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Give Me Money!

My 5-year-old wants money. Well, actually, he wants to go to the store by himself to buy Legos. And he's planned an entire Lego party with his friends in which they all walk to the Lego store together when they are nine -- in his words "old enough to go alone" -- so that he can buy them all Legos.

Given that he's showing such an interest, my husband and I thought we'd try a chore chart. So, last week, we made a list of chores and talked about how much money a 5-year-old should earn. Questions bounced between us: Should a house responsibility be a chore that earns him money? Should chores simply be things we think are important to make our lives calmer and happier? What's a starting allowance for a 5-year-old who has little concept of money other than it buys what he wants?

We ended up with a list that involved talking with respect, not fighting with his brother, cleaning the Lego room, not sucking his thumb and getting dressed without a fight. The more checkmarks he earned, the more money he earned. It worked -- for a total of four days. He made 20 cents; if he'd done everything, he would have gotten $1.

Now we're into week two and we've scaled back considerably. If he doesn't suck his thumb all week, he gets a quarter. So far, so good.

At the other end of the age spectrum, my sister gives her high school senior an allowance of $20. The amount stunned me. That's what I got as a high school senior ... and that was a LONG time ago. But at least he still gets cash. In a January Kiplinger article, Janet Bodnar gives money-teaching tips for kids. Key to her point is to avoid electronic allowances and go with cold, hard cash.

How do you handle chores and kid spending money in your house?

Today's Talkers: Even for Mature 4-Year-Olds, It Pays to Wait for School ... Conn. Bill Requires Age Verification, Parental Consent for Minors to Post on MySpace

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 8, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
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How about telling the kid NO for once in his life?

How about the kid acting properly because that is the expectation in your house?

Your paying your kid not to suck his thumb?!!

No wonder ther are so many dumbass losers in this country.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Chores: the kids have a list of chores they're responsible for, appropriate for their ages.

When they were younger, it was mostly things like making their bed, putting the clean clothes away, throwing the dirty clothes down the laundry chute, keeping their room clean, etc.

Now that the older three are teenagers, chores include all the standards like housecleaning (vacuuming all the rooms, including hallways and stairs; cleaning their own bathrooms); dishes; trash & recycling, etc.

The point with chores has always been: they're part of the family; all family members have some responsibilities and they will fulfill theirs.

Chores have always been distinct from allowances. In other words, there are consequences for not doing chores, but they're not related to their allowances.

Allowances are paid, in cash, now once per month (the kids' choice) rather than once per week. $20 a week would be a lot, IMNSHO, given that we pay for all the necessities and for family entertainment.

(Allowances come with a rule that half the money goes into the bank as part of their college fund. But that's separate from their other college savings, which we've also gone over with them in details appropriate for their ages.)

Posted by: Army Brat | March 8, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

You will get as many answers to the allowance question as there are numbers of families. We pay our kids a weekly allowance, regardless of whether chores are done promptly. Certain chores are "expected" to be done, empty trash, set the table, pick up your stuff, help shovel the driveway. We do pay for "extra" chores and I tell my kids these are ususally the ones I don't want to do, clean the bathroom. Of course you need to make the chores age appropriate, you could have really shiny oven and dishwasher doors!

Posted by: kgva | March 8, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Chores are unpaid contibutions to the family. Birthday money etc is directed into the kids savings accounts at a bank, but some is left in their wallets for walking around money. We havent been able to get an allowance going - but our kids are still

Posted by: Fo3 | March 8, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

We started giving our daughter $100 a month and a credit card (under my control) when she started high school. With this, she is responsible for: her cell phone bills, replacing the cell phone when her friend lost it, any music, replacing the MP3 when it went through the laundry, birthday gifts to friends, lunches out with friends, and 1/3 of her clothes. She is also required to earn at least $30 a month on her own. This has really taught her to plan, research and think ahead about purchases. She is also learning (the hard way) to take better care of her things! I'd much rather that she learn these lessons now than when she gets out on her own, and I'm not reviewing the bills each month. She also has regular family chores, not related to the allowance, and the opportunity to earn $ with "over and above" work.

Posted by: wdc | March 8, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

DS, age 6, gets $6/week. Per "123 Magic", if I have to "count him" and get to 3, he loses a quarter. Chores are done because he is part of the family. In the past month he saved up $21 to go to ToysRUS and buy an airplane he wanted. Much progress has been made in the last few months in that not all of the $ has gone to bubble gum!

Posted by: KS | March 8, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Chores are a contribution to the family...I am a single father with custody of 2 girls (7 & 9). When they want/need something I usually get it for them depending on the contributions they made. They use birthday money as they see fit but more often than not they save it.

Posted by: Sterling Park | March 8, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I give our 6 year old daughter $18,000 a year to manage a diversified portfolio for the family. She earns a 2% commision on gains. She usually spends on accessories for the model Battle of Britian display she's building from balsam wood in our basement.

Posted by: Liam | March 8, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Our only real chores when we were kids was setting the table before dinner / helping with dishes after (one kid did each), and keeping our rooms clean. We took over our own laundry in 6th grade or so.

My parents did have an ingenious method of teaching us budgeting: Once I was in high school we sat down and figured out my monthly expenses for fun things (movies w/ friends, etc.), drug store type items, and school supplies, and gave me an allowance that I had to use to purchase those things. Once I got to college they would give me one check, at the beginning of the semester, to cover transportation, groceries, books, clothes, fun stuff, rent/utilities once I had an apartment. If I didn't manage the money, it was my own fault if I was eating ramen noodles at the end of the semester and hoping to make it until book-buy-back day for some extra cash. Brillian lesson in that.

Posted by: Alexandria VA | March 8, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Our 5 year old has a list of responsibilities: putting his clothes away, picking up toys before bed time, setting the table, clearing his plate at meals, etc. We don't yet give him an allowance. When he starts school in Sept., he wil get $3 per week. If he doesn't fulfill his responsibilities, he would suffer a reduction in allowance. If he isn't respectful to his parents and kind to his siblings, he goes to bed 15 to 30 minutes early depending on what he is doing.

Posted by: Mom2LED | March 8, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Our 6 year old gets $6 -- but not all to spend. $1 goes into a long-term savings jar (mason jelly jar so she can see it and count it), $.50 goes into a charity jar (donations to PetsMart, animal shelter, Salvation Army at Christmas), and the rest is hers to spend as she wants. We pay her in cash, and she has a wallet that Mom holds when we're out. If she sees something she wants, we discuss how much it is, how much she has, and if she wants it in comparison to other things she sees. She has learned to defer purchases, save for big items (visit to Build a Bear), and that money is finite. We don't pay for chores but she is expected to set the table, clear her plate to the kitchen, clothes in the hamper, clean up her toys, and help sort laundry. When she is older we will look at earning extra but right now we are happy with her progress.

Posted by: Hobbit Mother | March 8, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Chores (and general helping around the house) are to be done simply because that's what being part of a family means. You don't wash the dishes because someone pays you to do so, do you? No, you do it because someone has to help run the household. Teaching kids this basic principle teaches them about responsibility and good values.

When you pay the kids for helping around the house, they see responsibility that requires extrinsic rewards -- i.e. you don't do something because it's your obligation, you do it because someone paid you. What a horrible value to teach your children, Stacey!

Also, just because you came from a wealthy family that paid $20 a week a LONG TIME AGO doesn't mean everyone can do that -- or, for that matter, should do that. You shouldn't enrich your kids. They just become snotty, rich brats who irritate all the decent people of the world.

Posted by: Ryan | March 8, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

When my kids were litte, I didn't do an allowance, but rather addressed each money request on its own merits.

But, as each of them entered high school, I started giving them $100 per month with the understanding that this was all they would get. This money was for gas, movies, birthday gifts for friends, school lunches--EVERYTHING. One by one, they got jobs after realizing that $100 was not enough money to cover their needs.

