Should chores be tied to allowance?
Since money is my game, so to speak, you’d think I’d have the rules of allowance down cold. But you’d be wrong. Allowance is a topic that creates a bit of a chill at the family dinner table. And I know we’re not unique. In fact, this is one of those topics that no one is truly an expert on, really. It’s very personal and surprisingly complex since it raises the issue of not just how much but how you believe money ought to be spent. And in the end, no one knows that better than you.
One of the biggest questions most people ask: Should I pay my kids for doing chores? I firmly believe the answer to that one is no. Of course money is a known motivator (and truth be told, I’ve been known to hand over a buck or two for a fast-table-setting job when guests are ringing the doorbell, the kitchen’s in disarray and I’m racing to blow-dry my hair…) But really, family chores are more about the responsibility of being part of a community, not about hitting up Mom or Dad every time the dishwasher needs emptying. And it’s not just my inner “Kum Ba Yah” speaking. It’s practical. An authorized dollars-for-domestic duties arrangement can lead to cash chaos. Where do you draw the line? A quarter to make a bed? 50 cents to iron a a blouse? And Oh Lord knows how much for taking out the trash.
The other quandary: can allowance be taken away for bad behavior? I think it can, but I tend not to. Listening to your iPod when you’re supposed to be doing your homework? You lose iPod privileges for the week. (Eye-pod for an eye-pod rules the day in our home.) Texting instead of bathing? No cell phone tomorrow. (But definitely a required shower!) In that way, discipline is like a new outfit: punishments should be nicely matched to fit the crime. While a civil suit may be the way grown ups punish each other, in my humble opinion, withholding money for bad behavior isn’t direct enough for kids.
Some people say the allowance amount should equal their children’s age; others say double that. Some think a lot less. What’s important to decide is exactly what the allowance is for: are the kids using it to pay for entertainment, like going to a movie with friends? Or for their own clothes? Or for a friend’s birthday gift? Or are you paying for those things and the allowance is strictly for extras or saving for something special? Once you define this for yourself and your children, then the amount becomes clearer. It’s an interesting exercise-it forces us, the parents, to have to make the rules and stick to them.
In the end, we’ve settled on $5 a week. Enough to spend on extras or put toward savings. And the fact is, two of my three kids (names not mentioned to protect their lack of innocence) are hoarders who don’t like to ever spend their own funds (but that’s another story…) Not sure if it’s right or wrong, but it’s our family choice, at least for now.
What about you? What is your child required to spend the money on? Do you give them a lot, say $20 a week, and make that count for a friend’s birthday gift? Where do clothes fall into the allowance equation?
- Nov 2, 2009 11:23 AM — Beth Kobliner
- 1 comments
About Beth Kobliner
Beth Kobliner is a personal finance expert, magazine columnist, and commentator who offers practical advice and insight on a wide range of economic and financial matters. She is author of the New York Times bestseller, "Get A Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties." A graduate of Brown University, she lives in New York with her husband and three children.