching in with communal meals like setting the table or taking turns helping with dishes). Because you're right, you don't want to link the activities of daily living with the idea that this is above and beyond work that merits external reward.

Then, on top of a flat rate allowance, have "above and beyond" chores that are more like work-to-earn that can be used to get up to $10: special projects (arranging bookshelves or cabinets, setting up a garden), and "jobs" (assisting with yard work, laundry sorting or folding for the entire family with a parent, etc.).
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:19 AM on May 5, 2014 [16 favorites]

I'm not sure what I would say to her, as far as why she is getting the money every week.

Basically what I would say, in this instance, is "You're old enough to make some of your own decisions about what food and clothes and toys you get now, and we are giving you the money to do that with. From now on, if you want something you can buy it with your own money [insert restrictions about violent video games or candy or whatever here], and you can also save up the money if you want something that is more than $10." Then, when she asks you for gum or special shampoo or lip gloss or whatever, you can remind her that she has her own money now and can buy her own stuff. It's not money "just coming to her" any more than her clothes or her shelter "just come to her." You're just letting her make decisions about it.

I don't have kids, but I've seen chores and allowances end in tears many, many times.
posted by mskyle at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2014 [35 favorites]

We have made it clear that allowance and household activities are not connected. They help with the laundry and the yard and the dishes because they use and benefit from those things, not because we pay them. Doing the needed work around the house is part of being in this tribe. Allowance is a totally separate thing; it's not like anyone is going to pay them for doing their laundry when they're adults.

(Not saying that anyone doing it differently is wrong; this is just where our values and feelings led us.)
posted by jbickers at 9:21 AM on May 5, 2014 [19 favorites]

I would connect them; I think it's really important and helpful in teaching cause and effect and demonstrating that money is earned, not granted.

I would pick a time each week, say Sunday afternoon, that is Allowance Time. The expectation is that her chores have been completed by this time. If they are not, her allowance will be held until they are done. Not a conversation. No "but I didn't have time...", no "but I want to be able to...". Allowance is received upon completion of stated expectations. I would also make these chores general family stuff like taking out the trash or cleaning the bathtub, not things like bed-making that primarily affect her. Those can be regular expectations.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:21 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

User mskyle gives good advice on how to explain allowance and what it's for. But if you want to attach some responsibility to it, two-tier is the answer! Five bucks for baseline; what she does now. If she wants more, she can do more, and track it for you. (You shouldn't have to.) Tell her that you'll always give her a minimum of $5, but she could get as much as $10, and ask her what she thinks is a good amount of extra work to earn it. Let her make the suggestions, agree on them, and have her report on them weekly if she wants the extra money. Not just "I emptied the trash!" but actually track it, on paper. "I emptied trash cans in both bedrooms, the bathroom, and the den into the dumpster in the alley on Wednesday."
posted by juniperesque at 9:26 AM on May 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

So I bought one of those piggy banks online that have several slots in them, and one is for saving, one is for charity, one is for spending, etc. I think that is a great tool.

If you are going to require that she donate a portion of her allowance to charity then you really need to tell her AND show her that you will absolutely and without question match her donations 1:1 because otherwise the only thing she will learn is that her parents do not live up to the standards to which they hold their children, and that social responsibilities and civic-mindedness are unpleasant chores like taking out the garbage, and that is a ugly lesson to learn.
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 AM on May 5, 2014 [52 favorites]

Just a data point, my parents tied my allowance to chores at which point I instantly decided that I'd rather not have the money AND not have to do any chores than do chores for some amount of money.

This became a near constant source of strife because they felt that they were simply incentivising things that I HAD to do and I thought they were making me a job offer which I was declining.
posted by Saminal at 9:29 AM on May 5, 2014 [110 favorites]

When I was a kid, I had chores, and I got paid an allowance, and I had to do the chores before I got the allowance - but I wasn't being paid for the chores; that was just the prerequisite each week for getting paid.

I know it's tempting to say "in the real world you have to do a job for money," but being a kid is all about not being in the real world; in the "real world" nobody puts a roof over your head for free, nobody feeds you for free, and you don't spend all day in school. Having an allowance is about having some spending money to control yourself, for a sense of freedom and to start teaching about basic money-management skills like "you can't get everything" and save vs splurge. It doesn't have to be a straight wage system.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:30 AM on May 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I would not connect them. Chores are things you do because you are part of the family and it is your responsibility & contribution to the family.

