I have gotten this question quite a bit lately with moms I coach, moms at the soccer field and in chat groups online. It is funny how a simple procedure can end up producing such havoc with parents. Do we give allowance, do we not? Is it tied to chores, or not? Is it a privilege or a right? How much, is that too much? The list could go on and on!
The first thing I always toss back into the conversation is, what do you think will work for your family? That catches everyone off guard! It seems that it is easier to just do what someone else does rather than thinking through your own reasons why allowance is even a topic you are discussing and what you are trying to teach your children with this tool. Is it just so they stop bugging you for money, or are you trying to help them learn how to manage their own money? Ask yourself a few questions before you make a decision about allowance.
1) What am I trying to teach my child by giving allowance?
2) Do I think chores need to be tied into the allowance or is that separate?
3) What is a reasonable amount for their age?
4) Will this make your life more complicated?
So now, here is my opinion! Allowance is an awesome tool to allow your children to make some BIG mistakes about managing money when they are young as well as learn TO manage their money. This is the #1 reason why I love allowance. At our house allowance is not tied into chores, allowance is a part of being in the family. So we deal with chores a different way. I prefer this and it works out very well. This was my husband’s idea when we got married. When I was a single mom I had chores and allowance tied together – so it was always up to me to see if chores were done, make some kind of chart, take money away……AHHHH, it was way too much trouble, so I ended up just giving the money even if chores were not completed because it was easier than arguing! Now, if chores aren’t done when they are expected, another chore is added on. I can tell you, it didn’t take long before everyone knew they needed to just complete the jobs they had been given.
Allowance is categorized by age at our house too, different age groups get a different amount. This correlates to how much responsibility you have in the family. So this year, when my daughter turned 16 and was going to be driving, she had a significant increase in her allowance, partly due to her age but mostly because she was going to be expected to help me with driving. This is not one of her chores, but a family responsibility. It works out well.
The best part of allowance though is actually allowing my kids to spend their money however they see fit. The other part of that equation is allowing them to fail and not “save” them. For example: I have two boys who enjoy going over to the bookstore across the street; they go over with the prime reason that they want to buy something- you know the familiar”money burning a hole in the pocket” predicament. Often times they come back with good purchases, other times it is in my opinion a “wasteful” purchase, but never the less it is THEIR purchase. Once in awhile I might throw in a comment about a vacation coming up where they might need their own money, or activity we have planned – but then I let it go. I have come to realize no amount of reasoning, logical thinking, or advice from me will help them learn where and when to spend their money.
Lately I have not monitored their bank accounts or money spending very closely and I will tell you why. They will learn more by my example, how they see me spend and save my money rather than my preaching. I have decided to not limit their spending, it is their money not mine. Once I give it to them it is no longer mine to monitor or “give permission” to spend. This was a little more difficult for my husband to grasp, but when I put it to him this way, “Wouldn’t you rather they end up broke now at 10 and have no money during vacation, then at 20 and have no money for rent?” He got it. Let the consequences do the preaching, not me! That is my approach, but the other part of this is when your child is broke and doesn’t have money to do what everyone else is doing with “their” money, you stand firm and do not loan them money or give them more. What are you teaching them by giving them money when they have spent all theirs? It is hard to see your child disappointed or upset, but I can tell you allowing that to happen will be a better deterrent to it happening again then you lecturing or giving a loan. Lessons are hard, but I would rather my kids learn when they are young and have the opportunity to make mistakes now rather than later. Missing out on a trip to get ice cream is small potatoes when you compare it to getting evicted because they can’t pay rent because they didn’t learn how to manage money while growing up.
Yep, I like my approach, but it is not for everyone. Thus the first question, “what do you think will work for your family?”