Allowances for Kids – The Dilemma


So, I’m having this dilemma, and I wondered what you guys do…you know, when it comes to the topic of an allowance for your kids.

I firmly believe that our family is a team…I regularly make team references to the kids. How we have to work together. How everyone has a part to play. How everyone is expected, in their own way and to their abilities, to help. Mama and Daddy aren’t the only ones living here…y’all gotta help out too.

The two bigs have chore charts, and yes, they must do their chores.  Every. Day.

It’s not something special. You don’t get kudos for doing what you’re supposed to do. You just do it because it needs done and it’s your job. The end.

I don’t want my kids to expect rewards for Life.

I want them to learn that you do things simply because they are necessary.  Oh, and do them with a happy heart because you must also do it for the Glory of God.  Yes, even feeding the dogs.

I have this verse pinned up in my kitchen (as much for me as it is for anyone else):

(you can download and print your own HERE.)

SO…why am I talking about allowance?

Henry needs a lesson in Saving/Giving/Spending.

A few reasons:

1) Out of the blue, Henry has been asking to go to the toy store.  We have a change jar in the kitchenand he’s been playing with it.  Andy told him he could have all of the pennies.  So now, apparently, those rogue pennies are burning a hole in my son’s pocket and he seems to think it’s off to the toy store.  SO weird.  Why is that weird?  Because this is the same kid who begs to go home when we are at Toys R Us, the same kid who often passes on getting a toy from the dollar bin at Target because “I don’t need any toys mom, I have enough.  Can I get a yogurt instead?”, and the same kid who regularly tells me to “give this toy to the other kids who don’t have toys…I don’t play with it anymore and they should have it.”  So, it really surprises me that he wants to go shopping.  This is new territory for me.

2) When we went shopping yesterday for the #instafooddrive, I explained that God wants us to share what He’s given us, and part of that is our money…so we were going to go buy cans for others who needed food.  Imagine my shock/horror/sadness when Henry said “Okay mom.  But let’s use your money.  Not mine.  I want to buy a toy.”  I wanted to cry.  What?!  Who are you?  Why would you say that???!!!  This is clearly something that is near and dear to my heart and one of my Big Things as a parent.  Dude needs a lesson in giving…of his OWN things.  Honestly, I’m appalled and sick to my stomach when I think of it.  Blech.  Above all, I want my children to have loving, giving, beautiful hearts.  And his little speech in the car was NONE of that.

3) He starts Kindergarten next year…it’s good for math skills.  Totally unimportant compared to the bigness of numbers 1 and 2, but it doesn’t hurt.

So, here’s my question: How do you handle the topic of allowance? 

I am still very much a believer in doing your chores simply because it’s your JOB, not for reward.  I do not want to pay my kids to be a part of this family.  Period.  But I do feel like it’s time for some instruction in the world of money…perhaps paying him (you know, like a nickel) for doing extra stuff?  But what?  What types of things can I give a 4.5 year old to do?


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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1
    erin c. says:

    first off, try not to be too hard on him about wanting a toy and not using his own money to help others. he’s only 4.5. most 4.5 year olds are like that. we can’t have adult expectations for our young children, you know? i’m just saying he’s completely normal! we all want a toy some time and that’s okay. he’s probably just understanding that money can buy things and he’s got some money and how exciting that is and he can buy a toy all by himself!

    i have trouble with the allowance thing too. here is something i have thought a lot about. it’s important to teach our children about money. my parents never really did. they were great savers, but never showed my siblings and i how to do that. i think an allowance is important because you can teach him the value or saving and tithing, so they can be responsible adults one day.

    extra chores could be: helping you fold or sort clothes, putting his clothes away. my 4.5 year old helps fold and sort his clothes, puts them away and puts his clothes on hangers, putting dishes in the sink, wiping table down or drying table, that sort of thing. good luck, tell us what you decide and how it goes!

