Written by Doctor G

Allowance $$$$$$

Q: What is the right age to start allowance? How much should we give?

Mike, in Pittsburgh, PA


A: Ahhh, money. Kids get into the material culture pretty quickly, asking for stuff at stores as soon as they can point and yell. That’s normal. Parents get tired of saying no pretty quickly – also normal – and start to look for a different path. Soon parents get the idea that if their kids had a little bit of their own money, they could see how fast it disappears and how often that impulse buy is only interesting for a few minutes. Good idea!

Money is a great tool of parenting. Bribery? Blackmail? Pay-for-performance? Sadly, no. But money teaches consequences, delayed gratification and decision-making. All good things.

In our house we start allowance at the end of first grade. Why? The math curriculum at our school teaches money in first grade. You know, 5 nickels = a quarter, that kind of thing. It makes sense to wait until your child understands a little more about the actual units involved before starting to hand them over. This avoids the child who trades “a paper thingie” to a neighbor kid because “The shiny thingies are prettier, Dad!”

Side note: we start formal chores at age 7, but they are NOT connected to allowance. Chores are what you do to be a helpful citizen in the family. Allowance is what your parents give you as helpful teachers of children. So if you’re sick and can’t do your chores this week you still get allowance. And if you are on restriction and not getting allowance this week, you still have to do your chores. Heavy martyr sigh.

How much? First figure out what it is ok with you for your children to buy, and how often. A pack of trading cards? An i-tunes download? A stuffed animal or book? Check how much it costs and decide what makes sense. I highly recommend this piggy bank http://www.moneysavvykids.com.au/. My dad got it for our boys and every time they get any money they split it 10% to donate, and 1/3 each to spend, save and invest.

Look for a future post about actually letting your kids buy stuff without any interference (as long as it isn’t immoral, unethical or fattening).

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