Money you get every week and learn fiscal responsibility.

To attach money to chores means if the kid doesn't feel like $10 that week, they won't make their bed and you won't have any say in it. This isn't a good dynamic to set up.

I am also a huge fan of Haim G. Ginott child/parent child psychologist who believed that paying for chores was an external imposition of responsibility, and that responsibility must grow from within. He therefore was not in favor of paying for chores.

I get the idea of paying for chores - we all work for a living etc., but I would prefer the internalized model of responsibility wherever possible.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:31 AM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

In our family (8 yo kid) the allowance is a "dividend" for being part of the family. Chores are something we all do to not live in a shithole (well less of a shithole). It works for us.
posted by H. Roark at 9:31 AM on May 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

When I was a kid, we got an allowance and we had to do chores, and not getting our allowance was one of the potential punishments for not doing chores, though there were more immediate consequences to not doing them that kicked in before the allowance thing became an issue. There were also additional chores that could be done to earn additional money on top of our allowance.

So it's possible to tie them loosely together without making chores a paid task, because you don't want your kids to get the idea that as long as they don't need any spending money they don't have to do the dishes this week, but at the same time, you want them to understand that as part of the family both work and rewards are something they get to share in.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2014

I did the same thing as Saminal and just didn't do my chores and said screw the allowance. It was like a tiny version of the Haifa daycare effect. I think the danger is that even if it works well at the beginning, your kid(s) may well stop doing the chores as they develop other sources of income.
posted by mskyle at 9:35 AM on May 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

but actually track it, on paper.

OP, a tool that has worked for my 10-y.-o. is Chore Monster, which lets me make the chore list, makes him responsible for checking things off, and (this is key) lets me say yes or no about each chore actually being done.

I struggle with this question of connecting allowance and activities of daily living. FWIW, the incentive of an allowance for bed-making (etc.) had helped, somewhat, in forming helpful habits.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:37 AM on May 5, 2014

This is going to depend on what motivates your child. My brother was (is) a money hoarder and will work 24/7 in a million different businesses if it means he nets another dollar. I, on the other hand, prefer more free time and less stuff. Our indifference curves between leisure and consumption are different - and this difference was prevalent even as kids. If I had the option to not do chores and forgo $10, I would have chosen to not do the chores (conversely, I'd pay $10 to have the 2hrs of free time to read a book or whatever); my brother would be there negotiating for what other tasks he could do and how much he'd get paid for doing them. [Sidenote: as adults now, we are both successful and financially secure but still with our different priorities.]

So, you have to figure out which kind of kid you have, and which chores are non-negotiable. Once you introduce money, the chore becomes negotiable. If setting the table is required, then don't compensate it; if it's something she can do that goes above and beyond the normal stuff, then consider compensating it. But then you can't be upset if she decides her time is more valuable than the offered compensation.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:38 AM on May 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

My brother and I didn't get an allowance. We did have numerous opportunities to earn money around the house.

At dinner on a Friday my dad would say something like...

"I'm going to be doing yard work tomorrow, anyone (meaning me or my brother) who wants to pull weeds will get $20."


"The house needs to be repainted. If you do the detail work on the dental molding I'll give you $10 an hour."

or my mom would say...

"I'm behind on papers, I'll give $20 to whomever wants to grade all the multiple choice tests tonight."

Etc. (And of course, if we didn't volunteer ourselves, we got bodily dragged out of bed on a Saturday morning to go paint the house anyway, because what kind of idiot turns down paid work, get up and help your family.) We both also started doing paid work outside of our families pretty early, because we learned that if you want money you need to actually do things. I was babysitting at 11 years old and my brother was out doing yardwork and odd jobs for the neighbors starting in his early teens. He even babysat, too, when he got older.

Anyway, my brother and I have both turned into extremely financially responsible working adults, so I guess it was a lesson well learned.

(And specifically re: the charity thing. We were never expected to give money to charity, but we were both expected to spend time volunteering, because that's just what you do. My brother and I both volunteer as adults.)