  2. 2

    Hi, we are completely on the same page as you. But we are also committed to teaching our children the value of hard work. And yes, there will come a point in their lives when they get paid for working, and they need to understand that it is proportional to the effort they put in. So we don’t call them allowances, but rather commissions. We have 2 types of jobs: family jobs (or chores) and commission jobs. We pay per job, but they aren’t eligible to be paid for commissions unless they complete their family jobs. Payday is once a week, and they are expected to tithe and save from whatever they earn. We pay about a quarter per job, and we started around the age your son is. We got this plan from Dave Ramsey. Commission jobs can be the same every week, or something special that needs to be done (emptying silverware vs raking leaves). a 4.5 year old should be able to help with a lot of things, from folding and putting away laundry to weeding the garden. We didn’t expect a perfect job at first, but as they’ve gotten older, the jobs have gotten more labor intensive. I posted about this not long ago. Hope it helps.
    Tracey @ Control the Chaos´s last blog post ..Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

  3. 3

    I give my 10 year old a weekly allowance for the same reason, but also because I think it’s really important for kids to learn how to manage money before they go out on their own. If he wants something, he has to save for it… and not out of his “Save” fund (we use the envelope system provided by Dave Ramsey). He has to save his “Spend” money. I also have him buy gifts with his allowance too. It’s a really good lesson on budgeting and learning about prices in the stores. It’s also a good lesson that sometimes buying that little crappy toy just because it was cheap, wasn’t such a good use of your money. He has a “Give” fund with a goal amount that he’s saving up to and he gets to pick who he donates it to, which makes it more exciting. With all that said, we did establish chores for him to do to earn this allowance (cleaning up after dinner, dog care duties, and taking trash/recycling out). He knows though that I would expect him to do all this without payment too (because I tell him) and he does a lot more than that because he’s part of the family. There have been times too when we have been tight in the $ department and he will bust out his spend money and contribute to the family and it makes him feel SO good and proud of himself! But then again, he’s older. I also have a 4.5 year old that I have not started to give an allowance to because I don’t think she’s ready. She still has chores and has to help, but I’m not paying her to do any of it. I will start her on the same system as her brother when she’s older.

  4. 4
    Mary Kay says:

    In my opinion, allowance is given just for the reasons you mention: to teach them to handle their money in a responsible way. Give him an amount every week and some goes to tithing, some to saving, and some to spending – you and Andy set the amounts. Earning extra money is what I had them do when they had something specific they were interested in buying. That also teaches them the value of working for what they want. There’s my 2 cents!

  5. 5

    Hi! New reader here! I just found your blog yesterday and added it to my reader. I guess I’m telling you this so that you know that I don’t know a lot about your family already. But from just reading this post, it sounds like your son is perfectly normal. My daughter (she’s 6) is a very generous giver, never asks for much, and like your son, often offers up her toys for those less fortunate. But every once in a while, she’ll get the “shopping bug” and want to buy something. I usually let her because honestly, this is the girl who on several occasions has emptied her entire piggy bank and given the money to God (church offering). So, I try to look at the big picture and if she feels like spending a little of it on herself, I try to give in. If she were constantly asking to spend the money on herself or if she wasn’t otherwise so generous, I would consider it a problem. But I think that #1) she’s just a kid and #2) sometimes even us adults need a little retail therapy. I guess what I’m trying to say is I wouldn’t worry about your son unless it becomes a habit. Chances are you’ll take him to Walmart, he’ll buy some crappy toy, play with it for a day or two, and then realize it wasn’t worth giving up his hard earned/saved money for. (Sorta like when I’m in a blue mood and buy some ridiculous shoes, wear them once and realize how much they hurt my feet and wish I’d never spent my money on them!)

