Managing allowances

Jul 10, 2008 at 3:00 a.m. ET

In our house, allowances are due on Sunday. Starting in Kindergarten, Alfs and Woody each have received an allowance based on their grade level in school. Kindergarten get 50 cents, 1st grade gets 1 dollar, second grade 2 dollars and so on.

Girl with Piggy BankI've see-sawed over the years on whether allowances should be tied to chores or something the kids get anyway to help them learn about managing money. There seem to be pros and cons to both approaches.

Earned allowances

Some weeks it seems to be more difficult for the kids to get their jobs around the house. Those are the weeks I want allowances tied to chores. But on some level, it doesn't seem quite right. I don't get an allowance based on my household responsibilities. Even though there's no cash reward on the other end, they are tasks that still have to be accomplished. Responsibilities are responsibilities. We all have to contribute to the household. The kids have to clean up their messes, just like I do. Linking allowances to cleaning up after themselves runs the risk of the jobs seeming optional, that they can decided they don't feel like having allowance that week, so no need to pick up their clothes and put them in the hamper or feed the dog or whatever. But they are not optional. As I said, we all have to contribute.But then again, it sure is nice to be able to say, "No chores, no allowance," as both incentive and consequence.

Allowances to teach money management

No question about it, one of the things I need to teach my kids about is money and how to deal with it. I need to teach them about saving and budgeting and planning and need versus want. For them to learn that, they need to have some money to work with. This is their allowance money. The boys are learning that if they want that expensive Lego set, they have to save for it for weeks. They have to plan for the cost of sales tax and, given rising gas prices, may soon need to consider the cost to get to the store. While it's certainly not wrong for the kids to feel the pride of truly earning the money for these luxuries, the value of their actual work at this age is relatively small, and I don't want to inflate that value just for the sake of giving them a larger allowance. As the boys get older, to an age where they can get a "real" job or find ways to earn money within the community, allowances will stop. But they will still have household jobs to do.

Something in between

As it stands now, chores are not tied to allowances, but if the boys show a certain level of irresponsibility with chores and household jobs, I reserve the right to hold back allowance. I don't like to do this.The kids can earn extra money by doing tasks above and beyond their basic jobs. Some yard jobs fall into this category, as do some cleaning jobs, but it has to be real work. We inspect it, and often have had them redo something to get it right. The value of the complete job is negotiated in advance.I have one other rule about allowances. The boys have to ask for it, and they have to ask for it by Wednesday, or that week's allowance is forfeited. I think this also teaches them an awareness of money on a regular basis. It's not a perfect allowance solution, but it works for us for now. Alfs is better at saving his money than Woody is, but they are both learning.