I always kept them clothed and fed, and made sure there were good things for them to take for lunch. It was their responsibility to budget their money to pay for the things they wanted.

It worked--they learned how to make choices and live within their means. Of course, now they are all in college and have credit companies falling all over each other to give them money. I hope they can resist, but other than providing advice, it's up to them.

Posted by: Cathy | March 8, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

My son is too young for an allowance, but when I was young, I used to get $1/week. When I turned 12, my parents insisted I get a job, and helped me get started with a paper route.

While it was a pain in the butt sometimes, it was a great experience. I delivered the afternoon paper after school, generally on my bike. If I didn't do things right, customers called my house and complained, and didn't tip me. If I did extra things for customers (ie, paper inside the door), they generally gave me a nice tip.

Working from an early age gave me a lot of confidence in myself. It's good for kids to know that they too can contribute.

My mom went with me to open a bank account at the local bank when I was 8 or 9. I plan to do the same with my son.

I also plan to teach him more about money and budgeting for college and charity, as well as our family expenses (and my husband about his business expenses), plus stocks, etc.

The more they know from an earlier age, the better off in the long run, in my opinion.

Posted by: Rebecca | March 8, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Hobbit mom, et. al.,

The mason jar idea is cute, (albeit inefficient) - so at what age would you advocate teaching your children about interest and the time value of money? I can understand that might be a difficult concept for a 6 year old...but maybe at 12?

I mean, if you actually put her 1 dollar a week in an interest bearing savings account (3%?), by the time she wasy 13 she'd have earned almost an extra year of savings.

Posted by: IB | March 8, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

wdc, I wish I got $100 a month for allowance when I was in high school, which wasn't too long ago (5 years). I worked part time in high school, worked during college and am now working full time right out of school.

All my friends who got hand outs from their parents like the ones your giving? They all don't have a clue as to how to get a job and keep it. Most of them don't even have jobs and are still getting hand outs from their parents, at 22! In my opinion, having to work for my money in college made me better off than they are.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Rebecca...if only the newspapers let kids be paperboys anymore. I was one from age 8 through 14. Great experience.

Now it seems to be all older dudes in beat up cars randomly throwing the paper any old place on the lawn as they drive by as fast as possible. So sad.

Posted by: IB | March 8, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

We started giving our dd an allowance when she was six, it was $1.60 and for the next few years it will increase 10 cents per year at her birthday. An odd amount I know, but we also used it to teach her how to count coins. She has a piggy bank that is divided into three sections; one section is church (10% goes there), another section is marked bank and the other is marked store, each get half of what is left over. The weeks she doesn't want to count her money, she doesn't get the allowance. She has a few chores to do that are not linked to the allowance, as it is her responsibility as a family member. The allowance is simply to teach money management skills.

Posted by: only one | March 8, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Ryan said:

"Chores (and general helping around the house) are to be done simply because that's what being part of a family means. You don't wash the dishes because someone pays you to do so, do you? No, you do it because someone has to help run the household. Teaching kids this basic principle teaches them about responsibility and good values.

When you pay the kids for helping around the house, they see responsibility that requires extrinsic rewards -- i.e. you don't do something because it's your obligation, you do it because someone paid you."

My point exactly. Very well said and a much better literary point than I made above.

Posted by: Sterling Park | March 8, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

To IB: re paper routes. I know, I see those guys too.

But in our neighborhood (granted, it's Ohio), our local paper is delivered by a walking paperboy (1x week in afternoons).

I HIGHLY recommend the paper route thing for kids. It gives them exercise too! Plus, perserverance -- I had to deliver the paper in rain, snow or heat. (Ok, sometimes my mom would drive me if the weather was really bad).

Plus, I learned that if I didn't show up to work, there would be a LOT of angry people. (I did have to learn that lesson again when I got into high school).

Posted by: Rebecca | March 8, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

We give our two children half their age in allowance each week. They are required to put 20% in their savings account and are encouraged to put more aside as well. We match any amount they put into their savings. Also, they are required to put 10% aside for a charity of their choice. They are now expected to buy any nonessential items. Most of their money seems to be spent on books. It has been a pleasant change not to be pestered in stores because they now know if they want something they need to buy it.

We expect them to keep their rooms clean and help with various chores around the house. This is not tied to their allowance. They know this is a responsibility of being a member of our family.

Posted by: sandy | March 8, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse child labor claim to fame was that I delivered papers as the eye of Hurricane Gloria passed over our neighborhood. Don't know that any of the papers stayed on the porches during the second half, but they were delivered nonetheless.

Posted by: IB | March 8, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

In our house we have chores you have to do just because you are part of the family, responsibilities that you have to complete (such as making bed, cleaning your own room, getting ready in the morning in a timely manner)and then extra tasks you can do to earn a commission, only when you do them. You cannot earn commission on days you don't fulfill your basic chores and responsibilities. My daughter is five and can earn 25 cents for completing one of a number of extra tasks. She also has to save half of her money. As she gets older she will have opportunity to do more tasks and earn a higher commission. It seems to be working.

Posted by: NoVA Mom | March 8, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

DD is too young for an allowance. But I have mixed feelings about it. I would like DD to learn to budget but I also don't like it directly tied to chores because if you want them to do something beyond the chore list, I don't want to have to pay them for it. I do think we do some things because we live together and are a family unit. I also think it depends on what you think an allowance should pay for. We probably will always pay for all her basic needs and just see an allowance as fun money to spend as she sees fit, within limits. Like extra CDs, fancy clothes etc...

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

We started giving our DD an allowance at age 6 because she was always asking for stuff and I got tired of saying no. So then she had to a)remember her money when going to the store with me and b)learn to save for something larger she really wanted. At first, she spent the money ($2/wk) as quick as she got it. Interestingly she didn't ask for a raise until 6th grade - and we didn't offer. Now at age 13, she gets $4/wk and understands saving. When she starts HS next year, we may increase significantly - and expect her to pay for more of her own activities (movies w/friends, etc).

Our son, age 9, has ADHD and didn't really understand money until last year, so that's when we started him with the same $2 that his sister got at 6. He spends the money like water, so I don't intend to raise him for a while.

Both kids do some chores - admittedly not a lot - but can lose money for certain offenses.

Posted by: Loren | March 8, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

We give $1 for each year they've been on the planet. My stepdaughter got $18/week her senior year when she did her chores, and my son will get $5/week later in the year when he does his chores. No completed chores, no money. It's as simple as that. It was a hard rule for my stepdaughter to take, because while $18 doesn't sound like a lot, it's the difference between going to the movies and Starbucks with a friend on the weekend or not.

I REALLY don't believe that kids should get money for nothing. When does that ever happen in life? And though some will argue that it's important for children to learn about money, I think first they (the children) need to earn it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 8, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Alexandria VA - the college check reminds me of my college boyfriend's set up with his parents. At the beginning of each semester he received his check. He wined and dined me for a while, then it was mac&cheese and TV for rest of the semester! Ahhhh, good times!

Posted by: JerseyGirl | March 8, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to add, our stepdaughter got a clothing allowance for each quarter ($125) and she had to buy whatever she needed out of it. The sole exception was sneakers and sporting equipment/clothes, because she played one sport each season.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 8, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Obviously I need another cup of coffee. I'm distracted. Also want to add that we require 50% of all birthday/holiday money go into savings.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 8, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Def. agree, chores are part of a family responsiblity, not tied to allowance. When my children were younger, and allowance was tied to chores, my oldest son ducked his chores one week by saying, "I don't want my allowance this week." The oldest 2 are now in college, and get a monthly allowance for food. It has to last them the whole month, or they do eat ramen, and PB&J. My youngest child get $25 a month, and he pays for his movies, food etc when out with his friends. I pay for reasonibly priced clothing, but if they want $$$ jeans/shoes/etc, they pay the difference between the reasonable ones and the expensive ones.

