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Chores, Allowance 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?

Published April 15, 2011. Last updated June 24, 2018.
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, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

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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  • Rebecca

    April 15, 2011 at 9:33 am

    My kids are still too young for the issues you’re having with your 16 yo, but I can tell you at 16 I had a job and paid for all of my clothes and it was my hanging out money. My parents didn’t have any extra money so they would buy my sneakers and winter coat, paid my car ins and that is all. (My car was from a junkyard fixed up by my dad) I appreciated every single thing I bought, thought long and hard when I bought things like my 70 dollar Guess jean jacket (still own it) and had pride in my things. At Christmas I received lots of clothes from grandparents which helped my wardrobe situation. Now I have 3 kids, my parents are in a better place financially, so they help me by buying all their sneakers and dress shoes. It is like they have never stopped buying kid shoes for 35 years!!

  • Rebecca

    April 15, 2011 at 9:34 am

    My kids are still too young for the issues you’re having with your 16 yo, but I can tell you at 16 I had a job and paid for all of my clothes and it was my hanging out money. My parents didn’t have any extra money so they would buy my sneakers and winter coat, paid my car ins and that is all. (My car was from a junkyard fixed up by my dad) I appreciated every single thing I bought, thought long and hard when I bought things like my 70 dollar Guess jean jacket (still own it), and had pride in my things. At Christmas I received lots of clothes from grandparents which helped my wardrobe situation. Now I have 3 kids, my parents are in a better place financially, so they help me by buying all their sneakers and dress shoes. It is like they have never stopped buying kid shoes for 35 years!

  • Heather

    April 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I think givng your teenager a lump sum is a great idea, it will teach him how to budget and he will have to determine what is really important to him. I haven’t started giving my boys an allowance yet, though I know it is time to. Good luck!

  • AW

    April 15, 2011 at 11:59 am

    My situation is a little different because I have 2 step children but this topic comes up often. My stepson is 12 and is constantly on the go asking for $5 – $10 to do things with his friends. His mom gives him allowance and who knows what he spends it on but he always needs more. We are going to start giving him his allowance and that will be his spending money for the extra things. We are starting off with $20 a month and that is all he gets. He will have to learn how to budget and save. Once he starts driving we know we will have to re-evaluate it again but for the time being we hope this will teach him something.

  • Anonymous

    April 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Just out of curiosity, isn’t 16 the legal working age to have a part-time job? Wouldn’t that solve having to hand out lump sums of cash. I remember getting my first part-time job (that wasn’t the babysitting I’d done for years) at the mall. I loved earning my own money to buy all the “extras” I wanted as a teen, plus it gave me a great sense of independence. I still maintained excellent grades, played sports and had time for friends. I couldn’t imagine my parents dropping lump sums of cash in my account each month at 16! And we were comfortable financially. It was more about the principle of “earning your keep.” Do teenagers not have part-time jobs

  • K

    April 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I’m not a parent, yet, but I am only relatively recently out of my teenage years (I’m about to graduate college at 22). I have never gotten an allowance – as you said, when I was little I had few wants and what I did were small, and thus my parents often indulged them. When I got older, I simply was expected to work to earn my money. I started babysitting at 12 or 13, first only for family friends as a “mother’s helper” but quickly for friends of friends, and on my own. I was working coatcheck and then waitressing at a banquet hall by 14 (actually, I still work there!). Because I earned my own money, I began to take on my own financial responsibilities fairly young, as well. I got clothing at Christmas and sometimes my birthday, but for the most part if I wanted something new I got to buy it myself. I paid for my first car on my own (as well as my second one), paid for all my own gas, repairs, etc. By 18 I was paying for university unassisted (with a good deal of loans and scholarships, but all in my own name and building my own credit). My parents were always there to help me, to teach me to make good fiscal decisions, and always willing to loan me 15 or 20 bucks on rare occasion until payday, but I really think that the level of independence that my parents simply always expected from me really made me a much stronger young adult then many of the people I go to school with. My boyfriend and I are about to graduate, beginning graduate school in just 6 weeks, and are in the process of saving up to put a down payment on a house. My time and money management skills are SO much stronger then many of my my contemporaries because while a lot of them have never worked (and I do know a lot of people who never worked in high school or college, so they could “focus”), or worked only occasionally, I always have – the real world of working every day and paying for the necessities isn’t a new thing for me.