No regular guaranteed allowance, just money when you did something to earn it (with the understanding that there would be plenty of opportunities provided in the house to earn money.) YMMV but it worked really well for us.
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

We didn't tie chores to allowances because cleaning you room and other things just come with being part of the family. We looked at the allowance more as a exercise in learning how to handle money than we did a reward for doing anything in particular.
posted by COD at 9:40 AM on May 5, 2014

We didn't get an allowance, but I have a few friends who have a system similar to what blue suede stockings describes with their kids, and it seems to work really well. One kid in particular has things he really likes to do around the house, like cooking and taking care of his own clothes, and those go under the things he doesn't get money for.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:45 AM on May 5, 2014

I'm not a parent, but I was a child once, so I hope you won't mind my input.

I had allowance and it was not tied to chores. My parents' reasoning was pretty simple: I received the allowance because I was old enough to have some autonomy over my purchases and expenditures, and it was not tied to chores because, well, it's not like the Chore Fairy pays grown ups for making their bed and unloading the dishwasher (Wouldn't that be nice?!), so getting paid to do chores is a poor analog for working life.

I grew up to be very hard-working and I have a good grasp of the most sound ways to manage money, so I'd say I wasn't harmed by their policy. In fact, I'd say I benefited from it in some ways.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:49 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

lynnie-the-pooh: "But as far as to attach the chores to the allowance, I'm not sure. If I did not attach chores, I'm not sure what I would say to her, as far as why she is getting the money every week."

Yeah, don't attach it to chores. A substantial number of children are delighted to realize they have now bought their way out of chores and, what are you going to do, not feed them? Not let them go to school?

Explain about wanting to let her learn to budget, etc etc. What my mother did was tied my allowance to, first, little treats from the convenience store and my library fines (when I was 6 and got 50 cents a week). Then in junior high, it was that plus my entertainment expenses. Then in high school, it was all of that plus my clothing. That is, it wasn't like "here's an extra $10 a week to spend on whatever you want!" It was, "Here's $10 a week for your entertainment expenses and special treats. We're not going to pay for movies with friends anymore; that's up to you." Obviously you still pay for family outings (and feel free to surprise and delight her by paying for a movie or a day at the laser tag range now and then), but she manages her own entertainment-and-treats. In high school my mother bought my back-to-school clothes (because that's a big outlay all at once), but then I was responsible for buying them the rest of the year out of my allowance, replacing jeans with holes in the knee or getting a cute shirt I wanted or whatever, and managing those expenses along with my entertainment expenses.

Ideally to have an allowance be part of her financial education, you want to make sure it's something she will SPEND, and on a fairly regular basis. It's important to learn how to save up for larger items, but she also has to learn how to manage an inflow and outflow of money, which is why you want to tie it to a recurring expense of hers that you would otherwise pick up. A lot of kids with allowances JUST use their money for special treats and they get very good at saving up several weeks to buy a new video game or whatever, but they never learn to manage a budget so they have enough left at the end of the month to meet their friends for dinner.

Plan to bail her out a couple of times at the beginning when she doesn't do a good job managing her allowance and doesn't want to miss an important outing with friends (or whatever) -- let her borrow against her next-week's allowance. The horrible realization that she can't afford a movie (or whatever) is plenty educational all on its own; you don't have to start being hardcore and saying "nope, sorry, you can't go at all, consequences!" right away.

You also may want to consider switching to a monthly or bi-weekly allowance, once she gets the hang of it, because those are more typical budgeting periods and budgeting for a week at a time isn't too challenging when you're a kid and don't pay for rent or food ... and if you screw up, it's only until next weekend. Managing $40 over a month is very different than managing $10/week. But, you know, build up to it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:49 AM on May 5, 2014 [32 favorites]

I really like the idea of pocket money as pocket money, and chores as things everyone in the house does because we all live here. What you don't want to do is have a kid decide that they'll forego allowance this week because they don't want to do chores.

I also like the idea of having some things that a kid can do to get some extra dough. For example:

1. Clean the baseboards.

2. Wash the car

3. Polish the kitchen and bathroom woodwork/cabinets.

4. Clean out the fridge.

5. Do prep work/clean up for dinner parties (this was MY forte).

All those things that need to be done occassionally, and are real PITAs.

