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First-time Allowance

The Beginner’s Guide to Allowances

By Amalah

Amalah is currently on maternity leave. In her absence, however, she’s just as tethered to the computer as ever, and will be using this space to ask you — our intrepid Advice Smackdown Commenter Crew — questions. What’s been baffling her, as a parent, you may wonder? Why, she’s so glad you asked!

Advice Smackdown ArchivesDear Internet-Wan Kenobi,

So. Chores. Allowances! What do you guys do? I am thinking it is time to start the whole allowance thing around these parts — Noah is five and a half, starting kindergarten this fall, already regularly doing some very basic chores (albeit with a LOT of reminders), and starting to generally lust after specific, pricey toys at the store. (LEGO sets. Always, always with the LEGO sets.)

Currently, we have a sticker chart that includes a couple chore-like duties (letting the dog outside, making your bed, clearing the table) along with more general behavior-type things (no tantrums, first-time listening, etc.). The stickers are, for now, the only real incentive, though we do count the stickers at the end of the week and if he hits a certain number there is an extra reward, like a small toy or seeing a movie or going out for ice cream. I sense he might be outgrowing this, and that it’s time for him to really understand just how much ACTUAL MONEY even that small toy costs. And that he’s ready to have some agency and actual ability to save up for that precious, precious LEGO set he wants so badly.

So…I’m curious. How much of an allowance do you think is appropriate for a five-and-a-half-year-old? Is there a nice magic amount that hits the sweet spot between “yes, you actually have to SAVE for awhile” and “it will take the poor child 300 years to save up for what he wants because holy CRAP, these toys are expensive”? I remember starting off with just a couple quarters a week as a child, but then again, the objects of my desire were $5 My Little Ponies, not LEGO sets that start at $15 and go well over a hundred.

And even more important, how much responsibility should come with that amount? I would like to add setting the table or something similar to his chore list, and would also like it VERY VERY MUCH if he would actually *do* the stuff we’re already asking of him *without* the daily reminders. (We already say that if a tantrum or whining accompanies the chore, like throwing a fit the first time he’s asked to clear up his toys before bed, he forfeits the sticker.)

Any and all insight would be muchly appreciated. By me and my LEGO-lusting kid.


Published June 15, 2011. Last updated July 19, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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