  • LMo

    April 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    My mother gave me a “lump sum” every month in lieu of allowance. It was meant to pay for all routine expenses, including clothing, meals and movies with friends, gas, etc. I also worked full-time during the summer and intermittently on weekends as babysitting jobs came up, but that was not enough money to keep me clothed and in gas money all year. I think it was a valuable tool–if I blew all of my money on an expensive pair of shoes, I didn’t get to go out to dinner with my friends on weekends. I think, however, that it was my mother’s approach to finances and her openness about how she budgeted that really impacted by financial outlook as an adult. I plan to handle my children the same way–when you’re old enough to manage your own money, should be allowed to do so in a safe environment where there are significant but controlled consequences.

  • Alissa

    April 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t think I ever got an allowance.  But I got a job when I was 15.  My parents paid for my car, insurance, and gas.  But I paid for any extras I wanted, from the money I made at work.  Work never affected my grades – I wasn’t allowed to work on school nights.  Parents paid for a lot of college, but I am still paying of student loans.  And I worked through college, too.  No need for allowance – let your son go earn his cash.  He’ll appreciate it more.

  • Rebecca

    April 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    We delegated a daily chore to four of our six kids. Seventeen y.o. does kitchen clean-up/dishwasher duty; the two 11 y.o. each have a bathroom and the 9 y.o. takes out trash/recycling. They are expected to perform the chore daily. For their efforts, they are paid $15, $10, $10 and $5 per week, respectively. (The 19 y.o. has a PT job and is in college. The 2 y.o. just hangs around being cute.) The paid kids are also responsible for keeping their rooms tidy and taking “special requests” if I or my husband have one for them. They also each have one day per week to take care of the dog and cat. The system has worked out well, and their participation is directly proportional to the payment. If they slack off and don’t do their chore consistently? They receive less money that week. Completely ignoring their chores? Zero dollars that week. They are learning to save and budget, and we already know who are “spenders” and “savers” are. (The twins have saved well over $100 each.) My husband told them all when we began this system that we will take care of the obvious expenses: food, shelter, one clothes-buying spree per year (usually Back-to-School) and school registration/extra-curricular activity fees. Other than that, they are to save and spend their money wisely — extra school perks (book fair, fundraising days, etc.), candy, video games, “cool” t-shirts, etc. now fall under their financial jurisdiction. They can either pony up or do without. I think the mix of an “assigned” chore, plus a bit of the “you live here so you WILL lend a hand” mentality has worked nicely for us. And the idea of feeling a little cold, hard cash in their palms each week makes it work for them. The 19 y.o. and 17 y.o. are responsible for their own social spending for movies, dates, dinner out with friends, coffee, etc. Until just recently, we covered gas in both vehicles, regardless of use. Now, with gas prices skyrocketing, the teen drivers are now asked to put gas in the car to cover what they used. We haven’t had many complaints, and believe me… these kids can and will complain if necessary. The only problem we run into is getting the two 11 y.o. and 9 y.o. to take time out of their “busy schedules” to actually do their chores each day. (Which take them under 10 minutes. Honest. I know this because I timed them one day.)

    • april

      November 8, 2015 at 9:26 am

      I think this is a perfect balance of reality and parenting.

  • D

    April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    We were also never paid to do chores.  The highest my allowance ever got was $10 per month (not per week!).  If we wanted more spending money, we had to go find a job.

    When I was 15 or 16, my mom decided she couldn’t stand taking me shopping anymore, so she looked at how much she had spent on my clothing, shoes, coats, etc in the past year and came up with a monthly average.  Then she threw in how much she thought I should be spending on bus fare to get to & from school (big city kids don’t get cars unless they’re crazy rich).  This, plus my $10/month allowance, added up to about $60 per month, and she never had to take me shopping or run out for last-minute bus tickets again.

    I am thrifty by nature, and I actually managed to save a lot of that money by buying funky second-hand clothing.  When my brother was given the same deal, he was more of a spender, so he got a job to pay for all his extras.

  • Bethany

    April 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I never got an allowance but was always expected to help with chores around the house. I started working as soon as I was old enough to babysit. I had to pay for most of my own extra stuff: dance camp, gas, car insurance, extra clothes, cell phone, movies, eating out, etc. My parents gave me the old hand-me-down family van as my first car. I took a full course load without a study hall, plus participated in lots of extra curriculars. I never got anything lower than a B in HS, worked about 20 hours a week, and survived. I appreciated my parents making me work to earn it. My time management skills are awesome now thanks to them. I did the same in college, but worked a little more. And I still had plenty of time to hang out with people and have fun. This has translated into what seems to be a normal routine as an adult. I was actually bored the first semester I taught right after college because I didn’t have much to do in the evenings.

