3 Life Lessons Your Kids Will Learn From Allowances

by Travis Pizel · 10 comments

My son celebrated his 15th birthday at the end of January, which means he got a raise. My daughter, whose birthday is in April, will soon be getting one.

What am I talking about? Their allowances: we pay them $1/week for each year they’ve been alive.

They both have household responsibilities that must be completed to earn their allowance each week. We increase the amount each year on their birthday, as well as try to find a new responsibility to add.

Here’s their current list of responsibilities:

Tristan, age 15:

  • Make bed each day
  • Put away laundry whenever a full basket appears on his bed
  • Rinse off all dishes used and put in sink
  • Clean and vacuum room weekly
  • Empty household garbages on Thursday evening
  • Clean cat litter boxes every morning

Tori, age 11:

  • Make bed each day
  • Put away laundry whenever a full basket appears on her bed
  • Rinse off all dishes used and put in sink
  • Clean and vacuum room weekly
  • Feed cats as needed

In exchange for this work, our weekly allowance bill is currently $26.

I honestly feel like they’re getting a pretty good deal. The work required doesn’t take much time, and isn’t very difficult.

However, my wife and I agree that this arrangement teaches three invaluable lessons:

  1. Money Is Earned: Nobody is going to give you money for free. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.
  2. Maintaining Yourself Is Work: Kids tend to take the basics of life maintenance for granted. Clean clothes show up in their closet, and food magically appears at mealtime. The sooner they learn the basic skills of taking care of themselves, the better.
  3. You Must Manage Your Money: We all daydream about the things we could have one day. Sometimes we put a plan into action to save up and purchase the items in our daydreams. Both of our kids have saved up their allowance to purchase various things for themselves. They calculate how long they have to save and must make decisions about whether to spend their funds on going to a movie or football game — and thereby delay reaching their goal.

At some point, our allowance arrangement will become insufficient for an aging teenager’s needs. Our son is already showing signs of it. Recently, he was telling me the things he wants to buy for his computer and how much they cost.

Then, he said, “I need a job.”

I couldn’t help but smile. It sounds like our allowance over the years has been money well spent.

Do you pay your kids an allowance? What do they have to do to earn it?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

John S @ Frugal Rules February 13, 2014 at 8:03 am

This is something we’re planning on starting this year as our oldest turned six a few months ago and we’re at the point where she is getting a little more responsibility. I really like your teaching that money is something that is earned and you just don’t get it for simply showing up. Do you have any guidelines for what they do with the money like saving a certain percentage?

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Travis Pizel February 14, 2014 at 8:11 am

We currently don’t, John. They do have to save up their money if they want to buy something, which they are almost always in a constant state of doing. Our plan is to force them to save (into a bank account) once that first job comes around. As for what they buy with it….that’s usually a discussion we have before they start saving for it – ie, whether it’s something we would allow them to buy. Great questions!

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Alex February 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Although my kids are not old enough to get allowances yet, but I’m sure this advice will come handy before I know it.

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Travis Pizel February 14, 2014 at 8:11 am

They definitely grow up fast, Alex….glad you liked the post!

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Gousalya February 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Agreed – I am planning to start someday when they start asking, but right now they have ‘responsibilities’ that they need to do without compensation. That is part of helping around the house. I am trying to teach them responsibilities. I am not sure at what point I want to start paying though…I worry it will teach them to make their beds because they are paid and not because it is a good habit to do so.

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Travis Pizel February 14, 2014 at 8:13 am

I don’t worry much about why they make their beds..only that they get in the habit of doing so. When they get out on their own, after years of making their beds they will find they no longer get paid to do so, but it would feel ‘wrong’ for them to not do it anyway. That’s how it worked for me anyway! thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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property marbella February 16, 2014 at 1:56 am

A very good and effective system you have to teaching your kids to manage money and save money at same time for future purchases of things they want. Your children will be able to manage their payroll and money in the future in a good way.

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Travis @debtchronicles February 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

That’s certainly one of the hopes, property marbella! If we ever expect them to be able to handle their own finances, it’s best to have them start practicing now when the states are relatively low. Thanks for reading!

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Marissa@Thirtysixmonths February 16, 2014 at 2:10 am

That’s what I always remind to my kids that money must be earned. If they realize how hard to earn money they will value its improtance and they will learn how to save money and be mature in money handling even if at their young ages.

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Travis @debtchronicles February 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Exactly, Marissa…..we also have withheld part of their allowance if they don’t fulfill their responsibilities, or give us a hard time about having to do them. Well, we did it once….haven’t had any problems since. :)

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