Making Allowances

In accordance with his recent burst in maturity, 7-year old Baxter asked for an allowance last week.  This was a topic Matt and I had discussed a bit in the past, but had come to no conclusion.

We knew that we wanted to use the “thirds” philosophy of children’s allowances, in which they are asked to save 1/3, give away 1/3, and spend 1/3 of what they are given.  So in order to keep the weekly amount small but easily divisible by 3, we settled pretty quickly on $3 a week.  There goes my Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Damn kids. That shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the budget.

Baxter was thrilled, and immediately asked for a notebook to write “notes about money”, which is shown in the photograph above.  He plans to send his “give away” money to Obama for now, but thinks that most weeks he’ll put it in the children’s collection plate at church, and is saving those meager weekly funds for “invention supplies”, a Pokemon t-shirt, and a Webkinz (because God knows we need more stuffed animals).  I’ve been trying to tell him that his first $1 could buy him an entire U.S. bank right now, but he’s surprisingly disinterested.

The part that was trickier for us to decide upon was whether to tie his allowance to “chores” around the house.  This is what I grew up with, and I have a hard time imagining him getting out of bed to do what he’s supposed to do as a teenager without the carrot of an allowance dangling in front of his nose.  However, we are going along with what we believe philosophically, and that is that children help out around the house because they are part of a family.  We do our part, and so do they.  The allowance is not related to this, but rather is about learning to manage money and giving them a sense of independence.

I think we’ll probably do well enough with this, given that I’ve already had plenty of conversations with the boys about the fact that in a family everyone does things to help each other out.  I’ve pointed out that if they are going out of their way to help each other and their parents, then others in the family will be more likely to help them when they need it.  I’ve acted out the correlate of this a couple of times, pretending to mull over a request quietly, “Hmm, I remember when I asked him to pick up his clothes and put them in the hamper earlier and he made a really big deal about it, stomping around and yelling.  I’m not sure if I want to go out of my way to go get the play doh out of the closet right now when I’m busy making dinner…maybe we’re not the kind of family who helps each other out?”  It seems to have worked, because the boys really do what we ask them to do pretty quickly the majority of the time, just as we do for them.

I guess what I’m not sure about is how it’ll go when we hit adolescence, but for now it ought to work pretty well.

How are you handling the allowance issue with your kids, now or in the future?

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13 responses to “Making Allowances

  1. Invention supplies!! Love it!

    I’m of the same mind with respect to chores and money. We are most definitely an everyone helps out because we’re a family camp. I also mock protest now and again….”Oh man, do I hafta make dinner…again?!” 😉 I never got an allowance and I don’t think we will give them either. Both the girls have a ‘spare change’ account at the bank–need to get one for the boy! The no allowance thing for me really drove home that money isn’t an all the time thing. You save it until you need it. I know C especially would latch on to the idea of spending/buying every week instead of just every few months.

  2. Ah, that’s interesting! So how does the ‘spare change’ account work? If there’s something they want to get, do you decide together if it’s something they can spend that money on? I’m so interested in how everyone does this.

  3. We have actually promised to give our daughter an allowance (she is 6) but we NEVER remember to actually do it. But she does have one of those 3-part banks (different chambers for save/spend/give) and given the frequency with which she receives greeting cards stuffed with money (thanks, in-laws) … her bank is pretty full!

  4. I’ll have to look into those 3-part banks! I’m familiar with those cards, too. 🙂 We have periodically asked him to empty his piggy bank, divide the money he has saved (he never thinks to spend any money!) into thirds and we add a third to his savings account at the bank. I know it’ll be hard for us to remember to do it every week as well. I suggested we do it Sunday mornings since we have a better chance of remembering so that he’ll have $1 for the plate at church. MAYBE!

  5. Interesting post. For T we decided (w/ the therapist’s help) that being paid at the end of each day would provide the more immediate feedback he needs. We came up with a list of 5 or 6 “chores” (including take your plate to the sink/trash AND let your sister sleep ….. those are 2 separate jobs).

    We just started this …. some days he earns money for completing several chores; some days he earns zlilch. We’re still ironing out the kinks.

  6. We’ve given Scott an allowance for about 2 years now. It started w/ $1 per wk and now is up to $2. We don’t make him split it, although I like that plan. We keep saying we are going to open a bank account for him, but haven’t gotten around to it. It isn’t exactly tied to chores, but he does have to do certain things & if he is particularly poorly behaved, he loses his allowance for the wk. He hasn’t spent any of his $ yet, which includes some he earned from watching the neighbor’s pets. We do make comments about how everyone has to contribute, clean-up, etc., but not as creatively as you’ve shown here. I will be borrowing that line, “hmmm, I remember how you didn’t clean up the basement, I’m not sure I want to go out of my way to…”

  7. We pondered long and hard about what to do about the allowance. What we settled on was that they will get a minimum “for nothing” – $3 pr week, with the possibility of earning more if they are particularly helpful. We encourage the “thirds” as well… but having one of those banks would be great – I’ll be looking out for one!

    PS on a completely different note I thought I’d send you a link to the following article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/us-election/theyre-the-aussies-barracking-for-obama/2008/10/10/1223145635937.html

  8. Thanks for all the interesting comments, everyone. And I LOVE that link from Mari above, about all the Aussies coming to the US to volunteer for Obama right now!!

  9. We decided on 1/2 of The Flash’s age. So that comes to about $10/month. also divided into give, save, spend. So far, so good…

  10. “Allowance” just isn’t on GP’s radar as of yet. But he loves earning money. I admit, we’re pretty all over the place when it comes to what he needs to do to earn that money, but usually it’s tied to schoolwork or therapy.

    A long time ago i worked on the PR for a program for a major bank and it involved a curriculum for school age kids that taught: spend, save, donate, invest. It was really an amazing thing. I should dig up that old file. 😉

  11. Hi Jordan! I love your blog! We’ve been having similar discussions around here. We are definitely of the opinion that work around the house is expected because you live here – although there are some specific chores they have to do before they’re allowed any screen time on Saturday mornings. We haven’t started allowances yet, but I see it as a money management training thing. As they become more mature and responsible they get to take over more of the decisions about how the discretionary money that’s sort of allotted to them out of the family pot is spent. This is all theoretical at the moment though, so we’ll see how it goes in real life!

  12. My husband has been toying with the idea of an allowance for our 5 year old. I think he’s a little too young, but it’s gotten us thinking about it – not that we have any solid ideas, though! I like the 1/3-1/3-1/3 idea!

  13. We have also been contemplating the third’s idea, but frankly can’t figure out what we are “saving” for if we are getting $ each week too – chances are we will not spend it right away so we will be saving that too. My friend said their is a website that talks about different charities at a kids level that they can contribute too. The other thought is to give the kids the $3 and see if they can figure out how to divide it – giving them a choice. They may only want to do $.50 for charity, but that seems fair since aside from taxes, I don’t think we contribute a full third of our income to Charity. As well, we have an extra $ helping list – so if their is something they are saving for, they might have a chance to earn it sooner (poop clean up in the yard, swiffer the floors, vacuum the car, clean out clothes that don’t fit anymore). As well, if we catch the kids contributing to a big chore like yardwork without being asked, they get an extra $1 for that. I have been really surprised to see D jump right in on occasion and never ask for the $1 cuz it is not every time. The thirds bank sounds great – I would love to know where to get one. James is really tied to the money management part of allowance, so he has configured an interest for saved money as an incentive to save. Mind you, we haven’t implemented this all yet – next topic at this weeks family meeting.

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