  • SarahA

    April 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I had a 10-hour a week job when I was 16 but it just paid for fun stuff. My parents paid for my clothes but not with a lump sum – my mom would bring me shopping. When I started taking University classes at night in HS, they would give me $4 for every lunch and $6 for every dinner I spent away from home because of school. I found the cheapest places to eat on campus and ended up with several extra dollars every week.

    When we were younger, my parents had a list of certain chores we were required to do – dishes, shoveling, laundry, etc – but there were a few extra that we would get paid to do that were special – cleaning out the gutters or mowing the lawn.

  • Cary

    April 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    If you are going to pay him a lump amount, I would still break it up into twice a month sums like a paycheck. A large amount of cash at once can be a little overwhelming. Also, maybe a summer job would be great. He could work at a sports camp, as a lifeguard, or I know the Cedar Park Center hires teenagers. Those jobs would all be fun with added benefits, but he should probably start looking soon.

  • Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)

    April 15, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Growing up, my mom said she’d either pay me allowance but stop paying for my treats, movie admissions, etc., or she wouldn’t give me an allowance but she’d continue to pay for that stuff (within reason). I was like, “No allowance, please!”

    When I turned 16, I got a part-time job, and from then on I paid for everything myself. I really liked having my “own” money and not having to ask for it. I only worked 10 or 15 hours a week while I was in school, but it was plenty for spending money, eating out, movies, buying gifts, etc.

  • h

    April 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    My kid is a toddler, but I’ll throw my two cents in (ha!). I agree with beginning to teach your son budgeting by giving him a lump sum and letting him decide how to spend it, though I agree with the poster to do it bi-monthly instead of monthly. When I was in high school I did some odd jobs during the school year but my parents made it clear that my JOB was school. However, the expectation was that on my summer breaks I worked and they stopped giving me money. I always did. I agree with not tying chores to an allowance. The expectation in a family is that the child will clean up after themselves and pitch in on family projects. However, as your son wants more expensive things, and has the ability to earn money, I think it’s fair for you to encourage that.

  • Grammy

    April 16, 2011 at 12:12 am

    My kids are both into middle age, so I guess it’s been long enough to determine how they fared. I gave them each a modest allowance just for existing, as you do. Then, when each turned 12 (at the age they became so insistent that nothing I chose for them to wear was reasonable for them to be seen in) they got an additional amount each month for clothing. My husband and I determined the amount we would have spent on the kid for a year for clothing, divided by 12, and gave them that amount in one lump sum each month.

    We knew they wouldn’t spend any of it on necessities like underwear, socks, or winter jackets, so the amount for those items was deducted before we determined the monthly amount and we provided those. Each kid (one boy and one girl) was ecstatic over the independence. We held our breath and knew there would be major mistakes, but figured, like you, that it’s better to make them now than when they’re in danger of serious consequences like losing a house.

    My son went out the very first time and bought the exact same clothing I would have selected for him. He was that kind of kid. Never had a problem. My daughter was another story. She spent her entire first month’s clothing allowance on a sequined glove with no fingers. Yeah. The second month, she bought a pair of huge, dangling earrings that she knew she was forbidden to wear, and I confiscated them and told her she could have them back when she was 18. The third month she purchased a cocktail dress to wear to her first junior high school afternoon sock hop. I bit my lip and let her find out on her own that she was overdressed. In June she announced she couldn’t wait to get her “summer wardrobe”. I reminded her that she had no jeans that fit and would want some in September for school. She didn’t buy any and we wouldn’t bail her out when school started and she had not one pair of the single item every kid thought was vital in those days (I don’t know if that’s true today). But by November that year she figured out that her wardrobe was quickly dwindling and she needed to make some better choices, and she did. Today she’s a smart, frugal shopper and she’s wise about money in all kinds of ways.

    So I say your proposed method is perfect, Chris. Be prepared for those kids who will take awhile to come to grips with all that freedom, but they’ll all come around eventually and be better off for it. The hardest part is keeping quiet about their choices — let them live with it. Good luck!