Posted by: Sue | March 8, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I totally see where you all are coming from with the 'chores are household duties' opinion. However, I have a slightly different viewpoint. My kids aren't old enough to hold down a job yet, so their jobs are to help out around the house. They have their specified jobs, and every now and then, I need them to work on a 'special project', which is the equivalent on 'other duties as assigned'.
They can earn overtime, as well.

It seems to work well for us now. They are not constantly asking for things, they save up for stuff that they want. They haven't even really thought to ask for an advance. They don't (always) complain about doing their jobs - even the extra ones.

They are still young, so I'm sure I'm going to hav eto change tactics at some point, but for now it is working for us.

Posted by: JerseyGirl | March 8, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

A lot of what I've read from financial experts tells you to give your kid a dollar per week of age (so a 16-year-old gets $16/week; a 9-year-old gets $9/week). I'd be way more inclined to give $16 to someone who is 16 than $9 to someone who is 9.

I started getting an allowance at age 6 ($3/week) in 1981. My 14-year-old brother got $10/week at that time. My dad and I had a joint bank account with a a passbook. Every Friday night (when the bank was open late) my dad and I would put $.30 in the piggy bank (for savings) and $.30 in the other piggy bank (for charity) and then drive to the bank and deposit the other $2.40. We did this for years. Anything I wanted (in terms of toys and candy) came out of my piggy bank money (unless my brother wanted it too, in which case my mom usually ponied up - I'm talking Monopoly, not Cabbage Patch Dolls).

As I got older, my parents offered me a coupon-clipping incentive. I was in charge of all coupons, for all retailers. I had to go over our regular list and match up the coupons. I was not allowed to agitate for "extras" beyond the approved list - i.e., if there was $10 off a newfangled doohickey, mom was not interested. I received 50% of our coupon savings each week. So if there was $1 off Tide, and it was detergent week, I got $.50. I was about 12 or so at this time. I earned about $5 or $6 a week for this (also going into the same 80 savings/10 spend/10 charity split). Around the same time, I started getting to go on fancier field trips - one to NY, or Washington DC, that cost quite a bit of money. So my parents put a price list of what I could do to earn the money to go toward these trips - mowing the lawn earned nothing, because it was my chore, but cleaning the garage garnered $15. And I never was paid cash; the money I earned was all on paper and went toward paying off specific enrichment activities I wanted (school trips, music lessons, etc.).

In high school, I was given $50/month for an allowance and then a $500/year clothing budget. My parents bought things like underwear, socks, t-shirts and jeans, but anything extra, like a sweater from the Gap or the Limited (popular stores for me in the early 90s) came from my budget. This system was instituted after one disastrous back to school season when my mom was traveling for business and my dad took me shopping (I was what you would call a Daddy's girl, which is why he and I still are not allowed to shop together!). $50/month worked out well - it was enough to go out about 2x/month, so I needed to figure out how to still go to movies and our to Perkins and still not go over my budget. In high school, over summers, I worked 2 jobs - during the day as an office receptionist/temp and at night/weekend at the supermarket as a cashier/bagger. I was not allowed to work during the school year. For all my job earnings I was still mandated to do the 80/10/10 split. By the time I headed to college, my little passbook account was around $6000.

I was fortunate; my parents had saved enough for my to pay for my college and room and board. They did not cover any incidental expenses other than books. I had an emergency credit card they provided that I could use at the bookstore, drugstore (they assumed I was sick), and for travel home. I was expected to either work during the school year for pocket money or to dip into my savings. I was expected to contribute $50/week toward my education (I used to just take my paycheck, walk over to the bursar's office, and sign it over).

I think these were all pretty good systems to have in place. We don't have a lot of extra money at the end of the month (our main expenses are student loan debt from grad school, daycare, and mortgage, in that order), and we don't have any cc debt or car loans. It is hard, though, as an adult to save 80% of my salary - when I first graduated from college I lived in a dump and never went out and saved 50%, but then I got mugged and moved to a nicer neighborhood...and there went my savings rate!

Posted by: MplsMama | March 8, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I'll have to agree with Ryan, Sterling Park and the first anon. poster. No wonder the world is full of snotty, spoiled brats with entitlement issues. If you're the parent, set the rules and stick to them and don't let a 5-year-old tell you what to do.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I want to be adopted by Liam. I'm brave, thrifty, cheerful, clean and reverant. I'm a great cook and can manage a house with the best of them. Would you pay for my college, too?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I come from a family of five children and none of us ever got an allowance. My parents refused to pay us for things they felt we were supposed to do. If we wanted to go out and have fun, my parents would decide whether or not they would give us the money for it. Sometimes we had to find our own transportation if they were too tired or busy to take us. Once we were 16, we were required to get a job which would then pay for our clothes and any fun activity we would then be doing. It taught me a valuable lesson; if I wanted something I had to stand on my feet and work for it. It taught me responsibility, the value of a dollar, and how to decide whether a certain item was worth the amount of hours I had to stand on my feet to earn it. It was a very valuable lesson.

Posted by: Meredith | March 8, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is waaaay too young for an allowance, but when she's old enough I suppose my husband and I will give her a small amount. As far as paying the child not to suck their thumb, there is an idea that I heard about that I like better than that: on a calendar, mark with a sticker every day that the child does not suck her thumb, and make a big deal about it! After a whole week goes by, treat the child to something that they want - ice cream, dinner out, something like that, as a celebration. Not sure if it'll work, but it sounds like a sweet idea, so it's one that I might try if I find myself in that situation!

Posted by: StudentMom | March 8, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Re: Mason jar...that is for her allowance money. Money from birthdays, Christmas, etc., go into the bank after a "gift deduction." She doesn't quite get the idea of interest but she does saving and charity. I'm happy with that for today.
Re: working for money...when she is older, I will expect her to babysit, dog walk, etc., through our neighborhood chore board. Older yet, get a job at a retail store or the like. There will be no free passes for phones, cars, etc. If she wants it, she'll work for it.

Posted by: Hobbit Mom | March 8, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Jeez, a lot of you guys were spoiled / are spoiling your kids. I guess my opinion is a little skewed because I had to work for my money. Go, go, Chick-fil-a!

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, 11:10 Am, Ryan and I are not planning on adopting any more children. Our precious little angel is quite enough for now.

p.s. I wish you could see the Seurat-esque pointilism painting she did of Ryan and me walking on the Mall. 10 x 7 feet, and she did it mostly left-handed.

Posted by: Liam | March 8, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Liam, I actually thought you were kidding. I am amazed that a 6 year old would understand that. DD is three and I am not even sure she understands commerce. She generally does not see a lot of shopping. Because we do a lot on line and through the phone. She almost never sees cash being exchanged because we often use debit or credit card. DD thinks things come from UPS. I laughed when I realized instead of playing grocery store shopping, she was imitating on line shopping. But that is really impressive that you are doing this with your 6 year old. Kudos to you and I might try it on a much smaller scale.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Liam: Maybe we could set up play dates with my DD and DS. DD is four and works at Johns Hopkins on the brain surgery team. She recently separated Siamese twins joined at the skull. She's due for a sabbatical and plans to work on composing an opera. DS is 6 works with General Motors on creating a more fuel efficient SUV when he's not working as a Consultant with the UN. Of course I give them an allowance for not sucking their thumbs while masturbating. Or is it masturbating while sucking their thumbs. I can never tell the difference.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"wdc, I wish I got $100 a month for allowance when I was in high school, which wasn't too long ago (5 years). I worked part time in high school, worked during college and am now working full time right out of school.

