Allowance Every Saturday.
Growing up, my father gave me and my younger siblings allowance every Saturday morning. We received different amounts based on our age, and it increased over the years until our college years when money was still given to us but was not called “allowance.” It became “spending money.”
I still remember when I made the huge leap to ten bucks per week some time during my high school years, but I cannot recall exactly when and, besides, that was a lot more money in the late 80’s than it is now. Also, I used my own money to pay City bus fare sometimes and to use the pay phones at my high school to call my parents for a ride home after track and cross-country practice when someone else could not give me a ride or when I was too tired and cold to ride the City bus.
As a middle aged Middle Class Guy, I continue the tradition by paying each of my two children an allowance every Saturday, too. I do not technically pay my son an allowance, but do hand him multiples of twenty dollar bills most Sunday evenings as I drop him off at college.
I say multiples because I did not give him any on several Sundays, a big fat zero, I gave him a lone twenty spot several times including last Sunday, I am going to hand him five twenties this coming Sunday night, and sometimes I give him more depending on what he has coming the following school week.
He eats nearly every meal at the food service on his campus and he does not drink alcohol or smoke weed (most of the others in his dorm do both) like I did many college freshman nights, so he does not spend much money besides on the basics. You can’t when you only have forty or fifty in cash and no checks or debit or credit card. As a matter of fact, last week I ordered him to leave the campus during the week to get a bite to eat in the nice downtown for the City where he goes to school.
Our daughter is thirteen and I technically pay her a $6.50 weekly allowance, or fifty cents per year of her age. Most weeks, I give her a ten and ask her to give me three back. I also skip a lot of weeks due to my forgetfulness or my, her or our family’s busyness, so I pay her fourteen or sometimes fifteen every other week.
My reasoning for the allowance amount is that I read an article about it long, long ago, perhaps fifteen years ago in Money magazine. Like all books, articles and blog posts about paying your children allowance, the article specified that there was no one right amount and that different families in different circumstances viewed and used an allowance in different ways.
The article suggested that you pay your children fifty cents per year of their age until age ten, when you could or should raise it to one dollar per year. $10 when they are ten years old, $11 when they reach eleven and so on and so forth. I took the advice and started giving my four year old son two dollars per week, which he saved to purchase wooden Brio and Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
In the ensuing years, he saved his allowance for the purchase of dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes and then it was for the purchase of rocks and minerals and then many many (I have to stress many) Lego sets.
Cumulatively, between splitting the cost with our son between our money and his, saved by allowance and family gifts and small-paying “extra” jobs that we gave him, like gathering sticks in the back yard, we spent thousands and I do mean thousands of dollars on wooden trains and Legos.
Meanwhile, our now 13-year-old daughter discovered that she loved purchasing stickers and plastic ponies at Michaels. At the age of three or so, when our son was about eight, I started giving her an allowance, too.
On a typical Saturday morning five years ago, when our son was thirteen and our daughter was eight, I would pay him $6.50 (sometimes $7 if I could not find two quarters or if he did not have two quarters in change) and our daughter four singles.
This would often take me holding on to singles throughout the week as I got change for coffee in the morning or sandwiches for lunch. If I had to seek reimbursement from our petty cash fund at work, I would always request singles, telling the accounting manager that the singles were great, since I could use them to pay my kids’ allowance.
By saying this over the years, it came to be known that I paid (and still do with our daughter) my children an allowance so, ironically, I had two different people in my organization’s Finance Department ask me for advice on how much to pay their own children for allowance.
I told them how much I paid them and why, and even that the article suggested upping the amount to one dollar per year of age at ten, which I never did. Thus, what I paid my own two children resulted in what four more children, two each for two colleagues’ children, received each Saturday.
What Others Say
I have broached the subject of allowance a very limited amount of times with family friends and a few neighbors. Thus, what I report on their comments does not nearly constitute a scientific report.
Neighbors of ours who we are just somewhat friendly with, the mother of Polish descent and the father one of the working class white men who our recently-elected President would appeal to, discussed allowance with us once. They have three children and the discussion arose when their three children were out doing yard work one day and we were chatting. I mentioned that our son was going to do some work for us, too, to have him qualify for a full allowance that week.
The mother proceeded to tell me a popular notion among many people, which was that they did not pay their children allowance, that they were expected to help around the house without thoughts of compensation, and that they would give them the money that they needed anyway. While I do respect all three notions, I like to use allowance to instill the notion of saving up for something rather than instant gratification.
I hope that this rubs off on them. Despite our very middle class income and existence, we still prefer to purchase items in cash if we can rather than on credit, so we want to pass along that value to our children.
Many a time one of them wanted a new $50 video game. I would ask, “How much do you have saved?”
“I think thirty dollars,” my son might have said about eight years ago.
“Well, if you need twenty more dollars, I will pay the tax, but you have to save up for four more weeks.”
After some hemming and hawing, we would return home without the latest video game, but return four weeks later with fifty dollars cash in hand at Target or GameStop or Toys R Us or wherever we were purchasing said game. Same for a new Lego set or whatever.
Other friends of ours were still paying their teen-age son something like a dollar or two per week up to a few years ago. This kid attends the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana now. But a few years ago, saving up for something that was twenty dollars would mean that he would have to do specific paying jobs for his parents. I kind of like this notion, although I do not employ it.