  • suzie

    April 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I struggle with this issue, too.  While I understand the “get a job!” idea (and myself worked starting at the ripe young age of 13), I am very happy with my teen daughter’s involvement in sports, drama, and other extra curricular activities.  She barely has time to sleep, let alone to earn money (babysitting, petsitting, etc.).  We are looking for ways that she can earn money this summer, but during the school year, her time is occupied with valuable activities.  Fortunately, the more activities she’s involved in, the less time she has to go to the movies or eat at a restaurant with her friends.

    Right now, I feel like money flows out of me faster than air. And that’s with a child who loves thrift store shopping and is pretty aware of cost and the value of money – one of the perks of having endured many lean years through parents-as-students.  She gets her allowance ($10/week), and that should cover hanging out money, and often does.  But I’m paying for clothes, friends’ birthday gifts, concert tickets (very rare, but a recent issue that arose), sports equipment, vacation spending money, and much more. 

    I do not yet have a solution.  I struggle with the issue as well. 

  • suzie

    April 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I meant to also say:  I give both of my teen girls their allowance in a single lump sum each month.  They have done very well at budgeting for the month, and seriously considering whether they want to make a big expenditure early in the month.  Yesterday was allowance day (which is also my pay day) – and my younger daughter went to the mall and spent half of her allowance.  She was aware of what she was doing, and talked about how it meant she’d have less spending money for trips with her friends to get pizza and frozen yogurt.  They have proven that they can handle this method.

    The reason I did it, though:  I forget on a weekly basis, and then we bicker over how much I “owe” them.  Now, on my pay day, it’s part of my routine to be sure to bring them home cash for their allowance.

    Note also — when she’s going to the mall to hang out with her friends and do “casual” shopping, she knows that even clothes would have to come out of her allowance, and that she would not be handed extra $$. The clothes I buy are the necessary clothes, not the fun little splurges with friends.

  • Jeannie

    April 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    My parents stopped giving me allowance when I was old enough to earn my own money — at 12, when I started babysitting. And they didn’t give me any money at all after that. Oh, they bought clothes and necessary things, of course. But spending money was on my own. 

    However, I’m not sure that’s feasible these days. For one thing, I’m a mom now and I sure don’t hire teenagers as babysitters, especially not 12-year-olds! Friends of mine with their kids gave them an allowance regardless of chores. They had set chores each week though. And THEN on top of that the parents had a list of “extras” which needed to get done around the house, and a price list for each. Mowing the front lawn, mowing the back lawn, washing the car, etc. The kids vied for those each week for extra cash. It worked for them!

  • Melani

    April 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I’m interested in what you decide and how it works out.  My mom just gave me money when I needed it until I was 16 and got a job. She didn’t want me to get one since I had so many other activities but I insisted and so she let me. She then proceeded to never pay for another thing again. I should have listened to her because I ended up giving up some activities due to my part time job and in hindsight it set me up for some more errors in judgement. It did, however, make me much more frugal–all of a sudden, I didn’t “need” a swatch in every color (hello 90s!) and clothes from (gasp!) Walmart weren’t that bad. 

    I want my kids to learn the value of money and budgeting but at the same time I want to be sure they are able to be involved in school and church activities as teenagers.  I’m not sure how to resolve the two–so many sports end up being year round as they get older so I don’t even know if a summer job is feasible.  My kids are 14 and 12 so maybe you can figure it out and I’ll learn from you. 🙂 

  • Ellen

    April 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    My parents were like you. I got an allowance, but it was just for being a part of the family. Chores were also an expectation and we didn’t get paid — we were part of the family so we had to help.

    When I turned 16, my parents upped my allowance to $100 per month. I was responsible for my gas, my clothes, any social/entertainment stuff etc. They still paid for my car insurance and any stuff I needed for school.

    Looking back now, I am really glad they did that. I definitely had a learning curve and had to forgo stuff because I didn’t have any money left. But, I got to make my money mistakes when the consequences were not as harsh (ie bus/gas for the car example you listed). There were definitely times when I made a fuss about needing more, but my parents never gave in and always stuck to the original plan.

    Just my experience. As an adult (mid -twenties) with a mortgage, a baby and all the other bills that come along as you “grow up”, I am really thankful I had some experience managing money already under my belt.

  • Tai

    April 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I do the vast majority of the chores around my house (taking care of the animals, cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping) in addition to my freelance job and college. 