  6. 6

    I have no children of my own but when my siblings (who are MUCH younger than me) were little, my mom said if they wanted to earn extra money they could as for an ADDITIONAL chore. They still had to do their normal chores around the house but my mom would give them something else if they asked. Then my mom would negotiate a price for them and they could take it or leave it. I liked that idea because it teaches that you have to earn the money. Its EXTRA its not a given.

  7. 7

    I feel the same way you do…chores and allowances are two SEPARATE things. But both necessary to teach different lessons. We were always allowed to earn a little extra money for extra chores or special jobs around the house…like ironing when I was older. BUT….one great idea that I read long ago was this idea….not applicable to you right at this minute…but will be in a few years….if a teenage kid wanted to go do something with their friends….like the movies…they had to use their allowance….IF they chose to bring a sibling along with them…mom and dad paid! I loved that idea.

    I think it is important when giving an allowance to make sure that you teach….savings, church tithing, giving and spending. Church tithing and giving to me are two separate items…not necessarily to others though. We pay one-tenth tithe to church and then still donate in other areas extra money. Set up some fun jars for him and don’t be too hard on him or yourself for wanting to spend YOUR money. You are being a great example to him and he is still learning. Totally normal for a child that age to make that comment. Love you and your heart!!

  8. 8

    With our four year old, we give him four quarters every week. He puts one in the basket at church, one in his piggy bank, and he can spend or save the last two. His chores (taking his dishes to the counter, pushing in the chairs, putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, cleaning the playroom, and helping me with laundry) are not contingent on his allowance. We’re also looking at letting him do extra chores for a set amount of money when he’s older if he’d like to earn more (I saw a set of magnets on Pinterest that had each job with a $ amount that looked cute).

    I hear your heart though on the innate selfishness that is in our little ones. My sons are the same way, but it is my prayer that by modeling generosity and taking every opportunity to explain what Jesus’ heart was on helping others, that he will eventually learn that this is how we “do life” as followers of Jesus.

    I love your blog (I was hooked after I found your homemade laundry detergent)! Your place in life and outlook on faith ring similar to mine. Thanks for sharing your heart!
    Jennifer´s last blog post ..DIY: A Busy Weekend

  9. 9

    My oldest boy is the same way as yours. Except mine is almost 10. This is something we’ve been talking about a lot lately. My boys all have daily chores they’re expected to do everyday. They do not get an allowance for those chores. They can earn some money by helping out with extra chores or big jobs. Those are usually things my husband cooks up, like helping trim a tree or tear down an old fence. Whenever our kids get money – for those odd jobs, their birthdays or whatever – we lay it out on the table and some goes to church, some goes to their savings account and the rest goes in their wallet. My oldest is really struggling with being generous and giving with his money. We are having a hard time getting him to put it into practice. We just bought the new Financial Peace Jr. program for our boys and I’m hoping that will help.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..2nd Annual Girls Getaway

  10. 10

    My daughter is just 10 months, so we haven’t hit this hurdle yet. But, the 2 ideas I’ve heard and liked regarding allowance is the earn money for extra chores – not for the general you-are-part-of-this-family-you-need-to-pitch-in chore, but above and beyond. And the second is more applicable when our kiddos are older. At the beginning of the month, one of my professors gave his kids a certain amount (keeping in mind extra expenses like school clothes / youth group camping trip, etc.) and they then could choose how to spend it. I’m pretty sure they discussed some expected expenses that would arise like the school clothes. But, when the $$ was gone, they had to deal with the consequences of their choices, long-term and short-term.

