Everyone likes having a little cash in their pocket, even if it’s not much. There’s a freedom of choice attached to pocket money, a subconscious autonomy in how we spend, save, or share it. My husband and I both have an allotted bits of personal money in our monthly family budget, a small amount of cash budgeted (even in the hardest financial times) for each of us to use how we will without excuse or explanation, without the internal conflict of self versus family needs. I tend to spend my own on books, something to wear, or tasty drinks with friends, while my husband more often patiently saves. I notice the same confidence of choice in my children when they receive birthday money or their bi-weekly allowance. They have the power to choose whether to purchase something small and instant or to save for something bigger in the future.
Since my husband and I have always both agreed that every family member, even the littlest, needs to contribute to the home’s well-being, we haven’t given allowances until more recently. In my idealism, I’ve always hoped the completed work itself would be a reward. But seriously. They. Are. Children. A clean home and completed school work will never feel the same to them as purchasing something they really want when it’s not a birthday or Christmas. As they grow, their own lists of personal wants and goals seem to grow also. So we opted to give each of our children a bi-weekly allowance related to their responsibilities around the home, hoping an allowance will serve both as a small, concrete reward for their work and provide simple lessons about financial responsibility.
The children’s allowances are allotted by the amount of their responsibility. Liam, at age twelve, naturally has more work than Olive, at age six. At this point, they each currently receive what equates to $3-4/week, and we distribute it every other week, as we take out our own cash for all of our family expenses. Since one of our goals through this is to teach our children about fiscal responsibility, they immediately divide their bi-weekly cash into three categories: GIVE, SAVE, SPEND. We use re-purposed (and clean) gelato containers for their cash. Fancy, right? ;) There is one family GIVE jar, and each child has their own SAVE and SPEND jar. Each week, they are required to put something in both the GIVE and SAVE first.
GIVE | This is our one community jar. As our family becomes aware of needs around us, one might suggest, “I think we need to take $__ out of the giving jar to give to __.” We then talk about it as a family and decide an amount together. As the holidays approach, we’re already beginning conversations about how we might use our give jar during the season. This jar helps our children recognize need and see the ways our money, even the smallest bits, can encourage, inspire, and love others.
SAVE | The save jar is treated as a long-term savings. Again, we let each child determine how much they want to add, but we do require they add something to their savings from each allowance. When they reach $100 (only one has yet), we open a savings account for them to begin storing their money at the bank. We treat the jar like a real savings account: deposits only. This is an area we use to talk about long-term goals with them: purchasing a car, saving for college, or traveling the world when they are older.
SPEND |Whatever is left over goes into their pocket or spend jar. Here they also save but for purchases in the nearer future. For instance, last year, the boys chipped in together and bought a video game console. This is where they often buy birthday or Christmas gifts for one another, or tiny treaties that I might not. Olive loves to carry her purse everywhere and will often keep a dollar or two in her wallet to buy gum! Either way, it’s theirs.
Our children earn money in other ways, too. The last two summers the boys have mowed lawns in our neighborhood and the girls have helped bag leaves. If there’s a larger home project, such as cleaning the garage or washing/vacuuming the car, they may also earn an extra bit of money, too. It’s not an exact science, but a simple way we hope to teach them about the world. On the rare occasion (as it happened last month), if their attitudes are poor or they are consistently complaining or not finishing their work, we withhold allowance. Although it pains us, we want them to remember, this way of earning money is a privilege, not an entitlement.
What about you? Do you have an allowance set up for your children or a way they can earn pocket money?
I love the Idea of the “Give” jar. We have an 8 month old, so are a ways out from this, but it has been a topic of discussion here in our home. We want our daughter (and any future children we might have) to understand that we are here for others: that life is meant to spent in the service and care of people other than ourselves individually or even as a family.
We have been talking about how we want to show that through finances/work it into our budget. Having that be part of allowances is perfect! It gives the room for extra generosity if something is on your child’s heart. I also love that it is collective, so that the money can go further faster and can be more of a family project.
I am excited to show my husband this post later. I think some hybrid of that idea might be just what we are looking for.
Thank you for sharing, Brigitte. Yes, I love that this gives space for them to have a little money of their own, to sense the autonomy and choice that comes with money. I am so moved by their generosity, even when I’m not asking it of them. And then again, it helps them save for practical things they want for themselves, too. I’m glad you were inspired.
First of all, thank you for all of your kind works over on Instagram while I was sick/recovering and at the same time trying to figure out a way to take your class. Your words of simple encouragement meant a lot.
As to your post, my girls are 9 & 7. I have thought about this on and off. Their dad and I are separated, and we do not always have the same philosophies about parenting. I personally in my time with them, would like to have them be responsible for certain things at home, and in turn, do an allowance for them. Interestingly, my own parents thought allowance should be completely separate from responsibilities. We got allowance no matter what, and if we didn’t complete our tasks at home, we were grounded. This doesn’t make much sense to me now as an adult out in the real world. I think it is really important for children to learn what a good work ethic is and that nothing is life is truly free.
My question to you is, what do you do if your children have not completed their responsibilities or if they have needed a whole lot of extra “encouragement” to get them done? Does their allowance reflect that? Where does grace come into play with all of this? I think that is where I struggle. Also what do you think would be appropriate allowance for a 9 & 7 year old. Both of them are very materialistic, which I am also trying to teach them to live more simply…so I want to guide them in good choices with their money and savings. Do I just let it go at some point and let them do whatever they want with their pocket money?
Thank you for this post!
Hi Heather, I’m sorry this has taken me so long to respond to, but yes, I offer tons of grace in this process. I do give my children reminders and have to check in on the quality of their work, but if I am constantly reminding and the work is not done, they lose their allowance. This has happened twice this autumn, which isn’t fun, but both times the kids have agreed that they weren’t being helpful or responsible. It’s a growing process for all of us, but I do offer lots of encouragement and reminders long the way. ;)