There should also be seasonal family cleaning, and you can either opt to do this prior to field trips, camp or family vacations as a basis for earning extra spending money. For example, you can offer to pay an hourly wage for helping to clean out the garage, assist with a yard sale, pack up the Christmas decorations, yard work, etc. Or you can decide that this is just crap people have to do occasionallly.

I'm also a big fan of doing matching savings for big purchases. X-Box, Cars, European Trips. So 50% of the pocket money can go into savings, and if and when the kid is ready, you can match whatever has been saved towards a big ticket item.

10% should go to charity or tithe, to teach that we all contribute in the world. (That might be me.) I'd get a pretty Pushke and I'd make a thing of watching the dollar go into it. Every three months, you can take out the $12-$13 and work with your kid to decide where he might donate it.

I live in a utopian world and I don't have kids. YMMV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Growing up, I got an allowance every week, and the tradeoff was that I couldn't ask my parents for money and I could only get what I could afford. Once I was old enough to get a job (as a teenager), I got one, and I stopped getting an allowance.

If you don't do your chores, someone else is going to have to do them for you. Not being a jerk should be it's own reward, I think, not something that you get paid for.
posted by rue72 at 9:52 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

BTW, this is not a bad age to start having her help you budget out larger purchases that concern her -- "I've planned to spend $300 on your back-to-school clothes, and these are the things I think you need," and enlist her in making decisions about what she HAS to get and what is FUN to get and whether to shop sales and so forth. Or "We're looking to spend $200 on your birthday party" and let her decide how she'd like to spend that -- how many people to invite, how much cake, where to hold it, etc. Or "We have $500 for outings on this vacation, let's look at what each of us would like to do and figure out how to spend that so we're all happy." It's good for her to participate in those larger decisions and start learning how to make those bigger purchases and balance competing interests while being guided by you. It's sort-of allowance-adjacent and part of the same set of money-learning. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:09 AM on May 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

I always thought of it as: My kid is part of the family and has regular responsibilities and benefits. Small regular allowance and required chores - keep room picked up (with age-appropriate help), set/clear the table, sweep kitchen floor, etc. Additional money could be earned by doing extra chores, like yard work.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Think of the allowance as money you are already spending on your child in response to the numerous discretionary little requests like gum, lip gloss or whatever you succomb to regularly outside birthdays/holidays etc. These things are treats, not essentials.

Chances are that because these things are treats you are already using them as part of a reward system or withhold them if you feel minimum standards of behaviour are not met or minimum contributions to family life i.e. chores are not completed. So by all means create a loose link between the two.

You may find that priorities shift all of a sudden once she can control what the money buys. But the key point for you is that you are no longer buying such items. If she wants them she pays for them. Once the money is spent it's spent.

As she gets older you can create a stronger link between allowance and daily life. For example you could increase the allowance and make her responsible for buying her own clothing or hair cuts or whatever. Probably best to attach conditions to this such as must maintain minimum level of fitting, school appropriate clothing etc so as not to set them up for failure here.

The key is to stick with whatever expenditure the allowance is to cover and not to succomb to any future requests to buy the items the allowance is supposed to cover.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:26 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally I don't like the idea of children getting allowances from parents. I DO believe that they should be encouraged to EARN money... but ideally not from their parents if that can be helped.

Ideally I would prefer having the kids do chores for neighbors. This would require them to develop sales skills as well since they'll have to convince others to let them do these chores. Maybe by putting posters up or what have you. I sold candy to my neighbors in 7th grade to afford paying for a school trip. I failed miserably so I had to figure out how to get them to buy. I decided to drag my little sister along with me on my sales route and made her carry the candy. She was an adorable little 7 year old with dimples so people would melt and just hand over their cash for the candy. lol. My evil plan worked!! whahahahaha.
posted by manderin at 10:41 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

> I know it's tempting to say "in the real world you have to do a job for money," but being a kid is all about not being in the real world; in the "real world" nobody puts a roof over your head for free, nobody feeds you for free, and you don't spend all day in school. Having an allowance is about having some spending money to control yourself, for a sense of freedom and to start teaching about basic money-management skills like "you can't get everything" and save vs splurge. It doesn't have to be a straight wage system.

