It’s a question parents hear quite often… ”Can I get an allowance?” I think I first heard the words roll out of my older son’s mouth at the ripe old age of 5. I’m certain one of his friends at his school told him about it. However he found out, it began a never ending cycle of questioning about the money he feels he deserves.
My husband and I have never really done an allowance system regularly. The main reason being we didn’t know how much to give the boys and also some paychecks were already being stretched thin. As I began to research the internet for advice on allowances I was surprised at how many sites there were on the subject, and how many different opinions there are as well.
Because there are so many factors, I won’t make a recommendation for your family, but I will tell you what factors you can use to make that decision on your own.
Decide What Age to Start
Most experts will agree that a reasonable age to begin giving your child an allowance is around 1st grade, roughly 6 years old. At this age and grade level they are beginning to understand the concept of money as well as its value. They know that $1.00 is equal to 4 quarters or 10 dimes, etc… The main goal is to make sure that your child is capable of mentally handling the money and understands that money is used to purchase items at a certain price. Every child matures at their own rate though. You may have a child who understands this concept at an earlier age and that is fine. You are the one who gets to decide what the right age is for your kid.
What Will the Allowance be Used For
Obviously younger children would not be asked to use their allowance to buy clothing or shoes, but older children might be. As a parent, you need to decide what you want your child to pay for. Younger children might be asked to pay for things like a new toy, a new book, or even certain snack foods at the grocery store. Children a little older, around 10 or so, may be asked to buy their own video games, comic books, or to use their own money for popcorn at the movies with a friend. Teenagers could be responsible for providing everything on their own except the basic necessities you provide for them at home. This could include meals out with friends, clothing, gas, etc… You could also require that at a certain age they begin to start saving for a car, or even help with saving for college. The idea is to decide what you think they should be responsible for, after all it is still your money.
How Much to Give
The general consensus in this area is generally tied to what the allowance will be used for. Younger children may start out with an amount as small as $1 per week, while a teenager may receive $50 or so per week depending on what you want them to spend it on. You generally want to give them enough to blow it if they want, but not too much that you get upset if they do. You also have to factor in any spending money that you may give them during the week as well. If you are planning on giving them $20 per week to see a movie or something with friends then a $50 per week allowance may be too steep. Most allowances do come with the understanding though, that you as a parent will be providing for your child’s basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. If you are wanting your older child or teenager to cover any of these items you may need to increase the allowance. How much to give can also depend on various family circumstances. It may depend on where you live, or even your family’s income level.
Teach Them How to Manage What They are Getting
It would be unwise to think that you can hand children money and expect them to know anything other than spend! It is our job as parents to teach our children how to handle money in an appropriate way. You want to teach tithing or giving, saving, and spending. The percentages of giving, saving, and spending are up to you.
When we gave allowance to our boys it was on the 10%, 10%, 80% principle. They would give 10% to the church, put 10% in savings, and then they were free to spend the other 80% as they wished. You can teach them whatever you feel is correct. It is also important that they understand the idea of patience. In today’s society we want what we want, and we want it now! You know the commercial “It’s my money and I want it now!” That’s not a very realistic picture of how life goes.
If we have $20 and see a pair of shoes that we really want that cost $50, we know that we have to wait until we have $30 more. Help your kids understand this concept. Don’t give them the extra, let them wait! Chances are, whatever it was they wanted will be a distant memory at bedtime.
I recently had a conversation with my aunt regarding my 15 year old cousin. She was complaining that he didn’t do anything around the house like she asked, but she was headed out to take him shopping for a pair of $100 shoes he wanted. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked her had she ever thought of giving him a monthly stipend for all his clothing and shoe needs as well as any other activities he may want to do during the month.
I explained that she should talk with his dad and figure out what they thought to be a reasonable amount for clothing and activities and divide by 4. This would be his weekly allowance. This way he would have to be responsible with his money by learning how to budget to be able to buy the expensive things he wanted.
Decide if the Allowance Will be Tied to Chores
If you decide that your child will only receive allowance if their chores are done make sure that they understand what needs to be done and the timeline. If the chores are not done, don’t hand out the money! There is an amazing opportunity here to teach your child that money comes with work. We as adults aren’t just handed paychecks for showing up at work. Let your child know that if the work isn’t done the money won’t come. If you decide not to tie the allowance to the chores, it is up to you to teach them about hard work and money in other ways; maybe by giving them opportunities to earn extra money by performing harder tasks around the home.
When to Stop Giving the Allowance
This subject will also vary from family to family. As your teen reaches working age you may decide to have them begin working, or they may decide that they want to work. In either case, an allowance is most likely not going to be given any more because they are earning money of their own outside the home. Some parents don’t like the idea of their teen working during the school year.
I personally know of more than one family who prefer to provide their children an allowance during the school year so that their kids can focus on school work and not have the added demand of working. I also know a teenager who does not work during the school year, but works each summer as a lifeguard at our local water park to earn a summer income. This could be beneficial to parents because when older kids are out of school for the summer, they tend to want to spend most of their time away from home! Working during the summer gives them the ability to be able to earn money for their extra summer expenses and can even be used to help buy back to school clothing. Just make sure that your teen understands what they are responsible for buying with their income.
If you choose to have your child work during the summer, or they choose to work, you would simply stop the allowance for a few months and then start back once they were no longer working. As your children reach college age, you could even decide whether or not to provide them a monthly stipend to use for things they would need while away. When to cut off the allowance is up to you. Just make sure that you let your child know why you are stopping their allowance and what you expect them to pay for from that point on.
Giving an allowance to your child should be a positive experience. We use it as a tool to teach our children about money and budgeting, but also that hard work has its rewards. Finding a balance in your family regarding allowance is all up to you.
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