Can We Talk About Allowances?

This post was underwritten by BMO Harris Bank, which offers a matching $25 on a new savings account opened for your child through their Helpful Steps for Parents program. Learn more at

I breathe in Sunday mornings.

Windows open, children pajamaed, and husband cooking.

Jason and I sip coffee amidst the chaos that is three kids playing. Our eyes meet, “Is it time? Do we do it now? Should we pay our kids?”

Sunday is allowance payout day and has been for a year now.

It started with the Halloween Costume Debacle of 2009.

That year Kayi fell in love with a “Snow Princess” costume. It was intricate, sweet and expensive.

She and Jason had a “serious talk” about the pretty, spendy costume and decided that she could have it- if she wore it for two years. He was proud, she was thrilled, and all was well in our world.

But last Fall, Kayli saw things differently. Snow Princess was so 2009 and she wanted something so first grade. 

I will admit to wavering, but Jason stayed strong.

He knew that we’d be setting a terrible precedent and example about how we treat money if we gave in.

He also knew that this was a perfect chance to teach Kayli about choices and priorities and being responsible with money.

Enter: allowances.

Friends taught us about “Share Save Spend” and we loved the model.

We started allowances Share Save Spend style with just enough time for Kayli to use her Save and Spend money to buy the coveted witch costume with her own money.

On the table was, of course, the previous year’s costume if she decided that she’d rather use her money in a different way.

But she did end up buying the witch costume, and was so very proud of herself. And I’ll admit that we were so very proud of her, too.

Although imperfect, for now that’s how allowances work at our house.

And as for Sunday mornings? They’re golden. We eat waffles, talk football, clean, and dole out money. And coffee.


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  1. I like your approach to allowances!

  2. What a great model for contributing to the family and “sharing” money. I like this idea, I’ve never been big on paying kids to do chores, I would rather them learn that helping is part of being in the family.

  3. We didn’t get allowances growing up. There were certain “jobs” we could do around the house (in addition to our chores) that we could do to earn a little money. We got “a penny a pecan” during the fall, for instance. I also got a whopping 75¢ if I raked the back yard. As I got older, my “job” was to get all As, so as long as I kept my grades up, mom would help me try to pay for special activities.

    I think the way you are handling allowances is good, too. I’m a big fan of the spend/save/share models. It’s how Chris & I budget and I hope to share that with Klaw. Allowances can be an excellent tool for teaching financial responsibility.

    • Dana, I love what you wrote about jobs beyond chores to earn spending money. That’s such a smart idea!

      Also? I love the penny a pecan! :)

  4. I am torn on attaching chores to money. We grew up negotiating a contract w/my parents every year. Just like in real life if you did not do your chore/chores you did not get paid. If you did all your chores and worked hard you had the opportunity to work overtime. My parents called it “hours work” and we did whatever my parents asked for a specific amount. All of my employers, friends etc talk about my strong work ethic and that of my siblings. We work and we work hard…and we expect to have to do that to earn a living. Except for maternity leaves (usually 3 months) and my current employment I have NEVER NOT at a REAL paying job since I was 15 yrs old. Started babysitting a few months before I turned 12. I think all of this is directly related to the way my parents handled chores & allowances.

    • Robbie, I adore the teaching of a strong work ethic. The “work hard always” mantra was hit hard at my house as well.

      So much to think about and consider, thanks so much for weighing in here!

  5. I love your approach to allowances. I don’t like when they are tied to household chores because those are things that need to be done to live as a family!

  6. I was the same way. Allowances weren’t tied to chores at all. Like you, I feel like contributing to running the household is just part of being the family.

    I’m glad she learned a good lesson with the witch costume.

  7. Love it. We do not pay our kids to do things around the house either – it is just part of what they need to do because we are a family and it is our home. But when out with them, they can pick out special treats, or pick up a book or download music …
    From conversations with friends who have children who are older, they then try to negotiate the chores they will do for money, and if they don’t feel the payout is worth the output – they just don’t do it.
    And THAT sure is not going to fly! 😉

  8. We have been talking about this lately, especially with our 5 year old. We had allowances growing up but not until older. It’s tough to balance what constitutes working together as a family compared to what an allowance would be for- always a struggle figuring it all out!

    • Ashley, I love what you wrote because it leaves wiggle room to pay for some chores and not for others. And you’re right- this *is* a lot to think about!

  9. I love this plan. JDaniel already does chores without pay. We plan to continue do it this way.

  10. Sounds a lot like our Sundays. We tie the “allowance” to the chores but only the “extra” chores. I’m still trying to get my kids to take the job of my intern. Still trying :)

  11. Can I come over on Sunday mornings?

  12. We are pretty much on the same page. We always expected chores to be done (age appropriate) simply as part of being on our family team. The only one we pay for is my son mowing the lawn, and we only give him $5 total! I love watching them really decide if a purchase is “worth it” to them and find it amazing how different they each are with their money. My daughter has just started to babysit, so she will at times have some more mad money.

    Oh, and this probably won’t hit you for a few more years…but when my daughter started to care more about her clothes having the right “label” ($$) I started expecting her to pay the difference. If I can get her a perfectly nice pair of jeans for $20 and she wants the $50 pair, she’s expected to pay the difference. It has worked out great, because for some things she cares (jeans, tops) and for some she doesn’t (shoes, jackets).

    • Sherri, I love how you run your household and am assuming that you’re going to keep helping me run mine? That’s fabulous advice about more expensive clothes and I like paying for the “above and beyond” chore! xo

  13. This sounds like a really great approach! How do you decide how much they get?

    • Hi girl, thank you! We went with $3 each for right now. The girls were four and six when we started and it seemed like plenty- plus easily divided into the three categories! :)

  14. I think this is wonderful way to deal with allowance. Love this.

  15. I’ve heard of this model and I totally dig it. That’s what I’m planning to do. And I agree with not having allowance attached to chores – everyone in the family should chip in to the work that needs to be done. Great skills to learn, and excellent example to set (especially for boys).

    So, question: how early did you start with allowance? (I could do the math on your kids’ ages but… actually I couldn’t.)

    • Hee! Hi girl, thanks for the words! The girls were 4 and 6 when we started- a little late for our oldest to be honest with you, but she was our first- and what the heck did we know? :) xo

  16. This is so interesting to me – we haven’t started allowances here yet but at 4 years old, I think Luca could benefit from us starting soon.

    The idea of not attaching chores to the allowance has intrigued me. Definitely got my little mind ticking over as to how I will do things when the time comes….

    • Hi you, I love how much thought you’re putting into this and I can’t wait to hear how you go about it! Fill me in when you decide! xo

  17. Love your approach. What a great idea, not attaching allowance to chores!
    LOVE it

  18. We don’t attach allowance to chores either. I thought keeping up with the whole system would be tiring, but it’s really not. I like to see how they’re learning about money management.

  19. I think this is a great approach and teaches them responsibility from an early age. I think you’re doing the right thing and I agree with allowance not being tied in with chores.