Hear, hear! Being a kid means, or should mean, not having a job and not even having to get into that mindset. The whole "preparing them for adult life" thing grates on me; if that's such a good idea, why not just kick them out and let them fend for themselves? If you want to institute a two-tier system, with extra rewards for certain things they do, that's a different matter, but an allowance as such should be given as of right, with no strings attached.
posted by languagehat at 10:41 AM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you do this, and your kid doesn't do chores, all you can really do is withhold the allowance. Not giving her the money and punishing/scolding/correcting her will undermine the whole idea of being responsible with money. It makes it clear the money was not about the chores to begin with.

Also, money isn't nearly as appealing to a younger kid as you may think. Firstly, they don't need gas, and since she's generally doing things with adults, she gets movies/restaurants for free. She doesn't need money for dates, or make up or something else.

Also, you're still her gateway to get those things since she can't drive. If she wants a video game, for example, she still needs you to take her to the store. Since it's your timetable, this detracts from the "mine" part of money. I always put a premium on autonomy as a kid, and allowances based on chores actually detract from this sense, because you now are working for your landlord, who is also your only transportation service.

Finally, you're still going to excercise a lot of control over her purchasing decisions, far more than when she's 16 or 17. So money doesn't equal choice and freedom nearly as much for her as it does for teenagers.

I would actually wait until she's working to give her an allowance, and basically add onto her wage. Say for every hour she works, you'll give her set extra amount.
posted by spaltavian at 10:42 AM on May 5, 2014

We did not get an allowance. Instead we did chores as part of being in the family. We also got a budget for things once we were old enough to have autonomy (9 or 10) but couldn't yet work. We had a clothing budget, a school supply budget, and a very modest fun budget. These were doled out at appropriate times, usually before school, when winter came, and then before the summer. Most of our toys and stuff were received as gifts. My parents paid for of all our after school activities like piano and karate though. When we turned 14 we were eligible to work and at that point we got part time jobs.
posted by sockermom at 10:47 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

My parents mostly made our (ridiculously small, there were 7 of us, but that's another story) allowances dependent on chores, and since they were so ridiculously small we all quickly realized how unmotivating this was; so I personally don't think this is the best approach. The one thing I do think they did "right" is the couple years when I was your daughter's age or a little older and they did the "budget for fall clothes" thing that Eyebrows McGee suggested above - this was in the days of Sears and JC Penny catalogues, and I remember pouring over them for hours trying to calculate how much stuff I could fit into the budget and still get a nice coat or whatever. It was exciting and felt "special" but also gave me a good opportunity to delve into how much things coat (and shipping, tax etc) and plan wisely. I definitely intend to do this with my own kids once they're old enough.
posted by celtalitha at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I did the same thing as Saminal and just didn't do my chores and said screw the allowance.

Which is exactly why you shouldn't match daily/weekly chores to an allowance. The two-tiered solution is perfect: there are some tasks everyone in the household is expected to do to keep the household functioning properly - making beds, laundry, dishes, garbage, etc - and other less-pressing-but-still-important tasks that allow the kid to make extra money if s/he chooses to do the extra work.

an allowance as such should be given as of right, with no strings attached.

Spoken like a true grandpa. :) But the idea of a regular gift of money regardless of how well the kid is participating in the daily work of the family (not the emotional life, which is its own issue, just the physical work of cleaning, etc) seems like a missed opportunity to help kids learn the value of work.
posted by mediareport at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2014

I got an allowance and had chores to earn other privileges (e.g., driving, gas money). But once I started making more money than my allowance at 14, I no longer got an allowance. So I guess mine was more of a welfare system. (Then I briefly lived at home as an adult and paid rent.)

I think this worked well for me. The allowance was small enough that I wanted to have more money, but big enough that I couldn't complain about not having money at all for food/movie tickets when I occasionally went out. But I knew that in order to actually be comfortable, I had to work for money (and save).

So my vote is to not tie it to chores. (And that way the kid also doesn't get to say, "Well, I don't want an allowance, so I'm not doing chores.")
posted by ethidda at 12:00 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I asked my boy if he'd shovel poop out of the barn once a week. He looked rather displeased until I told him it paid five dollars. "Deal," he said.