All my friends who got hand outs from their parents like the ones your giving? They all don't have a clue as to how to get a job and keep it. Most of them don't even have jobs and are still getting hand outs from their parents, at 22! In my opinion, having to work for my money in college made me better off than they are."

My daughter's allowance was raised to $100.00 a week when she turned 16 and working part time(some girls need a lot of stuff and have active social lives). I matched her savings for a car when she turned 18. She worked part time through college.

I enjoy cooking and cleaning and I have very high standards, so my daughter never had chores. Her allowance was never linked to good behavior.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

MplsMama: The coupon-clipping incentive's a great idea. And I wish I could share the bank passbook with my kids. I loved going to the bank to deposit money I'd earned into my passbook account and having the teller stamp my interest into it. There was something so tangible about that.

Everyone out there: What do you do about bank accounts? Has anyone found a good replacement for the old-fashioned passbook?

Also, while I think that kids should do something to earn money, I've heard the argument from some parents that their childrens' main job is to go to school, study and do well. They don't want outside jobs to interfere with that. What does everyone think?

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | March 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

No allowance for my kids. The accounting is just too much effort, too much negotiating what's fair, and besides, I can't afford it anyways.

And Stacey, you have a child that likes to suck his thumb? Awe, how cute!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 8, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

we started my son (6 1/2) with a chores list when he was about 3. it lists jobs that he could do to earn check marks. when he was younger the list contained things like get dressed & put on pajamas. it worked well because he would have these huge tantrums in the morning getting ready & at night getting undressed. it was amazing to see what a "you won't get your check mark" would do. the biggest drawback was it was a pain in the butt for us to remember to fill out the check list every night. for every 100 check marks he got $20. now, if he really wanted to he could get $20 about every 10 days or so but he doesn't think that far ahead. he has also used the check list for some more expensive puchases. he saw a thomas the tank engine boulder mt set in the store at christmas time and wanted me to buy it. i told him it was too expensive since i had already purchased his christmas presents. i told him if he wanted to buy it he needed 400 checkmarks ($80). it took him a month but he did it. he's done this before with other expensive things so he is learning the value of money. i like the idea that what he gets is tied to what he does because that is the way life is. however, i am not entirely satisfied with this arrangement. as some of you have pointed out, family is a team & some jobs you just do as part of the team. i may change how he earns his money. i'm chewing this over.
the other thing i've done is told him that i will match him. for every $100 he saves i'll give him $100. i'm not sure how i'm going to work that either. i would hate to think that he would spend it on something i really don't want him to buy. right now once the money goes in his piggy bank he doesn't spend it. sooner or later he's going to decide he wants something badly enough & it's his money and he'll buy whatever it is dispite what his parents say.

Posted by: quark | March 8, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Hobbitt Mom, how does your "neighborhood chore board" work? That sounds so neat! I'd love to hear details.

Paying for good grades in school? I think it might be good if special effort is needed in a particular subject the student hates (ie, my parents offered me money when I was struggling in physics class in high school -- they knew I wouldn't be going into a career where I needed physics, but wanted me to work hard to get a good grade anyway in a subject I found very difficult and discouraging).

So in special cases, I would do it -- the key is -- does it lift the student's sense of discouragement?

Posted by: Rebecca | March 8, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I know I'm missing the point of this blog, but I have to ask...

What's the deal with the Lego obsession?

My six-year-old boy lives and breathes Legos. He gets up and plays Legos, comes to breakfast with a handful of Legos, then talks about Legos at breakfast. He comes home from school, and before he goes to play with his Legos, he tells me about the Legos his friends at school discussed.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | March 8, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

About the job thing, DD has some developmental delays. Until we know more about her condition, I can't say for sure. But my guess if she is a basically average student, I would not want her working a part time job in HS except for summers. For a college student, I would require a full time summer job or internship. My DD will have to pay for her own spending money in college. In HS, I would require save 50% of summer job and they can spend 50% on whatever they like. The savings would be used to supplement their college disposable income. I think I would always pay for food, clothing, school activities, and family events. Their allowance would be for things like going to the movies with friends, fancy clothes etc...

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Completely agree with the don't tie chores to allowance - we expect my 4 YO to do chores, but he doesn't get allowance yet.
What I'm kinda wondering is - when I was growing up, my allowance was woefully inadequate (we had to buy all extras with it). BUT my grandmother and her two sisters gave us tons of money whenever we saw them (added up to probably $50 per month by the time I was in high school - maybe more...). And I always had extra jobs (babysitting, etc). But my kids won't have a relative who will be giving them money like I got (and we got a lot - and my parents were well aware, but they couldn't afford to give us more allowance).
So I know that means I'll have to up the allowance (but, also, my mom didn't spend much on clothes for us, so she'd let me pay for part of a pair of jeans or something - I ended up spending money on clothes).
DS will be five soon, and I'm thinking of giving him allowance, but probably very little, maybe 50 cents a week or something like that. He doesn't need money for anything at this point, but might soon.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I must preface by saying I may have come from an unusual family.

One summer, my mom said: we can't send you to camp this summer. This would have been fine - but then mom forced me to get ajob (and things were tight then, think recession, it wasn't so easy). I wasn't allowed to hang out with my friends at the pool. So my thought was: *you* can't afford something, so now *I* have to get a job (and I wasn't expected to pay for anything extra with the money or anything, it wasn't like we couldn't eat, just that year, we didn't have money for the extras)
What are you going to do...

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm 28 and about to become a mother, and I have never even thought about this issue! I guess DH and I need to talk about this at some point...

You know, I honestly can't even remember if I got an allowance growing up. I know that one semester, my parents gave me $ for each "A" I earned, but other than that, I have no real memory of being given a specific amount of money... Gonna have to call my mom and see if I'm just blocking things out. LOL

Posted by: DLM | March 8, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

My parents paid for lunch for high school, and mom usually put some money out for us, but some days she'd forget - so when we'd ask dad for $ he'd *always* give us more than mom would! It would be nice to have that extra $1.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Bodner makes the point that an allowance should come with financial responsibilities, and I agree with that 110%! My son, now 13, started getting an allowance when he was six or seven; with it, he had to buy his own Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon cards, toys he wanted, etc.

Chores are definitely separate. He does chores because everyone in the family does chores, and he's part of the family. If he wants to earn extra money -- he does not, ever! -- he can do special projects, such as cataloging CDs (for insurance purposes).

He goes to summer camp, and though his dad and I pay for the camp, our son has to provide his own spending money. If he wants to have more than his allowance while he is away, he has to save his own money for it.

He has learned how to save his money; he figured out how long it would take for him to save enough to buy a $250 software package, and did without a lot of little extras so he could save up for it. He is proud of having purchased it with his own money.

Posted by: Owlice | March 8, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

My friend gave her young child, 4, a notebook. Whenever the little girl wanted a new toy or play item, her parents would cut out a picture of the item and put the retail price in her book. They called it the wish book. Whenever the little girl wanted to talk about getting items in the wish book, her mother would tell her how many weeks of allowance she would have to say to get the item. Sometimes, the little girl would decide that 2 weeks was worth waiting for a play dough kit but 5 weeks of waiting was not worth a Lego set. But it gave a small child a way to see concretely the idea of saving for a goal. Often items, came and went in the wish book. It sounds like a neat idea. I would like to do that with my daughter.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome: that is a neat idea.