    I do get a small allowance of forty dollars a month, direct deposited in my bank account. My brother has the same deal, only he also has a part time job. 

    My brother gets extra money from my mother. I don’t. The flipside of this is that I get money for vacations, and she’s purchasing my first car and insuring it for one year. I think it’s fair. 

  • M.

    April 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I started earning my own money at the age of 16, while going to school, and immediately started contributing to household expenses. It seemed only fair. I still remember how proud I was of myself, and my parents of me. Just to think about it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to this day. I don’t know whether that would have been possible in the US though (I’m from Europe).

  • Kathy from NJ

    April 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I started baby-sitting at age 13 and all that money ($.50/hr – it was the ’60’s) went toward extras. My two sisters also baby-sat, my brother delivered newspapers. Your son would be an excellent baby-sitter. I like the idea of a lump sum once a month but I would also like to see him earning some of his own money. All of my eight nieces and nephews worked – snow shoveling, lawn mowing, tutoring, baby-sitting (currently $15/hr!). One nephew wanted to take flying lessons at age 15 – his parents said yes but told him he would have to pay for it himself. He got a job at the airport cutting grass and got a discount on the lessons – two years later when he got his commercial pilot license his parents started paying for his lessons and reimbursed him for all the lessons he paid for himself (now he flies the C-5 for the Air Force Reserve and corporate jets for his full time job).

  • Tonuala

    April 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I have been struggling with this concept for quite some time. My boys are 9 and 7.

    I believed (or so I thought) that chores were not something that I would financially reward because it’s an expectation to contribute to the smooth operations of our house and home. But I’m also hearing so much on the other end of the argument about pride in earning and learning money management at an early age and all of that makes perfect sense as well.

    So, for now, they have a list of chores that they are expected to do (simple things like making their beds, putting away their laundry, pet care and dusting) in order to earn video game privileges. They can earn money for special chores like help car washing, mopping, vacuuming and gardening.

    For me, this is the best balance of the pay for chores/pay for existence I can come up with. Probably won’t fly when they are both asking for keys to the car…

  • meredith

    April 19, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I never got an allowance. And when I was 16 I had to get a job for anything I wanted besides food from the refrigerator and when I was 18, I had to move out….which I did, all the way to France in a round about way and I never came back. I am not planning on doing the same with my own girls. For now at 11 and 13, they don’t get an allowance, but they do get what they want or need withing reasonable. Part-time jobs for 16 year olds don’t really exist in France and I’d rather have my daughters concentrating on their studies. Any frivolous extras come from the money they get for birthdays, etc…we’ll play it by ear for later, but helping around the house isn’t a way toearn more money.

  • Emily

    April 19, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I didn’t get an allowance and my parents didn’t have the money to give me, so I don’t remember asking. It was expected that I’d get a weekend job when I turned 16. So, I did. They did take care of things I needed like lunch money though – food was always provided as well as school supplies and random necessities. Clothes, gas, outings.. that was all paid for from my weekend job. I worked Friday night and Saturday day, so still got Saturday night and Sunday to be a kid. And I do think that working at a young age taught me about the value of a dollar.

  • Bill at FamZoo

    April 20, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    We give our teens a modest allowance/budget for expenses which they augment with money from their summer jobs.
    As an extra incentive to get summer or part-time work, we match all of their W-2 income with a contribution to their own Roth-IRA. It’s our “Family 401(k)” and a great way to get them started on a long-term saving plan. Here’s a 2min video that describes it:

  • Kate

    April 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    We haven’t hit the allowance issue yet since our son is only 2 but my husband and I have discussed it. Our plan is pretty much to follow my brother and sil’s lead (my sil and I have very similar parenting styles partially due to both of us working in early childhood education). Their kids have a set allowance that they get provided they behave reasonably well and do their regular chores (stuff like making the bed and feeding the dog). They also have the opportunity to earn a small amount of extra money by doing major chores like washing the windows or helping dig the holes in the lawn for the new grass plugs. 

    As my mom used to say “School is your job” so I’m not a huge fan of kids having jobs during the school year beyond things like mowing lawns in the neighborhood or babysitting. I do think that kids should try to get a summer job for the last few years of high school; not so much for the money but for the experience of having one. A friend of my sister’s never had any sort of a job until after she graduated from college and not only was it harder for her to get a job because she had no resume but learning how to cope in a work environment has been very hard for her. It’s pretty much been a total disaster.  

