Monday, August 24, 2009

The Allowance Debate

As the new school year quickly approaches Glen and I are once again faced with a recurring debate in our home... to pay allowances or not to pay allowances.

It seems like it should be a simple answer, but there are so many philosophical questions attached to it that after 14+ years of parenthood we've never really come to a strong stance of where we stand on the issue.

When I was a kid my family did a neighborhood paper route together. We took turns and each helped out with the monumental task of waking up early in the frosty mornings of Minnesota, rolling the papers and binding them until our fingers were black, and finally running up to each house and placing them inside people's screen doors (unlike the lazy paper deliverers of today who are lucky to toss it past our mailbox). Man oh man, did we ever learn to work hard and to value our hard-earned money, but the brunt of that burden definitely fell on my parents' shoulders who never got a day off for the several years we did that. As much as I like the concept, they don't do little neighborhood routes anymore and Glen's work schedule definitely would not allow that kind of early commitment.

As parents we've tried paying the kids dependent on completing their chores and then requiring them to set aside a certain percentage to savings, but it's never lasted more than a couple of months. We're just disorganized and not that great at keeping track of what they've done and haven't done, plus I don't feel like they've ever really valued the money they receive. The little ones lose it and the older ones waste it.

So last night, Spencer began begging in earnest for us to reinstitute some kind of allowance for the new school year. He argued that it was only fair now that we're expecting him to pay for his own fun activities that he have some kind of set income. I personally think it has more to do with a little sibling jealousy over the fact that Cami is raking in the dough with her babysitting jobs and as yet he has not found as many opportunities for him to earn money on a regular basis. He gave us the full deposition of why he needed an allowance and soon had a whole chorus of kids joining him in the effort.

As per our usual Glen+Lara style, we hemmed and we hawed to the kids and promised them once again that we would think about it. Which we did and still came up empty.

This morning when I checked our Google Reader I came across this article on one of the blogs I faithfully follow. It was Michelle's (a stranger to me) well-thought out position on allowances. I was floored at how well it encapsulated a lot of the feelings and the concerns that we had and I felt like it gave me a new perspective to look at the issue from.

It made me really think about what is it that we're really trying to teach our kids...about how to manage money, how to work hard, how to contribute to the family, and how to not to be selfish or materialistic. So how can we best teach these to values to our kids?

I've decided that I really like Michelle's (and my parents') philosophy on having kids EARN their income and not just by doing their everyday chores which are a part of being in a family, but by doing REAL jobs.

Although it should have come easily to me, having been taught that way myself, but I'm beginning to learn that when it comes to parenting I can be a little daft sometimes. It just makes good common sense that kids would learn to work hard and would learn to manage money better, because it's their money. The money they labored for.

So now that I've finally captured what my stance on all this really is, how can we implement it in our family?

I was thinking of making a list of jobs, each with a certain "salary" attached to it depending on the difficulty level. The kids would need to have completed their normal chores first and then could CHOOSE whether or not to complete any of the other paid tasks. There will be no coercion at all, only the promise of a "paycheck" when they're done.

So now the question is what kind of jobs to offer with kids ages 4-14 in the house? Maybe mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, cleaning out a cupboard, vacuuming out the car, washing the car, organizing a book shelf...what do you think? Any great ideas?

So how do you do allowance in your family? Do you feel like it's been successful? Any helpful advice for me in my quest for raising fiscally responsible children?


Steve-Rosanna said...

Always a tricky subject and we immensely enjoyed your thoughts and observations (and Michelle's as well).

As you were growing up, we always felt a bit guilty about not being able to buy you the nice brand name clothes. Nate says that he will never forget when we bought a pair of Reeboks for everyone at the beginning of one school year.

Unfortunately, you, Nate, and to a lesser extent Kristina were the children of our "poverty" and spent most of your growing up years in Sears and K-Mart's finest.

But, thankfully the lack of brand name clothing didn't seem to harm any of you and you all turned out far better than we could have imagined.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Love, Dad-Mom

Charlene said...

Roger and I feel exactly the same as you guys do, and while we have an idea of what we want to do, it does seem hard to implement it into our home. My oldest wanted a pet fish for Christmas, but needed money to keep feeding the fish; since we didn't have an allowance he was to wash my floor on his hands and knees every Saturday. I had the cleanest kitchen floors for two years!! I loved it!

Andie said...

Awesome article. We have exactly the same issues as you guys, with our oldest boy as everyone else's spokesman. We tried the allowance thing for about a year and it just led to frustration. We felt like we had to pay the kids what was a lot of money to us to try to teach them what we wanted them to be learning about money and we were failing miserably. They had to save half for a mission/college fund (which they admittedly did, I think only because it was a contingency of getting ANY allowance; if left to their own devices I doubt they would have) but they totally just blew the rest and still came to us for money.

It was making me totally ticked because the money they were blowing was MY grocery money that THEIR DAD worked hard for! To see it being blown on candy and other crap was too much for me.

So we've scrapped it completely, much to the chagrin on the children. We save a SMALL amount every month in an account for each of them, to be used as a small supplement to what they earn when they are older for college/missions. We will give it to them if/when we see fit to give it to them, not as a graduation gift for them to use however they please. The accounts are in our names and the kids don't know we have them, so hopefully when they are older they will work hard for these things on their own and there will be no discussion of "that's my money!" when they want to use it to buy a car at age 16 or something like that. When they come to us at 16 and want to get a part time job, I'm sure saving a percentage for missions/colleges will be a contingency of them being allowed to have a job.