My parents would just tell us we couldn't afford things, so I am a hoarder of money - it has taken years for me to learn how to spend money. I always felt: oh, no, we're not going to be able to eat this month! the burden will be on me. I know, irrational, but I was quite young.
And of COURSE there wasn't a problem with food, ever. But I was a little kid.
I think telling kids you can't afford stuff isn't such a great idea, but my cousin said she told her kids: hey, you have enough of 'whatever.' If you'd like something, you have to save for it.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

atlmom: I am a big saver. Regardless of what the anonymous troll on blance might think. We are actually very responsible with money. Me, more then my husband. But we come from really different backgrounds. I came from a family that was always good with money. We were never loaded or even comfortable. But we always had a home, car, food on the table, a few nice extras. We participated in multiple extra curriculars; granted most were when we were in Middle and HS. But DH came from a very poor family. Didn't always have food or basic utilities. He is absolutely paranoid about money. He thinks at any point we could be on the streets. But he is also on the other hand incredibly generous to his extended relatives and to us as a family. So, I think a lot of the way you view finances has to do with how you grow up. But there is no direct correlation. Like cheap parents don't always produce over spenders. And generous parents don't always produce spend thrifts. I see differences in our spending habits between me and my brothers and DH and his sisters.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, in response to me asking my 5 year old DD to go get her brothers shoes from across the room for me, she said to me "You make me do everything, this is not my job." I was floored. She does not have any chores and I hardly ever ask her for any help. Then, I learn that she has been giving our nanny a hassle about doing anything because "its not her job." I realize that we have a problem. We do not want her to be a spoiled brat and we thought we were doing a great job (not giving too many toys, not giving in to any "I wants" at the store etc.) So this weekend, my DH and I are going to sit down and have this discussion -- allowance and chores. Clearly she needs some chores and based on her comments I will not (at least now) be tying in allowance to her chores. She needs to understand what being part of the family is about. So I think different situations call for different answers. Thank you all for your ideas -- I will be reading all day to gather as much info as possible. Thanks again

Posted by: Marie | March 8, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Our local bank has a kids saving account that gives you a certain amount of reward bucks every time you deposit money. I forget what the ratio is (we have a kid account but she's too young to understand the program concept). Kids can trade the bucks for little gifts, like pencils and calculators. I think the bucks are tangible enough.

Also, a lot of the little banks in our town still have a passbook savings. It's all computerized, of course, but our neighbor's daughter has a little "passport" style book and when she deposits her money she hands over the passport and the bank stamps her $$ total. You may have to go to a community bank instead of a big convenient multi-state bank to get these services.

Posted by: MplsMama | March 8, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

It's not spoiling your kids to give them the means to experience the world. A twelve-year-old cannot go out and get a job at IHOP, but he's way to old to be sequestered at home 24/7.

My folks gave us the exact amount that a week's worth of lunches at the school cafeteria would cost. If we wanted to have spending money, we had to pack lunches from the healthy stuff in the fridge. We could also mow the lawn for $2/hour. Keeping our rooms clean and our grades up was a given.

Yes, I went out and got a job at 16, as soon as I was able. By that time, I'd learned to sacrifice and save to buy gifts, snacks, entertainment, and local transportation, and with all that, independence. The allowance I was given for the ten years before I got my first job let me be a real person, capable of holding down a job, rather than some chubby, pasty little cave-dweller never permitted out of the parents' sight.

Posted by: WDC | March 8, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

It's also worth pointing out that many parents (like mine) don't want their kids distracted by a part-time job during the school year. I was only allowed to work during the summer months. The rest of the year, I was expected to put my energy into school work. Where should an academically-focused teen's mad money come from? That's where the lunch money scheme (see above) really came in handy.

Posted by: WDC | March 8, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome: so true...
You never know, my sister grew up in the same house, had cc debt, spent every penny, never had money, her whole life (she'd borrow from me).
My other sister, the minute she *did* have money, would spend it all, but never did have debt. Her boyfriend (now husband) was saving for a house when they met and he was floored that she never ate at home - too much to eat out all the time for him.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

WDC said: "It's also worth pointing out that many parents (like mine) don't want their kids distracted by a part-time job during the school year. I was only allowed to work during the summer months. The rest of the year, I was expected to put my energy into school work."

I think learning to balance school work and work-work during high school really saved me during college. I've seen too many people "break' under the pressure of both when they tried to do it without previous experience.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Also balancing extracurricular activites during high school as well.

Work + school + preparing for drama performances after school = a very good course in time management.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

dbishop: But why do they ever necessarily have to do school and work at the same time? I am not saying it is a bad thing. But can't they just earn enough spending $$ over the summer, so they don't have to work during school. Just a thought. I am not at all saying what you did was wrong. But I want to save enough $$ so DD does not have to work during college; except for summer break.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Geez, I love the generalizations here. FYI, I got an allowance in high school ($20/week, had to pay for gas & school lunches too). And I got $100/month in college (had to pay for driving to/from school 6 hours away). I also started working when I was 14 and was responsible for clothes, entertainment, etc., etc. I had part-time jobs during the school year and full-time jobs during the summer until I graduated. I started working 3 days after graduation and have worked at the same place ever since, advancing through the ranks while continuing my eduation at night (I'm 27 now).

Moral of the story: just because a teen receives an allowance that may seem HUGE to you doesn't mean he/she will turn out to be a delinquent member of society. And just because that teen gets that HUGE allowance doesn't mean that the teen won't be responsible for things that other parents might simply pay for on their own. Don't ass-ume.

Posted by: PLS | March 8, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

As someone who is still dealing with the ramifications of not being taught to be fiscally responsible as a child/teenager I think the development of healthy savings habits from a very young age is incredibly important.

I don't think I knew the real cost of anything until about a year after I started supporting myself. I have never had a problem holding down a job or working hard (a drive to achieve was instilled from the very beginning) but I had no concept of a budget or how much it cost to just live, much less live well (which was what I was used to). I have now spent the past two years adjusting my lifestyle to become fiscally responsible and financially solvent.

It has been a hard lesson to learn on my own and while I take full responsibility for the position that I put myself in, having had my parents demonstrate the purchasing power of a dollar and help me to develop a discipline to save from the very beginning may have made these past two years of my life much less anxious and stressfull.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome: Oh sure, the summer breaks were cash cows, I just needed to make money over the school year as well. It's good that you're planning ahead for DD.

Working during college may not be such a bad thing though, I've had my job since I was a freshman working part time and now I'm in a full time position with the same place. Work-study positions while in college are the way to go.

PLS: $100 a month doesn't seem so bad, I'm talking the $100/week teens. That's a bit much, I think. Seems that the spoon-fed teens tend to be less grounded when they have to be on their own. But that's just me ass-umption. ;)

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I understand the lego obsession. When I was 25 I bought a lego castle set on sale. I can't wait till my two boys are old enough to build legos with me. We also heart MegaBloks (lego for babies).

I am not in favor of paying/withholding pay for grades. Kids spend much of their day in school and I think they are eager to please their parents so if their parents indicate that good grades are important then I think kids will try hard. But if they arent' doing well, then I think financial demerits just twist the knife and lead to feelings of despair and a desire to avoid thinking about school. My parents always told me that they were happy as long as I did my best. If a child isn't doing well I think intervening by sending them to a tutor is a better way to go. It worked wonders for my neice.

Posted by: m | March 8, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

No kids yet, however I can contribute what my folks did with me.

I had a part-time job in college (we're talking like 8-10 hours a week, and it was my spending money for things like going out to dinner/movies/etc. but it counted toward my work-study), and only worked full-time during the summers (HS & college) -- which was how I earned money for my books in college (& holiday presents/cards for my family/friends). The way my parents viewed it was that HS was my "job" then (and college was my primary "job" when I was there), and so I was to devote the majority of my attention to that and keep my grades up. When most kids took a half-day senior year of HS for jobs, I instead stayed all day and took extra honors/AP classes and as a result actually took a semester off the time I needed to graduate from college (saving lots of $$$ in tuition, which I then got a fraction of to put in my savings for later, for things like a new car or a house or other big-ticket things I will be needing before I'm 30 -- and with the car I currently drive, trust me it ain't gonna last much longer, it's a good dozen years old and counting :) ).

