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Allowances, Chores, and the Bank of Mom

Allowances, Chores, and the Bank of Mom

By Chris Jordan

Why don’t you ask your Mom for money? I’m sure you can do some chores or something.
My Mom doesn’t pay us to do chores.
She doesn’t?
Nope, she always says, “Do you pay me to do your laundry or cook your meals?”

I had to laugh when I overheard this conversation between my 10 year old son and one of his friends. It’s true, I do say that to my children.

Having said that, I always secretly envy those households where the children did all sorts of chores that were written down on an elaborate chore chart. Assigned chores never really worked out in my house. Mostly because I am too lazy to follow through and make sure that they are done properly or at all.  But ironically not so lazy that I don’t just do the chores myself.

If I ask one of my children to do something I expect them to do it. And I expect them to do it for no monetary compensation. And I expect them to do it without complaint, though that doesn’t always happen. After all, as part of this family they need to help make things run smoothly. I never really understood the idea of paying your children to unload the dishwasher, vacuum their own rooms, or take out the garbage. 

I do give my children an allowance, but it isn’t tied to anything other than their existence. It is also a pretty meager amount of money, one-half their age in dollars. So my ten year old gets $5 a week, for doing no more than living in my house, breathing, and allowing me to do his laundry. While it isn’t a lot of money, it does add up. My 16 year old was able to put $2000 down on a car from money saved in his account.

This system has worked great for the younger years. Most of the “extra” things are done as a family at younger ages, for example going to the movies. And they certainly do not ask for things on a weekly basis. Other things they enjoy are free, going to the pool or the playground.

I am finding now with my older children that they want more things that cost more money than I am willing to just hand out to them on an ongoing basis. So I am trying to find a realistic balance. Let’s take my 16 year old son as an example. I pay for my son’s car insurance and registration. I pay for his cellphone. I pay for all of his extra-curricular activities and the accessories that go along with them. I pay for his clothes and shoes, though anything extra, meaning a THIRD pair of sneakers or yet another hat, he has to use his own money or wait for his birthday or Christmas. However, weekly he asks for extra money, for movies, food, or going places with friends. It appears to me that all of his friends have unlimited budgets. Unfortunately for my son, the Bank of Mom does not.

Even if I did have vast reserves of cash lying around, I would not hand it out thoughtlessly. I want him to be able to learn how to budget. So I am toying with the idea of giving him a larger sum of money each month and letting him spend it at his own discretion. The gas for his car, trips to Sonic, trips to the movies, unnecessary clothes, etc would all have to come out of that money. While I am fairly certain that at first he will fail miserably at this I can’t help but think it is better to learn the lesson now than later on in life when it really matters. In the future, the stakes will no longer be having to take the bus to school because you ran out of gas money, but rather losing your house because you didn’t pay the mortgage.

Younger children are easy because their wants are small. They don’t quite understand the work to money ratio, for them $1 is enough to buy a candy bar. They aren’t thinking about a $75 pair of sneakers. As evidence of this my 15 yr old paid his then 9 yr old brother $1 to mow the lawn for him. They were both thrilled at this arrangement.

I am curious what people have done or are currently doing with their older kids for allowances. How do you handle things like gas in the car or movies with friends? Does that come out of an allowance or do they just ask you for money?  Has anyone just given their teenaged child a lump sum of money each month and allowed them to figure it all out for themselves and fail if necessary?

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, s...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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