  • Diane

    April 23, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    It’s an excellent idea to give a larger amount, but expect your son to cover more of his discretionary spending.  Believe me, you want him to fail if he is going to in money matters now, when amounts are relatively small and the failures not life-changing.  The lessons he learns will stand him in good stead later on.  If he is one of the fortunate who can find a part time job (and they are truly scarce for teens these days) it will provide some extra funding.

    I started working as soon as legally possible – fifteen and a half – and from that point paid my way for all non-basics (including paying for my own school lunch).  Money handling is a skill that like any other skill must be practiced to be mastered.

  • Leigh

    April 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Since my daughter is a Junior at school and has a car she is able to leave campus to eat lunch with friends. We came to an agreement that she would receive $100 per month. She quickly realized that spending $5 per day for a lunch was eating away at her ‘stash’. Now she comes home a couple times a week and I am happy to make her lunch for her. It took a while but she can now make better money decisions with that lump sum at the beginning of the month.

  • Christine

    April 23, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    We give our two daughters (16 and 13) a modest monthly allowance, $20 for the 16-year-old and $15 for the 13-year-old, plus a twice-a-year lump sum of $200 to buy their own clothes. We expect them to pitch in around the house, keep their rooms clean, and do what’s asked of them without complaining. We pay for things like transportation on the subway, expensive items like boots or winter coats, and incidentals their allowances don’t cover but that we decide are reasonable.

    In short, we don’t have a very coherent policy, but it seems to work out for us. The girls have learned quite a bit about budgeting by having to manage their clothing allowances. One daughter has also had to do a lot of extracurricular tutoring and treatment for learning issues, so we added an extra payment to her allowance to acknowledge the extra effort she was putting in. That helped her see that we know how hard she has worked to get her grades up.

  • Claudia

    April 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    My 14yr old gets $10 a week. He usually saves it up until there’s something he wants, such as the $65 just-out video game he bought today. He’s pretty thrifty so this arrangement has worked out well for us. There is the restriction that he’s not allowed to buy violent games that involve people shooting people. Alien robots fighting and jedi light saber battles are okay.
    We’ll see whether in the next year or so we encourage him to get a summer job. My husband says he should work. I kind of think that since he works so hard all school year, at his studies and sports, and he gets all As, that he’s earned a long stretch of unscheduled down time in the summer….

  • Bailei

    April 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I don’t have children, but starting at 13 I was put on a monthly lump sum for extras. All of my sisters were as well, starting at 13. Each of us handled it a bit different. I was a saver and was able to purchase big things because of it. Two of my sisters were spenders at first but did learn. They ran out more times than they now want to admit, but it worked out. It did teach us how to budget on a small scale and I do believe it led to us being able to budget really well as adults. I am an advocate of a monthly lump sum for teens as opposed to the “Bank of Mom.”

  • shannon

    April 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    When I was a teen long ago- my parents gave me a lump sum for clothes shopping…. I got very good at deciding what I wanted to buy with my $$- sale shopping, etc my brother always bought 3 trendy shirts. lol

    my oldest is only 12. right now he gets $12 a month for his spending a $12 a month to go into a *savings account* – now that savings account can be spent for educational things like camps, rec programs etc if it’s above what i woudl send him to ( like the summer soccer camp which is a couple hundred versus the $50 one)
    I have 4 kids 6,8,10,12…. I found when i gave them double their age per month ( which is about like you half you age per week) they tended to spend it on toys. toys toys toys…. too many toys. so we cut back to half the spending money. They do use it for extra move tickets, etc. so far that hasnt happened too often.

  • Laura

    April 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I am currently 21, just for reference for when I tell ya what I did as a teen.  Until I was about…15, the only money I had was from birthdays and Christmas.  I didn’t get an allowance from my parents (was expected to do chores and stuff when asked), but then again I didn’t really have much to spend money on; my parents paid for clothes, school supplies, etc, and I wasn’t into shopping or anything until about 15 anyways.  Once I wanted to go to the mall or to the movies with friends rather than family, I was old enough to babysit, so I did.  I had a couple steady jobs with families from about age 15-17 that paid for those small extras.  When I was 17 my mom told me I was old enough to get a *real* job, so I applied to every single retail location and restaurant in the Ann Arbor area, and was hired 3 weeks later at Barnes and Nobles.  I will say that 3 years later, I couldn’t find a part-time job here in Evanston, but found one this year.  So yeah, it’s harder for kids to find part-time jobs as waitstaff or sales-clerks when adults are applying for those jobs too.