My allowance was something like $5/week starting when I was about 14 (this was late '90s/early 2000s), and $1/week before that -- and both could be upped if I did chores that I really abhorred doing (up to about $10 and $4.25, respectively) and were supplemented by babysitting the neighbors' kids when I got old enough.

Posted by: FWIW | March 8, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

dbishop: You might know this or someone else might know this. But is work study jobs on campus only for kids who are on financial aid? If we paid for DD's college but she wanted extra money, is she allowed to get one of those jobs?

As far as how much money/month to give her, I would have no idea yet. We would cross that bridge when we got to it. My assumption by college, if we paid for everything else, she should make enough $$ over summers to cover her spending money. It would not be enough for spring break trips etc... She would have to find a way to make more money for stuff like that.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

So my story.

Growing up, we never really had much for extras. The grandparents saved many a christmas from being bare. I was the chick with low self-esteem who had few friends and didn't care about clothes, so my mom actually tried to push me into going out with others and giving me some little extra to spend. We also had a deal that as long as I kept working on school, I wouldn't need to get a job. Since I ended up with a full scholarship, I think it was a wise plan.

My nephews are 7 and 5 now. When I lost my job a few years, I had to tell them that I couldn't take them out to our normal movie and toy store trip for awhile but that when I got to work again, we'd be back. They COMPLETELY understood, no whining, no upset, just time to go to the park instead.

They also get a regular small allowance and have learned to not only save for big things, but also to bargain. Many a time grandma has come into the picture and said that if they save everything for a month to go towards some new thing, she will pay for the other half of it. For a 5 year old to be able to do this on a regular basis is pretty impressive IMO.

I agree that certain expectations of behavior and manners shouldn't be rewarded through money, but teaching someone the concept of work = money = access to other things is a good one to be fostered and understood. I'm not sure I understand why a lot of people think that teaching kids the value, purpose, and use of money is a bad thing?

Posted by: Liz D | March 8, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome: I was eligible for work-study through federal financial aid. Basically, a portion of my salary was refunded to my office from the government.

I'm pretty sure that if DD is not eligible for FinAid then she won't be able to get one of these jobs.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Also, a lot of the work-study positions are not on campus. I'm with a national nonprofit organization, for example.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if it will let me link it, but here is the FAFSA FWS info page.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes, typically work study is something one needs to apply for and it is usually need based. But there are always other jobs on and off campus. I tutored at our math lab which was great b/c students rarely used it 'cept during mid terms and finals. As long as I kept up, I was good - I could stdy and do homework during times I was getting poaid! It was great.

We have a long way to go, tho, so I am not sure what we'll do. Both DH and I got full rides and put ourselves thru grad school(me, by full time going and assistantship, dH by getting work to pay for it). We will have to see how it goes, but I am inclined to not want my kids to have to work during school. I got a job cause I wanted it, it was easy to get and do, and I had more money for living. I never liked being a poor college student.

NC is a beautiful state, with tons of growth and companies and jobs. There are mtns, beaches and the triangle area is awesome. Be careful about child care assumptions, tho - my sister in NY pays a lot less for a nanny than I do(in atlanta). But real estate in NC is clearly less than in DC.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

dbishop: Thanks. Clearly, DD won't qualify. We will have to investigate other options if she is interested in a small part time job. I think most students could handle a 10 hour/week job and their studies. It would give just a little bit of cash that they could have some fun in college.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Oops... The NC comments were meant for the other blog...

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

It was a SAD day... when I no longer heard my kids running their fingers thru the big box of lego pieces trying to find the parts to build whatever creation they were working on..... CHERISH the lego days!!!!

Kids should do chores because they are part of the family and families work together.

An allowance is independent of the chores. However, if chores are not completed, a consequence could be to deduct from the allowance.

Kids NEED to learn to manage money and to do it rather early. No one is a bad parent for giving their kids money and then letting them pay for incidentals from that money. And to let them "live with their decisions" if they decide to buy bubble gum instead of lunch for the week.

That is how we all learn, eh?

Posted by: C.W. | March 8, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

My 13 year old has been getting $30 a month for 18 months or so. She's permitted to keep $20. She gives me $10, I match it, and stuff it away for her.

Now that she is in charge of getting her younger sib on the bus in the a.m., I bolster her slush fund.

The younger kid has to keep room tidy, make bed, do homework, feed cats and not give parents a hard time when told to DO the homework or practice the instrument and then gets $5/week in the form of the dollar coins.

The younger one stashes them away in a jar, dumps them on the bed periodically and feels like a pirate.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome: Aye, 10 hours is nothing. Also, with some creative class scheduling, DD may be able to cram all her classes into a couple of days. Usually I was able to get all mine into Tuesdays and Thursdays or night classes. Granted, they were long days, but I had the other days of the week to work / be social.

Posted by: dbishop | March 8, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to mention that my 13 yo is provided baseline clothes, if she wants something extra, she pays for it. She also uses the money for purchasing gifts (bday, Xmas, etc.), extra music, sock hop entry fees, and she is now interested in purchasing stocks.

I have also explained to her that compound interest can be used for good (retirement accounts!) or for evil (credit card debt).

I'm so proud of her. *sniff*

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome, I was not on work-study in college (my dad, in particular, was a demon about saving for college). I did work, however, about 15 hours/week all through school. I worked in the dining hall (so I was actually employed by Marriott, which had the concession, not the college). I worked in the library (reserve room; great job where I studied non-stop and shelved books every hour or so). I also worked in the admissions office (on days I worked, I gave about 5 tours/day - lots of walking, and an added incentive to keep my room clean!). It's not impossible to find an on-campus job if you're not on finaid. All of my friends in college worked, but not all were on aid.

Posted by: MplsMama | March 8, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Also...once got a job offer because of my dining hall job. Got asked in an interview at a snotty investment bank "What did working in the dining hall teach you that you could possible apply to us?" and I replied "I can deal with all types of people, no matter how big an a****** they may be."

They called that night with a generous offer, which I turned down. And I know how to operate industrial dishwashers, in case I ever open a restaurant.

Posted by: MplsMama | March 8, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I plan on giving my kids just barely enough to have some fun. Too many affluent families give too much and then the kids have the means to buy drugs or liquor. Children in my opinion should be perpetually broke, it stays with them throughout life and teaches them what its like to be without means.

Posted by: pATRICK | March 8, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

My kids (1 middleschooler, 1 freshman) each get $20/2 weeks. It's what I can afford. It's a bit more than the younger needs, but it also means I don't need to listen to them fight over who's getting more.

Greatest thing when I started allowance for my daughter when she was 5 -- all the stuff she "needed" me to get her (lip gloss, a new outfit for a Barbie, etc.) suddenly became much less vital when I pointed out "Honey, I don't have any money for that right now, but you can certainly spend some of your allowance money!"

Posted by: Lawyermom | March 8, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse


I wouldn't worry *too much* that the "not my job" comments are a sign of deep developing brattiness. Your 5yo daughter's probably just looking for magic words that get her her way, of not complying with your request . . . she's probably heard others try the argument and is trying it out for herself . . . you just have to show her that, that line doesn't fly. Really, the phrase likely means much less to her than it does to you, and is more about trying to assert her will/evade your request than a deep understanding of jobs and personal responsibility. It does push adult buttons, though . . . Reminds me of when my frustrated 6yo insisted to me, "You're not the boss of me!" Sorry to tell you, kid, but . . . That was her frustration and wishfulness speaking, plus the fact that "you're not the boss of me!" actually wins arguments on the playground :-). I firmly but calmly explained that when I told her --- not asked her or discussed with her --- a task or final decision, that yes, I was the boss of her and she did have to comply. . . In some ways these weak little retorts lie in being flustered, in wanting your own way, and wanting to win it in an argument pitting your 5yo rhetorical skill against an adult, which is frustrating. A firm and clear parental line can help prevent that frustrating hope of negotiating your way, when you've no chance of winning, from taking root in the first place . . . and make it clear what's a negotiable request and what is a demand to just do and get on with . . .

