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Raising Lexington: Should an Allowance Be Allowed?

Getting paid for doing everyday tasks around the house has become the norm, but shouldn’t kids do these things as part of their daily responsibilities?

I’m old school. I’m stubborn, and I don’t follow trends when it comes to parenting. We don’t watch TV during the school week, we don’t sit on the computer and play mindless games and there are no hats, cell phones or bad manners at our dinner table.

So when my friends started asking me how much allowance I give my elementary school-aged children I laughed ... out loud. Why in the world would I pay my children to do the things needed to sustain the house they live in?

I did some research on the topic and, it turns out, much to my surprise that there are a host of “professionals” that believe children should be paid, for example, 50 cents per week for each year of age. In this scenario my 7-year-old would get $3.50 per week. Others have suggested a dollar per week for each year of the child, in which case my 7-year-old would receive $7 per week. That works out to be $364 per year for my 7-year-old. $364.00 per year for what? Vacuuming, dusting, cleaning her room, taking out the trash and setting the table?

This strikes me as utterly insane.

Paying a child to keep up the house they live in is, in my opinion, nuts. Also, if you pay a child for doing chores, then they may come to expect to be paid every time they clear the table or bring in the trash cans from the curb. I think these things should be a condition of living in the house. These are the things we all do to be good citizens.

So, how do children earn money and learn to become fiscally responsible?

While I won’t be paying my kids to do the day-to-day chores needed to sustain a house, I will consider the idea that an extra special job like cleaning out the garage, washing the car, helping dad paint the bathroom may warrant some cash. I will have 2 to 3 of these special jobs lined up per month, and will allow the kids to choose which jobs they’d like, explain the payment and when the job needs to be completed. Just like I have a deadline for my articles, the kids will have deadlines for their jobs.

In addition to these special jobs, my kids often get cash from their extended family. These two “incomes” add up and currently both kids have more money in their wallets than I do.

Next comes the lesson of how we spend money. Impulse spending is very dangerous (I should know) and something kids can learn about at an early age. We make wish lists. If my kids still want something on that list after a few weeks, then they can use their saved money and get it. If there is a trip coming up I remind the kids that they may want to use their money on the trip. Both kids have wallets and, when the time comes, both kids will have a savings account.

Bottom line: My kids won’t get paid to do the day to day chores needed to sustain a house. They will, however, be taught how to be financially responsible through paid special jobs around the house. They will also be taught how to have a good work ethic by doing these jobs well and on time.

When it comes to figuring out what will work best for you and your family, there are lots of websites that can help. I started with www.themint.org and found some fun ideas for earning money and some teaching ideas, too.  

Patricia January 08, 2013 at 04:36 PM
I feel that allowance at an appropriate age is fine. Once the kids hit middle school they could be going to the movies or dinner, then for froyo with friends and have to hit the parents up for at least $20. I think that allowance should not be associated with chores, chores should be done on a daily/weekly basis and are necessary to daily living. I tell my 10th grader, well if you want to go out with friends you need to pick up your room etc. Allowance is cash used for discretionary expenses and they need to learn to prioritize whether they want to go to that lunch movie with friends or buy save up for that new shirt or video game.
KEN D... January 08, 2013 at 08:16 PM
I never gave my children a regular allowance. I did, and still do give them plenty of money. It seems to me that if one chooses to give their children allowance, they should also feel entitled to charge for room and board. I will never forget the day one of my daughters found out about my HUGE paycheck. I sat her down and showed her the HUGE bills that were payed with that check. When we started, she thought I was rich. I quickly dispelled that myth.

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