  • Monica

    April 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Wow! You pay his cell phone, car insurance, and registration? Geez. I feel ripped off. I’m calling my mother right now. WTF?
    My first feeling was, wow how about a J.O.B?!? But, I bet you’re correct about the economy and availability of jobs for teens. I know I worked my butt of through high school. I was on a scholarship to a private performance arts school, and I worked to pay for all my books, required art supplies, and most of my clothes. My oldest is only 12, while I wouldn’t mind trying to get my kids reliable cars, I have a hard time thinking about paying for all the related expenses. I think they need to contribute in some way. But, hey, I’m the horrible mother who isn’t going to pay the way for my kids to go through college either!

  • df

    April 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I started working very young and am grateful that my parents were supportive. I had a large paper route at 10, babysat from age 12 and got a first ‘real’ job (ice cream store) at 13 and never looked back. My parents did not model saving money very well, but I did learn a lot about earning money, job responsibility and paying my own way (and balancing that with doing well at school).

    While I still struggle periodically with just how much allowance to give my children (two boys, ages 13 and 8) and the best ways to help them understand the importance of saving for the long term, I’m very clear about the fact that their allowance is tied to doing household chores and generally being a productive member of the famiily (we don’t have a chart – some chores are routine, like pet-care, but most are discussed and decided on a day by day basis at mealtime or when my husband and I ask for something to get done). Like another poster, above, we pay a core allowance that can be topped up by tackling bigger jobs.

    My oldest just turned 13 and for the past two or three years he has been expected to contribute some of his allowance to things like attending a special camp with the Scouts. We pay for the annual fees to attend Scouts, but if he wants to attend a camp we expect him to pitch-in (I think it shows commitment and attaches more value for him). This past year I also expected him to start contributing to birthday gifts for friends, which he seems to think is fair. I also expect him to fund or contribute funds for any clothing that is above and beyond what he absolutely needs. As for work, he had his first summer job last year, cutting a neighbour’s lawn and doing general yardwork, and I’m keen for him to find more work when he can. School comes first, but for a strong student with good discipline I think a part time job is a good option. He needs to learn how to budget for and attain the things he wants in life (which include getting his pilot’s license, which I certainly won’t be funding). He didn’t get a first iPod until he was 11 when he had saved up enough money to buy his own; I won’t buy those things for my kids. I think buying one when you can afford to get your own makes sense; it’s too easy to buy those things earlier than a child actually needs them.

    I like the suggestion of paying your son twice a month so that it’s more like a paycheque; it will help with budgeting. If he doesn’t have good opportunities for making his own money outside of the home, giving him whatever opportunities you can to help him with budgeting is an excellent idea.

    I’m amazed at all of the comments on cars and funding kids to own and drive them. Most kids start driving too young in my view and it’s often not necessary. I’ve made it very clear to my children that driving is to come later than the minimum of 16 (I learned at 19 and feel I came to driving with more maturity than I would have 3 years earlier). I’ve also made sure that we live within walking and cycling distance of school, library, shops, etc. so that I’m not required to chauffeur them everywhere.

  • Annie

    April 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    My kids (now 23 and 19) babysat and mowed lawns for money starting at about 12, and they both were able to get jobs part-time starting at 14 (labor laws allow under 16 year olds to work under very specific circumstances). We bought them clothes for Christmas and birthdays, and we had an extra car they could use if they gassed it up. And, you know, we fed them and paid the mortgage. We also paid a lot of expenses for that free public schooling – book fees, activity fees. We paid half of their summer mission trip fees at church. Both of them went to Europe with their choirs in high school – they paid half and we paid half. College? Also 50/50, although I know I paid my own way 100%, it wasn’t going to happen with today’s tuition costs. I never had much success with allowance because we always forgot, but the jobs taught them MUCH NEEDED lessons!