He's into it now. He can't carry the buckets to the compost pile, but that's ok.

I'm not going to pay him for cleaning up after himself or the everyday stuff around the house, but there is plenty to do for the animals and I could use the help.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:13 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got an allowance for a short period of time and it was tied to chores. IT was the only money I got, so if I wanted toys or clothes or (my personal weakness at the time) craft supplies, I had to use my allowance money or go without. Seems like maybe my parents took a bit of a hard line on the "you have to earn your money" front, but for i never conflated the idea of doing chores with getting money outside of the allowance system (i.e. i was not flaberghasted with the idea of sustaining my joint san pay when i moved out). In my adult life i am pretty tidy, albeit a pack rat.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:17 PM on May 5, 2014

I came here to say what saminal said. I feel strongly that tying allowance to basic chores is the path to madness. I imagine a two-tiered system could be made to work, but the major takeaway I got when cash-for-chores became policy was "oh, now I get to choose what I get to do in this house? Well...I'm gonna do nothing at all. I don't need money. You won't let me starve." It was the same dynamic as the late-pick-up charge at the day care.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:20 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with those noting the pitfalls of tying an allowance to chores (both in that kids may well say, "Okay, I'll pass!" and in that chores are a part of life anyhow).

My 10-yr-old gets an allowance for the purpose of learning money management. He knows that's why he gets it, which helps in a couple of ways. Aside from the aforementioned, it allows us to some veto power over what he buys. I realize that may seem counter to the notion of giving a kid agency, but it's worked for us. After all, if a kid owns a video game, parents still can put limits on how/when it's used. Some adults own cars but must follow rules about how they're used. You get the idea.

Yes, he buys candy and other junk sometimes, but he's also managed to save up for a couple of things he's really wanted. That's a reward in itself and he gets commended for the commitment and achievement.

One other thing. When I was growing up, we weren't handed cash (there were 5 of us), but my dad kept track of our "accounts" and gave us monthly "statements" showing deposits (allowance) and interest (since he was holding all of it, like a bank) as well as withdrawals. It was a great system, because I can't remember a single time he declined a request for a withdrawal, and part of the reason is that we were inclined to think twice before saying, "Hey Dad, can I withdraw 10 bucks to blow on something really stupid?" We did buy silly stuff sometimes (and always pocketed change), but knowing there was a good chance he'd ask, "What're you getting?" while fishing out the money definitely made us think before spending.
posted by whoiam at 1:56 PM on May 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

> Also, money isn't nearly as appealing to a younger kid as you may think. Firstly, they don't need gas, and since she's generally doing things with adults, she gets movies/restaurants for free. She doesn't need money for dates, or make up or something else.

I find it hard to believe you were ever a kid! Of course kids want money; money can't buy you love, but it can buy you toys, candy, comics, all sorts of goodies your parents may or may not feel like providing you with. I hoarded my (pitifully small by today's standards) allowance and bought SF magazines and paperbacks and loved every minute of it. Kids shouldn't be deprived of that pleasure.

> seems like a missed opportunity to help kids learn the value of work.

Kids will "learn the value of work" all too soon! I don't understand this drive to push them into the horrors of adulthood as quickly as possible. Let them enjoy life while they can!

> Spoken like a true grandpa. :)

Got me dead to rights!
posted by languagehat at 4:49 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't associate the allowance with chores. My kid is 11. I also only give my kid 2 dollars!
posted by latkes at 5:04 PM on May 5, 2014

Man, these people are convincing...I started thinking that allowance should definitely be tied to chores because we all have to work for our money but after reading about these clever monkeys who would rather have their free time than the cash, and chose to forego chores because that's an option, I've flip-flopped. Mskyle and elizardbits both make excellent points, I think.

The thing is, you can still withhold allowance as a punishment for things, including not finishing chores, without actually making a connection that the allowance is a payment for chores. Just make sure kiddo knows that having allowance withheld is within the realm of possibility for misbehavior if it's to be considered.