How Much, How Often, and How Come
I picked up a cheap paperback about ten years ago, and am ready to move it along after this post. It is called Kids’ Allowances: How Much, How Often, and How Come by David McCurrach. He is the editor of Kids’ Money and you can find an article about allowance on the site.
I will not regurgitate the book for you or share the ten most interesting points, but I will share that the primary determinants of the allowance amounts per a survey of parents showed that four major ways comprised 80%, while the remaining 20% were divided among seven other tacks.
Age – 28%. The most common way is to base allowance amounts on their children’s ages. It could be one dollar per age per week, the grade they are in or similar factors.
Behavior – 26%. This can factor in grades, chores and behavior. We have used this as a negative, taking away allowance for sassing off or other minor and a few major offenses. I could count on my hands how many times we have taken allowance away. My son did something once where he lost it for a few months, but he was reinstated and has been a model citizen since.
Arbitrary – 14%. Some parents do not base it on anything, just the amount that they feel is appropriate. I am soon to shift to this, planning on raising our daughter’s allowance to $10 this June when she turns fourteen. This is partly because I have read more sources suggest one dollar per year of age than the fifty cents that I have used for years, but I am not ready to start giving her fourteen dollars every week (yet).
Needs – 11%. I do have one colleague who could be argued to be upper class, who gave each of her kids upwards of a hundred bucks each per week growing up. They are both in college now. However, she mentioned that they would purchase their own clothes and provide for their own lunches, whether they would buy them or make them.
There is something to be said for this method. Both my colleague and her husband worked their own ways through both undergraduate and graduate school, and their children are doing much the same now. Things that make you go “Hmm.”
Other – 20%. Other factors were listed as Resources, Negotiation, Other Parents, Wrong, Miscellaneous and Reasonableness.
Easy: once per week. Yes, I did receive advances on rare occasions, and I have also granted one-week advances when we were in stores and an item that one of our children wanted to buy was just a few bucks beyond what they had.
In general, I try to remember to pay out allowance every week, just like my father did. The funny thing is, my children have never really asked for it if I forget. Sometimes, we would both forget for several weeks. I try to pay it out every week, so I do not have to go back and calculate how many allowances I “owe.” I truly believe it important for everyone to have their own money, so my children are the last people that I want to shortchange.
I am not going to reinvent the wheel here. There are lots of reasons and many articles on the topic, but here are five good reasons from an article The Big Five, per an article on Moneyning.com:
Teach the Concept of Budgeting
An allowance is one of the best tools we have for teaching our kids the concept of budgeting. It’s not the only tool, of course. You can go into a store and give them a budget for that store, and it will work too. I often do that. But a regular, monthly allowance works nicely because it consistently reinforces the idea that they have a budget, and they need to find a way to fit their monthly purchases into that budget, because if they spend it all on the first day of the month, they would need to wait an entire month until they have money again.
Avoid Unnecessary Purchases
This is one of my favorite reasons for giving an allowance. Now that they get an allowance, we still buy their necessities (food of course, basic clothing and shoes, school supplies and books) but they need to pay for the extras. What are extras? Extras include Nintendo games, a Webkinz membership, fashion accessories, candy, and any other purchase which is not a necessity.
The beauty of the allowance system is, that when it comes out of their own pockets, the children are much more selective about their purchases. When it’s our money, they want to buy everything in sight, but when it comes out of their own allowance, they think twice before buying an item.
Teach Them To Save Towards a Bigger Goal
Teach Them Responsibility
Now that the children have their own money, they learn responsible behavior and taking responsibility for one’s actions. For example, one of my kids used to always forget her jacket at school. When she was younger, there wasn’t much I could do except buying her new jackets. Last year, I told her that she may lose a jacket ONCE and we will buy her a new jacket, after all we all make mistakes, but if she loses it more than once, she would have to participate in the purchase of a new jacket.
She hasn’t lost a jacket since.
Give them Independence
Kids have so little independence these days. An allowance is a wonderful way to give them complete control over something and enable them to make their own decisions. I try very hard not to interfere with my kids’ decisions on what to do with their allowance. As long as they’re not buying something dangerous or inappropriate for a child, they can do whatever they want with their allowance. They love this independence and they absolutely do not abuse it – on the contrary, they are very responsible with their money and they spend it carefully and wisely.
There are other reasons, of course, but I like those five. It teaches them to save, it teaches something about budgeting and helps them learn the value of a dollar, which changes a lot over the years. When my son described a $200 Lego set (which would now be worth thousands if still in the box!) as not too expensive about seven years ago at the age of eleven, it was surprising to me.
I only made one purchase of that magnitude in my entire childhood, and that was a Red Line BMX bike that I saved for several years for by shoveling three or four neighbors’ sidewalks every time that it snowed. It just doesn’t go as far as it used to in the seventies and eighties. Just like the seven bucks that I will pay my daughter today will seem like a mere pittance twenty-five years from now.
Oh well. Enough writing for today – time to pay my daughter her allowance. I do not know who will be happier about her raise to ten bucks a week this June, her or me.
Maybe I will keep it at seven, after all, but will make sure to set aside an extra fiver for her to do little paying jobs for us around the house and yard. We shall see, but I do believe that it is important to continue paying allowance, just like my Dear Old Dad paid me many moons ago.