My other thought though is maybe your dd is complaining about a perceived unfairness, cleaning up *others'* messes that aren't her own (her brother's shoes, for example). That's a classic sense of injustice kids often feel. They see only the work they themselves do and feel responsible only for their own messes. Maybe a focus, and examples, of how in a family we all work not just for ourselves and to clean up our own messes, but to make our lives work and our house a better place to live for the whole family ---then setting clear limits on what's a request and what's a nonnegotiable demand to do a share . . . and maybe setting clear times when everyone's 'helping' versus asking her to interrupt what she's doing at a time that she expected to be doing something fun. My kids are much cheerier about helping out if they can see that everyone is doing it, right now; that nobody's lazing around or having fun while they work (the Cinderella complex ignites quickly),and if we all push through and do it for a set short time, we'll be done.

Marie wrote,

>Yesterday, in response to me asking my 5 year old >DD to go get her brothers shoes from across the room for me, she said to me "You make me do everything, this is not my job." I was floored. She does not have any chores and I hardly ever ask her for any help. Then, I learn that she has been giving our nanny a hassle about doing anything because "its not her job." I realize that we have a problem. We do not want her to be a spoiled brat and we thought we were doing a great job

Posted by: KB | March 8, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Reminds me of the cosby joke.

Kid says: I don't need a job that pays well, dad, we have plenty of money.
Dad: no, theo, mom and *i* have money. You have nothing.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I never got an allowance. I babysat from Junior High on with some pretty regular families (and back in the late 80's - mid 90's that was about $3.00 an hour). Half were word of mouth/neighbors, the others were from church.

Once I had a license and a car (end of my senior year of HS), I was more marketable since one parent didn't have to rush out to pick me up and they didn't have to drop me back home either.

I also "house sat" for neighbors that went away -- took their mail in, turned on/off some lights, watered the plants, took care of the pets, etc.

The best gig was when one couple went to Europe for a week each year and left me (I was in HS and then Junior College) with their preteen daughter. All the meals were already prepared and in the freezer with directions. I got about $350 for that job and I think I did it for 3 years.

I also paid for my own gas, car insurance, and all my college extras, like books and going out (my "meal plan" was part of my tuition and came from loans).

When I went away to college, I had three PT jobs -- campus bookstore (best job -- discounts on textbooks and university "stuff" -- great for Christmas that year), work study (signed people into my dorm for 3 hours on a Sunday night, so I was able to do school work), and a retail pharmacy that I had worked at while at home (the chain transferred me to the town my uni was in).

While doing all this, I still had time for extracurricular activities and volunteering!

Posted by: Columbia, MD | March 8, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks KB -- I think you are totally right and the more I think about it, her 3 year old brother seems to "get away" with doing less and it probably does not seem fair. Although its never too early to learn that life is just not fair :) Because I was sure that I was going to overreact, I simply told her to get the shoes and noted to myself that I needed to figure this out. I think my husband and I are so worried that we will have spoiled kids (because we have worked so hard and truly have a lot) that we freak out at these things and tend to go the opposite extreme. I guess that is why raisign kids is so much fun -- everything always changes :)

Posted by: Marie | March 8, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

So, if you give an allowence to your child that is equal to his or her age, the second child (or third child) is actually getting less money than your first child because of inflation. Don't underestimate the difference this makes over time, especially if your kids are spaced far apart. Even the government pays a cost of living increase!

what does this really teach kids about money?

Posted by: inflation? | March 8, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

My 13 year old understands that we don't pay her an allowance (being a one income family, involuntarily, we just can't afford it). However, she's lucky that her other mom is a small business owner (lawn service) and DD can work for her to earn some extra money. We never had to worry about DD being a spendthrift in general - the kid grew up in a house with a minister for a mom, and anyone who has seen the average minister's salary understands why there wasn't ever any extra money to throw around. DD tends to save up for big stuff (trips with church, or family trips where she'll want spending money) and gives herself an allowance from her money to spend on silly stuff. She's amazed me with her discipline since I've been in the family (married into it three years ago).

My only problem is that she makes TOO MUCH money with her job, and this has led her to think she can buy herself out of trouble. She loses/destroys something (like a cell phone - she's on #4 in 19 months) she pays for it herself and thinks this makes it all better. She's not responsible for turning in a form on time, so she offers to pay the extra fee for late submissions (or Fed-Ex to mail it). She doesn't sell all the candy bars for the fundraiser because she left the box at home the whole week, so she buys the leftovers herself and gives them away to people at church. It's being fostered by 'other mother' and her partner - and it REALLY bugs me. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | March 8, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Actually, my ds says the boss of me thing to. Amd we talk about. It. How no I'm not the boss of him, he is responsible for him- but if he doesn't listen, then he has to deal w the consequences, ie, not doing things he wants to do or going in the corner ot whatever.
So, no I may not be the boss of him (he has free will) but I *am* the boss.

Posted by: atlmom | March 8, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

To Rebecca -- thats tough -- sorry. Unfortunately, I think all you can do is emphasize your beliefs about money and be there for her if/when her spending exceeds her income (what is a lot of money to a 14 year old is not to a 24 year old). That does not mean bail her out (in my opinion) but be there to help her understand how things went wrong.

Posted by: to rebecca | March 8, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

4 cell phones in 19 months? I'd give her a roll of quarters.

Posted by: Huh? | March 8, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

What not to do:

In elementary school and Jr. High I received $20 a week, with no strings attached. I was responsible for making my bed and setting the table but that was not associated with my allowance at all.

In highschool I was given $100/week in allowance with no strings attached until I graduated. I also had a credit card for emergencies (and to start building my credit rating). Throughout highschool I also babysat regularly for $10/hr plus tip so never wanted for fun money. All clothes and other sundries were paid for by my parents, so the allowance and baby sitting money was for fun.

In college I received $1000/month for expenses (not including books or rent which went on my credit card, for which I never saw the bill as it went directly to my parents). I did have summer internships throughout college, but never worked during the school year which did allow me to focus on my studies.

I then received a new car for college graduation (which replaced the car that i received when I turned 16), as well as gifts of stock from my parents, and both sets of grandparents that was left to me to manage (or sell). I was then completely cut off from any financial support after my first pay check, and left to figure out my finances on my own.

Needless to say that was a baptism by fire, and while I managed all of my finances with success the systems that folks have mentioned instituting for their children around saving and charitable contributions sound like they would build an incredible foundation for their children in the long run. I am going to do something similar for my own when they are old enough.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 8, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I do want my 4 yr old to learn about money. But as several others have said, I don't want him to learn that he gets paid for doing what we expect of him. Every week he gets $2- $1 to do what he wants, $.75 for his piggy bank and $.25 for church offering. We do not buy him toys on a whim, he needs to save for them. After a couple of weeks of riding the vibrating toy car at the grocery store, he did figure out that he needed to save his $1 to get good things. After 13 weeks of saving he was able to buy a toy that he wanted. As for behavior, we try to explain our expectations and praise him when he lives up to them. We sometimes do some extra things like rent a movie or get ice cream, but try not to make it too performance based. We are more apt to take away things like TV watching or desert if he is behaving badly. Of course, he is only 4 so he is still eager to please. We'll see how level headed we remain when he becomes a know it all teenager!