  11. 11

    I hear you, I struggled with this one and still struggle with. The allowance method I read about however doesn’t interlock chores with it all and we have had good luck with it. Basically on said day of the week the child gets said amount of money and divides it how you choose between saving/spending/tithing. I really struggled with just handing money to my kids for no reason (even though in away as a SAHM my husband direct deposit check is doing just that for me!! HAHA j/k, not trying to start a war) Moving on. It really works well for many reasons because it gives your kids a currency to learning spending and importance of money. You can also use it as a parenting tool. For example, they want something different for dinner then what you are serving, no problem but that will cost you a $1.00. With Sam when he demands over 45+ minutes of my time doing homework, (because he spent have that time crying/argue etc) its no problem but he has to pay me for the extra time. The other way we use their money and the importance of considering the worth of things is when we go to a fair, or festival, amusement park, we will list out what daddy and I are willing to buy for them that day, “Today we are excited to spend the day as a family and at the festival we decided we will buy all of you lunch and a sweet treat. Anything else you want will have to come from your money.” This cuts down on the begging for stupid little toys that will break in 5 minutes of jumping in the bounce house etc. Also they quickly learn that they would rather save their money and just enjoy the day rather then spend it on those other things. So in the beginning it seems like your just handing them money but your really setting them up to learn a lot. Good luck

  12. 12

    My kids are grown, but one way we handled it when they were a little older than your son was to start the week (Sunday night) with a set amount of change in a jar. We had $2.50 in quarters. They had certain responsibilities during the week to complete (enough to equal $2.25), above and beyond the required made bed, etc., of daily life. If it wasn’t done, a quarter was removed from the jar. If they did none of them that week, it still left 10% of their “income” to tithe on Sunday morning. Instead of paying them to work, they had the choice to do the work and keep their money or “pay” me to do it.
    Arlene Cloud´s last blog post ..Three Months of Cuteness

  13. 13

    Check out parenting with love and logic , their stance on allowance is very similar to what you are looking for. Money is given to teach, chores are family responsibilities. If a child, or adult, doesn’t do their responsibility then they lose money to the person who ends up doing it. Extra chores can be done for bonus….this is for older kids that want an opportunity to earn more. Save, give, spend….Dave Ramsey! Genius, I think he has a game for kids about money management. The hard part, I find is staying consistent! Good luck!

  14. 14
    Jennifer says:

    I really liked this book. The author has a section on teaching children about finances. She also talks a lot of chores and what kids should learn how to do at certain ages. I would be happy to send my copy to you if you want to see if it would be helpful for your family.

  15. 15

    we haven’t figured out the whole allowance thing either, but we do have the 3 jars for dividing up their money. as far as chores, here’s what henry can do: sort the laundry into lights and darks, carry clean clothes into the right rooms, put away his own clothes, make his own bed, empty some of the dishwasher (non breakables and utensils are a good place to start), wipe down the sinks, clean base boards, clean up his toys… there’s quite a bit. we are big believers in having our kids do their share of the work around here. after all, they make most of the mess! we start every day with morning chores – its become a routine.
    lindsey – the pleated poppy´s last blog post ..i’m a bake sale faker {& a how-to!}

  16. 16

    i’m stoked on our system right now. get a dry erase magnet board. divide it into three times of day. put a couple things on each time of day that need doing. none of my things are chores. they are responsibilies, but not chores. like being in the kitchen on time after getting ready for school, and doing homework with no complaints, and offering to help fix a meal or unload the dishwasher. all optional things, but things I reaaaaaaly want to encourage. each magnet is worth a quarter. we do this M-F so the kid can earn a total of what? $5 per week. but my kids are 6 and 9, and so yours could be less $ or whatever. and also, they never ever get it all. they maybe get $3.50 by the weekend. the key is to PUT ON THE LIST THINGS YOU WANT TO SEE. maybe it’s kindness to someone particular, maybe its hanging up a wet towel, and from where i stand, it is not paying them to do it. it is incentivizing good habits. we ALL like incentives to keep up the good attitudes about every day stuff. and as far as chores, since those aren’t on the list, we still do the “team” language and have chore days all the time. PS. when my kids DO get paid, they divide their spoils into 4 categories and i sort of lead that: Jesus, Spending, Short-term savings (for a goal they have, like a Lego set), and Save (long-term, goes to the bank). if they have ten bucks, we do 1-3-3-3 but they always want to give more to Jesus and that’s a-ok. Good luck, chica.
    Leslie @topofthepage´s last blog post ..Grace on a Thursday: in Jessica’s words

