10 Allowance Do’s and Don’ts

An allowance is an important part of building up a child’s financial literacy. It teaches them how to save and builds responsibility. Great Schools offers a list of ten do’s and don’ts to consider before starting your child’s allowance.

  1. Have a plan: Before you start, figure out why you are giving them an allowance, how much to give, and how often. Determine if the allowance is a family member benefit or in exchange for chores or academic performance. Also think about what expenses your child will be expected to cover with their allowance.
  2. Money talks: Once you’ve figured out your plan, have a discussion with your child about their allowance and how everything will work. Answer all their questions, and consider putting the rules down in writing.
  3. Use it as a tool to teach common cents: Remember that an allowance is a chance for kids to learn how to handle money responsibly and to make financial mistakes while the stakes are low. You can ask if they’re sure about a purchase, but let them know that the final decision is theirs.
  4. The three S’s: Spending, saving sharing: When starting an allowance, it is a great opportunity to get kids to buy into the concept of spending only part of their money while saving some for larger purchases later and sharing some as well by donating to a local charity, church, or other worthwhile cause.
  5. Do chores count? The experts continue to be split on whether to tie an allowance to household chores or not, but keep in mind that when problems inevitably occur when chores don’t get done. Some kids will use the chores for cash concept against you, either not doing their chores on weeks when they don’t need the money or asking “how much?” every time you ask them to do something around the house that is not part of their regular responsibilities.
  6. Don’t deny their dues: Don’t withhold allowance for bad behavior or poor grades. An allowance should lead to better communication and trust between a parent and child, and using it as a disciplinary tool breaks that trust.
  7. Show them the money: You wouldn’t be happy if your employer was a little late with your paycheck or only gave you part on time, so don’t do the same with your child’s allowance. Determine a specific day and time to pay their allowance, and make it a priority to have the exact amount ready.
  8. How young is too young: There’s no set age to begin an allowance. Some research indicates that children as young as three or four can benefit from a very basic small allowance and that five-year-olds are often ready to save money. A good rule of thumb is that if your child has expressed an interest in what money is, how it works, and what can be done with it, they are ready for an allowance.
  9. Say no to credit: With so many purchases made online these days, it might be tempting to get an older child a debit or credit card. Experts are almost unanimous that it is far better for your child to come to you for online purchases no matter how small. Be sure to have them reimburse you right away in cash so you aren’t playing the role of the credit card.
  10. Next stop: Checkbooks! By middle or high school, your child may be ready for a checking account with you as the custodian. Doing so provides an opportunity to teach ideas like interest, budgeting, and balancing a checkbook.

Find out more about each of these tips in the Great Schools article.

Photo © 2010 by Carissa Rogers under Creative Commons license.