Should kids get allowance? I won’t bury the lede: Our kids do receive allowance, and it is tied to their morning boards, our chore system.
Families address the question of whether kids should get allowance in a variety of ways; there are different schools of thought justifying different philosophies. I’m going to address common questions about kids and allowance; read on!
Why Should Kids Get Allowance?
Financial wisdom is a value that my husband and I want to instill in our children. We want them to learn how to work hard, contribute to their community, avoid debt, save, and give generously. Also, spending money is fun! We want them to enjoy spending the money they have earned.
In our family, allowance is tied to chores; if our kids don’t complete their chores, they don’t receive their allowance. In his book The Opposite of Spoiled, Rob Lieber makes a strong case for giving children allowance without tying it to chores, so that they can gain financial wisdom even if they don’t do chores. He encourages parents to tie chores to other privileges, like screen time.
However, for us it makes sense to pay our children for doing their chores. We want them to understand that they get paid for working. And, let’s face it—money can be a powerful motivator.
How Should Kids Earn Allowance?
I wrote extensively about our family’s morning boards chore system last week. I have an additional tip about incentivizing kids to accomplish their chores in the morning.
Over the summer, our kids earned $1 per day that they completed their morning boards. In the summer, they completed three chores. However, I decided that two chores were plenty on school mornings. Knowing the kids would balk at earning less, I offered them an incentive to accomplish their chores before school.
I told them that, since they were doing fewer chores, they would receive less allowance—$0.75 instead of $1 per day. However, since I want them to complete their chores before school, I pay a $0.25 “bonus” on days they succeed in doing so.
This “bonus” structure has been remarkably effective at encouraging our kids to finish their chores before school. If they don’t, they will receive $0.75 when they complete them after school. The entire board must be complete to receive payment. (No partial payments for partially completed boards!)
What Should Kids Earn for Allowance?
I already shared that our kids earn $1 for allowance (including their bonus structure). That means that, over the course of a week, they can earn up to $5. They get about half of their total weekly allowance to spend as they wish. (I’ll share more about our Spend, Save, Share system in a little bit.)
Ideally, we pay our kids with cash immediately after they complete their chores and turn in their boards. Although there are well-rated allowance apps—and we may use one in the future—I think it’s really important for kids to see and hold the money they earn, and for them to clearly understand how that money is connected to the work they’ve just done.
I keep a Mason jar in a kitchen cabinet, full of $1 bills and quarters. (When I run out, I write IOUs!) I typically pay the kids in quarters, because they’re easier to divide into the compartments of their banks. Once they have a lot of quarters jangling around in there, I trade them for dollar bills.
When Should Kids Receive Allowance?
As I mentioned, we try to pay our kids right after they complete their chores. I visit the bank every couple of weeks to withdraw a pile of singles. (The quarters just cycle back to my Mason jar after I trade the kids’ quarters for dollar bills.)
Our youngest started receiving allowance around age four, when I felt he was old enough to start doing chores. The girls were older, because I didn’t institute a chore system until they were both old enough to participate.
What Do Our Kids Do with their Allowance?
All of our kids have a MoonJar bank. It is divided into three sections: Spend, Save, and Give.
When our kids earn allowance, we pay them in quarters. They put two into their Spend, and one each into Save and Give. The Spend money is theirs to use as they wish. A few times a year, we visit the bank and deposit their Save money into an account in their name. (Someday, we will probably match whatever is in their savings account to help them buy a car.)
The Give money is my favorite to watch my kids use. When they amass about $5, we talk to them about who they might be able to bless with that money. They often send it to their “Birthday Buddies,” the children we sponsor in their names through Compassion and World Vision. (Read this post I wrote about encouraging generosity in children, and the Birthday Buddies in particular.)
When our eldest daughter was very small, she LOVED gorillas. When Colo, a gorilla she’d met at the Columbus Zoo, died, she wanted to send her money to the zoo. (I think we sent something like $2.36, along with a picture she drew of Colo, and herself crying. We received the most touching note of thanks from the gorilla keepers.)
At this point in our kids’ lives, we don’t require them to give anything to our church, although they sometimes do. We think the nuance of tithing and giving will come as they grow older and continue to develop their own relationships with Jesus.
So, Should Kids Get Allowance?
Obviously, you can see how we’ve chosen to answer this question for our family. But I’d love to know how you answer—or plan to answer—this question in your own family. What are your most important values surrounding money that you want your kids to learn from you?