Should I Give My Kid an Allowance?

a small child facing a standing adult goat with a baby goat on the ground

Many parents struggle with the question:  should I give my child an allowance?  Does this help them or hurt them?  There are two sides to this story – some parents believe that children should not receive an allowance, as it teaches children that they don’t have to work for their money, while others feel that giving them an allowance is the only way they will learn about money. 

My personal opinion is this:  children should definitely receive an allowance.  After all, if they aren’t given their own money, how will they ever learn to manage it?  The real question may be whether or not it should be linked to chores – in order to get your allowance, you have to do chores around the house. If you don’t do your chores, you don’t get your allowance.   Some people take this approach. 

However, if your child never does his chores, then he will never get any money.  So how will he learn to manage it?  Some experts believe that an allowance should be given unconditionally, and that children should be expected to do chores because they are a part of the household and “everybody needs to chip in around the house.” 

This is the approach that I took, for the most part.  And if my son wanted to earn some extra money, then I gave him extra chores.  He had specific chores that had to be done regardless (keeping his room clean, cleaning the bathroom, etc.), but he could also vacuum the house or clean the basement if he wanted to earn extra money.  I was trying to teach him two things:  one, you need to contribute to the household, and two, if you want money, you have to work for it – it’s not just going to be given to you. 

A hand holding a paintbrush that appears to be painting a fence

I think I’ve been fairly successful.  He started working a part-time job when he was around 16 or so, and he’s been pretty responsible with his money.  He’s 24 now, and every time he gets paid, he makes a list of bills he has to pay, and sometimes if he has a little extra, he’ll put a bit more on one of his bills in case he’s short next payday.  However, he does still make bad financial decisions at times and runs short of money (he spends $50.00 on pizza for one night, when he should have bought groceries for a week), but overall, I think having an allowance helped teach him about money.  Hopefully he will make better decisions as he gets older.

However, I don’t think you should just give your child an allowance and leave it at that.  You have to teach them how to manage their money.  Tell them that this $10 has to last them an entire week, so they need to make it last.  Don’t blow it all in one day.  If they do, do not give them an advance on their next week’s allowance.  This is not how it works in the real world.  You cannot spend your entire paycheque in one weekend and then go to your boss to get an advance on your next cheque.  And the sooner your children learn this lesson, the better.   And it is your responsibility to teach him this lesson. 

a pink piggy bank

Some people also believe that you should divide money into jars – 10% savings, 10% charity, and the rest for spending.  I do think that this is a good idea, but I was a single parent and my son didn’t get very much money for an allowance, so I felt that he should be able to spend it as he saw fit.   And there were times when I had lost my job and he didn’t get an allowance at all, so when he had money, I didn’t want to tell him how to spend it.  You also have to let them make their own decisions and learn from those decisions, both good and bad.   I certainly did tell him that he needed to save money to buy certain things, and he was pretty good at this, but I must confess, the charity donation just didn’t happen.  However, we did contribute to charities – it was just in a different form.  We never threw out anything that could be donated to charity (clothes, toys, etc.) so he learned about giving to charities in that way instead.

How much do you give?  Gail Vaz-Oxlade, suggests a dollar a week for each year of the child’s age.  So a 13 year old would get $13.00 per week.  I think this is a pretty good guideline.  However, it’s up to you.

So should you give your child an allowance?  I would say yes, but at the same time, you must also give them the proper tools to learn how to manage money.  This is an extremely important life lesson that every child must learn.

Article by Sharon Skwarchuk

Meena’s Note: On the topic of how much of an allowance to give, it’s important to decide what items the allowance is meant to cover. In some families, all “essentials” such as food, clothes, school activities are paid by the parent, so the allowance is only meant to cover some extra fun items.

But in some families, once the child is a certain age, they are given full responsibility for buying their own clothes for example. So then a much larger allowance will make sense.

And don’t worry if you can’t afford to give an allowance or can only give a very small one. I think that if you explain in a calm, rational way, that you have limited money, children will understand enough. Of course, there will be some whining; but as adults don’t we still whine sometimes about having to go to work, or do chores? And then we deal with it. Kids have to learn this too.

When it comes to money secrecy is never a good policy, especially when it comes to your children.

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