  • The G-Ma

    April 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I will be 78 in a couple of weeks.
    I vividly remember being 16 and the allowance wars. My parents and I worked out what money I needed and what money was extra. My dad got me a sort of billfold thingy with 8 compartments, which I labeled appropriately. Then I got $16 a MONTH to fulfill my potential and my fantasies. This lasted until I graduated from high school. I got a part-time job the summer I was 17, so could buy some frivilous things; still got the 4 buck a week. I too had seven kids, and tried to do this with them. It didn’t work. I follow your adventures in childrearing and send you courage and endurance. Sometimes it’s a thankless job but the perks are irreplaceable and precious.

  • Carolyn

    April 24, 2011 at 12:05 am

    We recently instituted a new program for my oldest two children (15 and almost 17). The almost 17 year old worked last summer and earned half the cost of a 1996 Ford Ranger. The 15 year old can’t keep a penny in her pocket.

    I don’t believe in giving out money that isn’t tied to “something”. Employment doesn’t work that way and I think it shows children that they can’t just “be” and get paid for it. So money earned is tied to chores. They don’t do them, they don’t get paid. If I didn’t show up for work, I wouldn’t get paid. Same thing. So, we pay the oldest two the first of the month for chores performed. They have to budget their expenses based on what they have. But here is the kicker. Any money that they transfer at the end of the month to a savings account (not touchable til college) we will match. If they want to save for something, then they need to do it on their own via the account we have set up. They don’t get to transfer money, have us match, then remove it.

    My 15 yo, much to my dismay has become a label whore. Her current obsession is “miss me” jeans. I WILL not buy them for her. She will need to earn them (and being the one who can’t seem to keep a dollar in her pocket, I doubt it will happen) and my hope is that she will see that spending $100 on a pair of jeans simply is NOT worth it.

    Hope…I an hope.

  • jillbert

    April 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    My son is 13 so I’m not at the high school/driving stage yet where I know the expenses will get larger.  Our daily chores are unpaid, must be done because they live here type of things.  We do not give an allowance.  However, money isn’t really an issue.  My kids get birthday money from relatives (most goes into long-term savings) and my son earns money each week in the summer by mowing lawns.  He also babysits a bit for extra money.  He has quite a cash stash set aside and when he goes out with his friends (movies, lunch out, birthday parties, etc.) he uses his money.  We pay for all his school related expenses and clothes, etc.  He takes cello lessons which we pay for along with the cost of renting the instrument.  Our agreement is for every day he does NOT practice, he owes me $5 to offset these costs.  I can’t imagine we’ll change our plan much as he gets older (no plans to get him a car at 16 or a cellphone anytime soon) but if he needs more cash, I guess he’ll have to earn it by getting a job. 

  • Cora

    April 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I hated the chores thing with my step son as he never did it, or only did it when he needed cash. So we changed it where there are certain things you must do as a member or the family (he’s with us 50% of the time) such as keep your room clean, put your clothes away, clean your dishes, etc. However, if he wants extra money then he will get paid $5/hour to do extra household work like cleaning the basement, deep cleaning the house, or doing yard work. Generally, he doesn’t want much so he always has a bit of money. However, this system has allowed him to save for a TV in his room, a Nintendo DS, and a laptop–all bought with his own money (and Christmas and Birthday money) that he earned. While we may have to increase the $ amount as he gets older, this is still going to be my plan. We will also encourage him to get a summer job, but I do not necessarily feel he needs to work during the school year since being a student is his job.

  • Mary

    April 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I saw your comment about how hard it is for a 16 year old to find a job and I wondered the same thing.  I know for my personally my company will not allow us to hire anyone under the age of 18.  The reason for this is because some states have very strict child labor laws for children still in high school.  Add to that an uneducated minority/illegal workforce and  an area where parents have more money than sense and kids who don’t need jobs because mommy and daddy are personal ATMS and there you go.  

  • Katherine

    June 26, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    I pay allowance the same way, 50cents per year of age. Our deal is you do chores as part of the family and you get allowance the same way. We pay for needs, like most clothes, school supplies, meals. The allowance is there for wants. They are also expected to spend their own money on gifts for family and to help buy gifts for friends birthdays. My 14 yo son pays for his monthly Scout dues out of his popcorn sales, plus part of his summer camp. My 17 yo son would like more money, but has been very laid back about looking for a job, so he grumbles, but doesn’t get more handouts. We do pay the car insurance, for him to be driving our cars – he doesn’t have a car and part of his cell phone bill (he has to pay $15/month). He mows his grandmothers yard for extra money and sells some stuff on eBay, including some stuff we consign to him for a portion of profits.