We also have pay chores just like the lady in the article for the kids to earn $$ from me since they are all still a little too young to be earning money from others on much of a regular basis. But I am cheap. Cleaning out and vacuuming our van (even when it is in F-5 status.....oh wait, that's most of the time) earns them $3, and I have to inspect the job to make sure it's done to my standards. Other things on the list are vacuuming all the carpet edges in the house, doing bathroom floors on hands and knees, deep cleaning the laundry room and cleaning out the fridge. (All things I LOVE to do, BTW)! I've debated putting mowing/shoveling on the list, but right now it is on Nolan's "regular" daily/weekly chores.

When discussing children and their sense of entitlement one of my friends recently told me in relation to her children, 'My job is to give you the Gospel, food, and a little bit of love.' Love it!

Denise said...

That was an interesting article...but we lean the other way.

We do give the kids allowance and we always have...since they were very young...age 5.

They get their age every two weeks. So Josh earns $7.00 every two weeks. the twins are up to $10.00 every two weeks, and Mikayla aearns $12.00 every two weeks.

It's not a lot of money.

In addition they have to put 50% of what they earn into savings. 10% is for tithing, 10% is for a mission, and 30% is for spending.

Our reasoning is this: We all have jobs and responsibilities being in a family. The children have their jobs and we have ours.

There are things you just have to do to be part of a family.

You do your share and we do ours.

While it is true that we do not tie the work directly to any "chores" that they have around the house...there is an understanding that we all do our part and we are all provided for by Troy...who actually earns a paycheck for what he does.

But...he in turn shares what he earns with us because we are doing our part to make sure that he can do his part.

If the idea is that you should never be given anything that you did not work for directly yourself...then how can I justify recieving money from Troy when I did not "earn" it myself.

I "share" what he has because what I do makes it possible for him to do what he does.

And in turn I am learning to be a faithful steward over what he has provided.

The children work the same way.

They help us to keep things running. If they did not do their part,then the system would fall apart.

So they too "share" in the bounty and learn to be faithful stewards over what they recieve.

And frankly, with the way our system is structed...only having 30% of their total income to spend is a hard way to save for the things they really want.

But it works really well. For example, Joe really wanted Mario Kart for the Wii. But I would not purchase it for him.

It was not his birthday or Christmas and just wanting a $50.00 game is not a good eanough reason to get it.

So...he saved, and saved, and saved and finally had enough between his regular allowance and other "paid" jobs around the house to earn enough money.

And he was so incredibly proud of himself and really felt a sense of accomplishment in buying this for himself.

And the accomplishment was not diminished in the least by the fact that some of what he spent came from his allowance.

We also have paid jobs around our house. Extra work that the children can do to earn some extra money.

I don't have a set list...but if the children need extra money they come and ask for exrta jobs.

And hey get whatever job I currently need done, e.g. vaccuuming the van, mopping the floor, etc.

And sometimes...they get asked to do these things for no money because I need the help and they do it to help me.

It's part of our "shared" responsibility.

The children also each have bank accounts that they put their savings into...and each has several hundred dollars to their name on which they earn interest.

And each eagerly opens their bank statements each month to see what their money has done for them.

We have done this faithfully for eight years...sometimes we get behind because life get busy...but we keep track and always settle up.

To help us remember, Troy's payday is also the kids payday.

Plus...the kids are really good about remembering it's payday.

Hope I did a good job representing the other side of this.

K said...

I wish I could help, but I clearly don't know the right answer. I do know that 25 cents goes a long ways to get Andrew to do stuff though. Somehow I don't think Spence would be as excited by a quarter as my little guy! I hope you figure out something that works!

alexandra said...

Our family tends to lean toward Denise's side of the allowance issue. I'd go into it further, but this is one of those "I really shouldn't be spending time blog stalking" mornings anyway. And now you've given me something to blog about later on today. Thanks!

Chelsey said...

Haven't talked to you in FOREVER and so I checked your blog...ha! I am seriously writing a book on this. hee, hee. Love your thoughts, love that you are a blogger and love that you are such a great mom!!!!

Lara said...

Thanks for all your wonderful and thought provoking insights. I love that I have such smart friends! Thank you, thank you!

Deanne said...

Wow, I'm loving all the comments and insights. This is a subject we haven't had to broach quite yet in our family. Although I'm sure it's coming soon. Now you've given me somethings to think about...

Scribbit said...

Thank you for such a great follow up! I love hearing the comments and your own opinions on this.

Deon said...

So by now you have probably figured all this out. I think I agree mostly with Denise. After years of trying various things, we came up with giving the kids an allowance that corresponded with their age. We stopped paying one to Brian once he had a part-time job. 10% tithing, 20% mission/college, and half of what's left to save, and the other part could be spent right away. Not a lot, really, but it was something.

Allowance was given for the experience of having money and to learn to manage it, save it, pay tithing, etc. They could lose it if they did not contribute to keeping the family running by keeping up with clean bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. It could be earned back after making restitution for the wrong committed. Extra money could be earned by doing extra things around the house - each task had an assigned amount. Les is now 17 and it still applies.

It has been satisfying to Brian to have utilized some of that money he saved as a young child while he served as a missionary. He will now partake in more benefit from it as he uses the rest for college. This worked for our small family - good luck with figuring out what will work for yours!

google analytics