  17. 17

    Oh, my babies are not so little anymore…9, 10 & 12. But, ever since each child turned 5 we’ve given them an allowance. Not based on chores. In our family too, chores and cleaning up after yourself are an expected part of being a good citizen of this household/world. So, back to allowance: $1 per month/per age of child. 5 years old gets $5/month. We too had three boxes set up for give, save, spend. Save and spend were the most difficult and we’re still working on the differences. Give has been the most successful. Each year on Valentines Day (heart day) they donate the whole year’s amount to a charity of their choosing. I love how you took them to the store and then to the food bank…what a great concrete example!! I love the letters my children have received from the local organizations recognizing their donations (no matter how small). I have never dictated how much they must put into give, only that each month some of their money must go into each box (can’t put it all in give, in a moment of overwhelming compasion, and can’t put it all in spend…) Extra $ may be earned on an as needed basis. Heed the advice of going easy on your babies..they are young. With or without money teach limiits. We can’t get everything we want whenever we want it. A hard lesson for a toddler to learn, a hard lesson to have to teach our own babies, and a harder lesson to learn as we get older. But they don’t have to “get it” right away. It’s normal and their frustration is normal. Help them control their will, with love & with compasion.
    Jenna´s last blog post ..Digging in: Taproot

  18. 18

    Chores–forgot to mention, we do those on a designated day for screen time (30 + minutes) now that the kids are older and I needed to wean them off the TV (I used it a lot more than I wanted too, esp. having three kids in three years). I have a typed list of suggestions (keep in mind they’re older) slipped into a plastic sleeve and they use a wipe off marker to cross off the chores they’ve done to earn screen time. Vaccuming, sweeping, cleaning the bathroom, etc. They all do their own laundry (started about 7) and rotate each week who helps set the table, helps cook the meal and who cleans up/wipes the table down after.
    Jenna´s last blog post ..Digging in: Taproot

  19. 19
    Jessica says:

    I didn’t read all the comments so hopefully I am not repeating. I made up a list of Daily Must Do’s. Some were already being done. The kids have to do this list with little prompting and NO Nagging from me or Daddy or they do not get paid their .50 for the day. If they don’t have a good day @ school ( an issue for my son) then they don’t get paid for the day but still have to do all the chores. There is a list of “Extra Credit” chores that can be done for additional $$. However, if you for some reason have not earned your daily $ then you are not eligible for extra $. But you still have to do the extra if you are asked too. The kids get paid b-weekly as that is when my DH gets paid.

  20. 20

    i’ve been mulling over this issue as well. these comments are super helpful! thanks for asking the question!
    sara @ it’s good to be queen´s last blog post ..our week

  21. 21

    Sounds like I’m not saying much new here, but at 31 I am a financially wise person who was raised on the concept of “chores are because you are part of the family” and “allowance is because you are part of the family.” (i.e. same thing everyone else seems to be saying.) I did get extra money for extra chores. Also, punishment for not doing my chores was to get more chores (unpaid.) My parents made it very clear that I would get an allowance no matter what my behavior, but also the chores were required as a family member. (Don’t get me started on the CONTRACT I had to sign saying I had been taught how to use my alarm clock and would not blame my parents for being late to school.) I LOVE your blog!
    Christy´s last blog post ..March Meal Plans

  22. 22

    We decided to give our kids allowances, but also to teach them to make smart financial decisions – such as when to save and how to set goals. One of the challenges we faced was the need to show them how much money they have, how much was saved towards goals and to do so when we at home and on the go. So, we started to use for that. Our kids allowances and gifts are managed there, they have their own login and we hold the money for them. We have it also installed on our iPhones.
    Etay´s last blog post ..La Entrada Student Launches Banking App

  23. 23

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