Two of our recent columnists (here and here) wrote recently about money and teaching your children how to handle it. They both inspired me to write about something we’re trying out in our household: An allowance. So far, it’s more of an experiment rather than a finished product, but it seems to be catching on.
When I was growing up, I didn’t really have an allowance. There was the occasional flirtation with an allowance as my Mom would put together a “job jar” filled with slips of paper. On each slip of paper was written a job (water the plants, pick up the toys in the TV room, etc.) and a monetary value. The deal was, my brother, sister, and I would pick out a slip of paper, do that job, then earn the money associated with it. My mother would keep a running tally, and by the end of the week, we’d get our earned allowance. We didn’t get a standard amount of money. It was usually tied to doing chores that we probably should have been doing anyway. The whole idea never really caught on. I didn’t have much of my own personal spending money until I was old enough to babysit.
As a fellow blogger here has admitted about herself, I can also be a pushover when it comes to my kids asking for things. When the kids have been good at the doctor’s office or when we’ve gone to the zoo or a family vacation trip, I usually allow them a small toy (or two, or three). We have another vacation trip coming up in a few months. Because I don’t want to deny them souvenirs, and because I don’t want to break the bank buying things, I have been trying to think of ways to solve both dilemmas.
Up until now, the hubby and I haven’t set up an allowance system for our kids. We thought that the upcoming trip was the perfect motivation.
Rather than a job jar, or a set weekly allowance, my son came up with the idea of a list of things he should do each day (homework, getting himself dressed and undressed and making sure his clothes make it to the laundry, etc) and a monetary value associated with each thing. He calculated out a per day total, then added up a per week total. He came home from his first day of second grade with his whole plan all laid out. It was perfect, except for one thing. It was far too much.
He’d put together his list with an end goal in mind of how much money he wanted to earn by the time of the trip. It was almost double what my husband felt was appropriate. I reached a middle ground by reducing his per-chore value and then adding in a couple additional ones. We ended up somewhere between what my husband was thinking was fair and what my son wanted.
So far, it’s going well. Not all of the chores are being done. My son is learning consequences and choices. If he chooses not to do one of the items, then he doesn’t earn that money. If he’s ok with that, then it is his choice. (Homework, however, isn’t one of those negotiable items.)
Writing this out, it sounds complicated, but this was a scheme thought up by the first born child of two engineers. I have a feeling that our type A personalities have played a bit of a role here. When my Mom stopped over to watch the kids for me the other day, her only comment was that she wanted to be one of my kids with an allowance like that.
In the end, I don’t think my son will do every item on the list every week, and he probably won’t earn all of the money he first thought he would, but I think that he will learn some pretty good lessons about personal responsibility and consequences. Plus, I am using it to help curb my habit of buying toys at unnecessary times. Rather than my purchasing things, he can earn his allowance to buy something.
Hopefully this idea will prove to be long lasting. I have found that so far it has been a good motivator in part because it was largely my son’s idea. Rather than talk him into a set weekly allowance, going along with his idea has given him a lot of ownership and enthusiasm.
I will report back as we are closer to our vacation with an update on how this experiment played out.
by Rocket Science Mom
Photo graciously provided by alancleaver_2000, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved