Kids Allowance Guide 101

Some people believe chores and allowance go hand in hand. Some feel kids have to “earn” money through extra tasks. Some think paying for good grades is a smart idea. For clarity’s sake, I’ll say it up front: I do not believe this about kids and money.

Kids Allowance Guide: A System That Works

If you take the stance, as I do- and countless others, including NYT money blogger, Ron Lieber, that an allowance has one key purpose: to give kids real life experience handling real life money, then it becomes easier to commit to a process where money IS NOT attached to chores, work, grades, or any other “task” but it is given freely to allow for ample practice saving, spending and giving it away.

Incidentally, earning money for work performed is another skill set altogether

Why Give Kids Money?

It is valuable for parents to allow their children,  at the earliest possible age, to make choices about how they will spend their money, when they will spend their money, where they will keep their money and so forth so they can develop a healthy relationship with money when they are young- one that will carry over to their adult lives.

Kids Allowance Guide 101: The Basics

When should parents start?

Parents should begin giving children money as soon as they are certain little cherub won’t put it in mouth his.

When should it be given?

Money is given each week so that it becomes a part of their lives and they grow ever more confident about all aspects of money.

How much should parents provide?

The reasonable rate is one dollar per year. ($3 week for a 3 year old). If it sounds steep, think of it this way, when you hand the money over to the children, you remove your obligation to purchase anything non essential for them. That means stuffies, gatorades, video games- you name it. While it seems like a lot up front, I assure you– you get out of spending on useless crap. Guaranteed.


Teaching your kids to spend, save and give away their money takes a lot of practice in restraint. In order to let them learn, you must be willing to zip the mouth (Duct Tape Moments!) and watch them buy the big plastic toy that breaks or the sparkly robot lazer gun that turns out to be junk. Kids learn really quickly whether or not something is valuable once they’ve had a chance to buy the crappy stuff or find disappointment in a purchase!

Key Takeaway: Let Them Do It All Wrong

Most importantly, you have to let the kids go about it wrong. It’s ok to allow your children to forget their money, lose their money, give the money to their siblings, or anything else they want to do with it. Once it crosses from your hands to theirs, it is no longer your concern. The trick here is that when they do “run out” or “don’t have any money left” you look at them and say, ok, well, next week you’ll have another chance vs. saving them or giving them a loan.

Yes, you’ll feel upset, sorry for her, heartbroken (if you’ve seen a six year old lose a baggie filled with her life savings, you know what I mean!), angry, annoyed- all of those and more but if you trust there is value in it and you plan for the emotions to arrive, then it’s far easier to stay on course. – Vicki

Do you give a dollar per year?  How has it worked out for your kids?





2 thoughts on “Kids Allowance Guide 101

  1. I totally agree that letting kids practice money management is the best way for them to learn the skills needed to be a successful, responsible adult. I do think that after they have become comfortable with the basics that it is okay to loan them money occasionally, as long as there is a repayment plan and you stick to it! We have done this with our teens and our twelve year old. Learning to repay a debt can definitely teach them the value of a dollar. One of my children even decided against a purchase because it would take too long to pay it back and “it wasn’t worth it.” What a valuable lesson!

  2. We have done this about 6 years…. and have noticed big changes in how our kids manage money. We do have a couple “rules”, 1. Their allowance gets direct deposited into their bank account. I have it set up as a recurring transfer from my account. I mean when was the last time someone handed me a wad of cash? I think this much more accurate in real life 2. They have to save their receipts and compare them against their bank statement. 3. They don’t get an allowance for doing chores, but, they can loose their allowance like any other privilege for NOT doing their chores. 4. The only spending rules that they have is that they are expected to buy a christmas gift for immediate family (Mom, Dad, brother). Our kids save for things, our 11 year old bought a kayak, and routinely budget, plan and save for expenses, and think long and hard before they spend money on day to day stuff. This is one of the best thing we have ever done.

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