Posted by: MakeItUpAsIGoDad | March 8, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse


But the consequences, LOL, are you the boss of him if his consequence is that he then has to go in the corner and he doesn't want to and you make him do it? I try to make it seem like the consequences are dispassionate and just inevitable facts of life from on high that have nothing to do with me, and usually succeed, but when they're in a limit-testing phase, the sad reality is that I do have to personally impose the consequences (with the disclaimer that sorry, it's my job as parent, those are the rules, they made their choices, but deep down, it can be a 'boss of me' moment). My boss of me moment was an angry tearful morning in the carpool lane approaching school dropoff when I insisted on brushing dd's hair as she kept evading doing it and it still needed to be brushed before school. . . I'm still working on establishing that as just one of the dispassionate rules of the world that is and ever was and ever will be, no girl can walk into school with unbrushed hair in the morning, it's just unthinkable. My dd is much happier with such cut-and-dry rules, once she finally accepts them, than anything else, it's just getting the rule into her books that's a testing time . . .

Posted by: KB | March 8, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't pay my child for regular chores. As far as I'm concerned chores are part of being in a family. An allowance is also part of being in a family (sharing in the resources), but I would help them with some decisions around savings, charities, etc. And model it!

I might pay my child for extra chores though, as an in-house source of income.

Posted by: Shandra | March 8, 2007 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I was never paid an allowance. My parents grew up poor, but were fairly well off themselves, and they taught me the value of respecting the hard work it takes to earn money. When I was 16, I got a job at a local restaurant and worked there summers and weekends. I paid for about half of my clothes and toiletries, and all of my entertainment. Nonetheless, because I knew how much work went into earning each and every dollar, I saved a large hunk of it. Enough, in fact, to afford a 3 month backpacking trip to Europe. Ever since then, I've had summer jobs that have financed my spending during the school year (lucky for me, my parents pay tuition). I'm graduating this spring, and even though I don't know what's next for me, I know that if I have to, I work anywhere and still be ok.
I don't think kids should get an allowance. I think they should do chores because they are asked to and because it helps everyone in the family. Telling your kids "no" when they demand every little thing is very important, because that teaches them that their urges don't always need to be satisfied. Especially with kids, a lot of their urges for toys, certain clothes, films, and sugary foods come and go with the frequency of the TV ads. Say no, and encourage self reliance. Take care of their every day needs, but show them a budget of how much it costs to care for them, and they will learn respect and gratitude. It's made me into a very strong modern woman. Thanks mom and dads!

Posted by: lucky kid | March 9, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

To Rebecca in AR:

It's not necessarily a bad lesson to learn that money can get you a lot more access to a lot more things and make things a lot more comfortable for a person.

On the other hand, life will also hit her enough times to realize there's only so much stretching- you can't pay money to get a college to accept a late application.

I'd recommend sitting down with a good financial advisor and go ahead and start an IRA for her. Get her all the serious info on how much MORE she'll make if she starts saving for retirement now and help her see the long term picture of things.

Also, just use every opportunity to explain the value of objects and responsibility. We all have our own sets of values and you should just be sure to have talks regularly with her to figure out what hers are and go through where they will lead.

Posted by: Liz D | March 9, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Just another opinion:

My mother started an allowance for me and my brother when we were about 7 and 9 (c. 1986). We received $3 / week, which she would write down in a checkbook register. Once a month, she would calculate 3% interest and add that to the total. I don't remember ever handling cold, hard cash but I do remember the numbers adding up. We also deposited our birthday and Christmas money from various relatives into our "account". I didn't spend any of the money on trinkets or toys, but I did dig deep for horseback riding lessons for quite a few years.

My allowance slowly increased until it was about $20/week or so late in high school (~1995). That, along with Christmas and birthday gifts, paid for my riding lessons when I could afford them. In order to have money for my "entertainment" when I went out with my friends, I earned cash baby-sitting at least once a week. It annoyed me to no end when I'd go over to my friend's house on Saturday night and she would ask her parents for money and they would just hand her a $20 bill for her to spend without discretion. I had missed Friday night out with the gang because I was baby-sitting to earn money to go out on Saturday. Oh well.

I think I also had a clothing allowance, but this wasn't much of an issue because my wardrobe in the grunge years consisted of finds from my father's closet and garbage bags full of stuff from the thrift store for 8 dollars.

My parents also tried to pay me for good grades or punish me for bad ones -- NOT recommended. It didn't work and may be haunting me to this day.

I only had one "official", earn-a-paycheck job in high school, which was a secretarial position the summer I was 16. My parents encouraged me to put all my earnings in a Roth IRA; reading "The Truth About Money" by Rick Edleman validated their idea. Since I earned so little, I didn't owe taxes on it going in, and I wouldn't pay taxes on the money coming out. Sweet!

Now, to get a 16 year old to agree to put away $1400 never to be seen again for 50+ years may be difficult for some to imagine. But, it can be done.

I strongly believe that the biggest factor influencing my money spending habits were not what my parents did and did not do regarding my allowance, but what they did regarding their own finances.

There was not a day my parents came home from the store that they did not write down their spending in a little memo book by the phone -- every gallon of milk, loaf of bed and tank of gas to the penny (ok, maybe the nickel) was recorded. My Christmas vacation memories are filled with my dad tallying the year's spending on yellow legal pads in one of a couple dozen categories. (I've tried since to introduce him to Excel or Quicken, but he would rather have a pen and a calculator.) My family did not live paycheck to paycheck and did not need to overtly budget their money, but they did spend frugally and were very aware of where the money was going. This awareness is what enabled them (esp. my mom) to come from growing up in the projects, to paying her way through college, to having a comfortable life where she did not *have* to worry about money, but still maintained a healthy respect for its value.

I, too, am frugal with money, though I am recently coming to the realization that sometimes you get what you pay for. I'm grateful that my parents' examples, my tendency to save, and my fortunate circumstances (some moderately-generous gifts from family throughout the years and no student loans) have enabled me to purchase my first home - no cosigners! - on a student salary.

Before this post gets any longer than it already is, let me encourage all parents out there to send home the message to their children that it is NEVER too early to start an IRA account (or a tax-advantaged college savings account). I would tend towards offering an allowance that would cover a child's spending money, but strongly recommending (but not requiring) that any income from Uncle Sam be put in a Roth IRA. It's hard to conceptualize the benefit when you're 18, but easy to see the profits just a few years later.

And finally, the one message I never received is to set aside a bit for charity. I wish I had been imbued with that sooner -- it's hard to learn it now.

Whew. Thanks for reading.

Posted by: Still_A_Student | March 9, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

If you read any of Michelle Singletary's 'The Color of Money' columns, you will recognize that few Americans are taught money skills while they are young. We chose to do just that.

At eighteen months we began by letting our son be a part of monetary transactions whether using cash or debit/credit cards. This showed him what the process was and that even if you gave up the thing for a moment while it is being rung up you get it back quickly. This saved us from a LOT of fussing and crying.

We started our son with an allowance at age two and a half. That was five years ago. We chose to give him his age. We have taught him to not blow his money all at once and we have also said 'No' on many occasions. Currently, he has over $400 dollars in a savings account that he opened last year. He is avidly watching his interest grow even though it is by mere pennies now. He has also bought many of his own toys over time from 'Hot Wheels' cars and track to his Nintendo DS along with many of its games.

At age five, I had taken him to 'Toys 'R Us' to let him buy som Legos. He looked at all the kits and their prices. He turned to me and asked, 'Why is everything always so expensive?' This is exactly what you want to hear.

An important point regarding allowance: It needs to be EXACTLY that and not tied to chores. On many occasions, our son has come to us asking to do work for pay and we do that if we have something that he is capable of doing. We also expect him to help us out when we ask for it. He complies willingly and we usually don't pay him for this because we don't want him learning to place a monetary value on everything.

He has made plans this summer to earn more money by opening a lemonade stand and busking (he is becoming a very good electric guitarist)

My recommendation: Start teaching money skills early.

Posted by: Fritz the Mondale | March 17, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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