Btw, I love the idea of the split piggy bank, but I do think it's very important that the child gets to choose the charity to which she donates.
posted by kattyann at 7:39 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

New development on my previous answer: My boy then told his teacher that he had a job shoveling Alpaca poop. She offered him 15 dollars for a drywall bucket of it. This complicates the relationship between labor and management a bit as the laborer comes into contact with the end user and understands how I am exploiting him, but I see some great teaching moments coming up.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:34 AM on May 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

I've noticed a theme about how no one gets paid for chores and that chores should not be tied to allowance because the kids will start to expect to be paid for chores. While this is true of your own home, I'd just like to throw out there that many people do and will increasingly be getting paid for chores such as cooking, doing dishes, laundry, taking out trash and making beds. Home care services for the elderly often involve such things and for many of today's 10-year-olds this could potentially be in that line of work as the boomer generation gets older.
posted by Hoopo at 10:40 AM on May 9, 2014

Part of the allowance system my parents put in place when I was a kid concerned lunch money. If I decided to make my lunch (and remembered to bring it), I could keep the lunch money for that day. It wasn't much, but it was nice to be able to make that decision.
posted by wiskunde at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2014

I received a relatively high allowance in exchange for chores when I was a child. But I was also told I was responsible for buying certain things that I wanted (i.e. candy, going out with friends, supplies for my pets, toys I collected, etc). My parents would never give me extra money for these things so I needed my allowance to pay for them.

I have to agree with the answers above that it depends on your child and also on their age. When I was 10 years old, I was willing to do the chores for money (and I also did extra chores for extra money as many others here have suggested). I needed that money so I could go buy slushies at the Food Bag with my friends, and buy cedar shavings for my guinea pig. I also was carefully saving that money up to buy higher ticket items like a ferret, and a futon bed.

Once I got into high school, I had another stream of income that I was earning by driving other kids to school. I also was incredibly busy as I did not get home from school until fairly late in the evening most nights. That was the point at which I decided that doing my chores wasn't worth my allowance. But my parents quickly realized what I was doing at that point and just changed their strategy so that first I would lose my allowance, and then I'd lose my phone and friend-visiting privileges. Of course, those were horrifying punishments for a teenager.

I have to say I never felt like getting paid to do my chores affected me negatively, as many folks above seem to fear. I do my chores as an adult without getting paid to do them… and I'm pretty sure I would have slacked on chores as a teenager regardless of whether the expectation was that it was my duty as a family member or it was a job I was getting paid to do by my parents. Teenagers are just self centered. I grew up into a responsible (and financially pretty savvy) adult.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:07 PM on May 9, 2014

Me and my siblings had a phased system based on whether we were old enough to make choices and old enough to legally have a part time job.

So when we were very small, our parents bought everything for us and we had little to no choice.

When we were old enough to go to school but too young to work, we would get a small non-chore dependent sum each Saturday to spend on comics and sweets. The amount was tied to our age, so I got more than my little brother and we'd get a 0.10 increase every birthday.

I remember feeling good knowing that I could plan my purchases in advance and not have them be dependent on my parents' moods that day. There were still some broad restrictions on what we could buy. (Being considered old enough to purchase and responsibly dispose of gum was a big milestone in our household.)

As a tween, when we were still too young to work, but old enough to want more disposable income, I was able to supplement the small amount of pocket money by saving money from the household budget.

So if I washed my parents' car and saved them the cost of a car wash they would pay me. If I got off the bus a few stops earlier and walked the rest of the way home I could keep the difference in fare. (Although I did have a Mr Yuck moment, when I saw realized there was a discrepancy between what my parents were paying me to wash the car versus what they'd been paying the people at the car wash.)

At 13 when I could legally work I was expected to deliver newspapers, but I was still allowed to make money by saving money until I left for university. The most I ever earned that way was by forgoing a family holiday to stay home and petsit in my late teens. They gave me all the money they would have spent on my plane ticket and accommodation.

Also, while this won't be relevant to most households, me and my sister also earned money when we were still under 13 as child actors. This cash went into the bank and we were only allowed to use it for big-ticket items with parental approval. (I remember using the movie money to buy a TV for my room and I think my sister used hers to buy winter clothes that were nicer than we could normally afford.)

Our household budget was tight enough that my parents would probably have been really glad of that money, but we didn't realise that as children and they always treated the movie money like the much smaller sums that we'd receive in Christmas cards from great aunts and things. It was ours, but it was to be looked after and not frittered away.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:30 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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