Allowance: To Give or Not To Give

How do you teach kids the value of a dollar without having dramatic public meltdowns in the toy or candy aisles?

I remember one back-to-school shopping trip at The Gap right before seventh grade. I was so excited about the load of cute clothes my mom and I brought from the fitting room to the register. And so shocked and devastated when Mom turned to me in line and suggested we split the cost.

I had no allowance to draw on. My babysitting money would hardly make a dent.  Hopelessly dependent on my mother’s generosity, I made some agonizing choices and left with half of the clothes.

This was one of many ways my mom tried to teach me that it was far better to have a few fine things I really loved that a slew of one-season wares. I was raised to clean up my toys and room, help with dinner and with my little sister, but I didn’t get paid for these jobs, or receive an allowance.  I did what mom said and I got what mom got me. Until I started working, she had money and I had none. Not a bad lesson at all.

My husband did receive an allowance as a kid.  Given my background, I was unsettled about giving our kids allowance, until I explored the Love & Logic parenting philosophy, which encourages giving a weekly allowance at an early age.  The allowance is not tied to doing chores; chores are expected ways for kids to contribute to the family.  The allowance is your child´s to spend or save, regardless of whether their chores are finished (there are other consequences for not helping with chores).  The theory is that giving kids an allowance allows them to make their own decision regarding saving, spending and giving.  It provides them experience handling and managing money (and making mistakes with money), at relatively little cost to the parent.

We started giving Ryan, age 5, $3 a week this year, and we record it in the back of one of his notebooks.  I would have gone with a buck a week, but our L&L instructor urged us to set a meaningful amount that would enable him to actually be able to afford something he wanted, like a new lego set or power ranger, in a month´s time.

You can see Ryan has been a pretty good saver.  Just a few expenditures: $4.00 contribution for a t-shirt purchased at the play Shrek! and a Star Wars book I did not want to buy at his school book fair.  This is the best part of allowance for us so far: we can say no to Ryan if we don’t approve of the purchase, yet still provide him the opportunity to buy items with his own money.  I try to remind Ryan to bring his own money when we got to a show or a fair where I know he’ll see souvenirs he will like. I don’t always remember to let him make the purchases. Which is why he has $72.00 saved, including a whopping $20 graduation gift from his Nana Selma.

We have a few simple rules:

  • If Ryan forgets to request or log his allowance for more than four weeks, we don’t have to pay him for the “arrearage.”
  • If Ryan doesn’t call or say thank you for a gift received, he cannot keep it. ***Gift from Nana Selma is close to the penalty stage.****

I cleaned up our “ledger” a bit and created a kid’s bank book for you to download.

I might move my checkbook ledger to this form! I might actually reconcile it.

Kids Bank Book (Printable PDF – Click to Download)



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  1. Kim says:

    This is brilliant. I remember Mom telling me it was time to split the bill at Limited Too and having to eliminate half the clothes. That lesson stuck with me and as soon as I turned 16 I got a job so I didn’t have to ask for money (as much) anymore.
    I also saw a suggestion from Suze Orman that I thought was smart. Start including your older kids in your monthly “bill paying.” Let them see how many expenses you have and the responsibility for those bills. Here’s some more tip from her:

  2. Stacy says:

    I love this worksheet! Will definitely use it.
    To teach kids to save money and also put aside money to donate – i like this website’s suggestion to put a certain amount aside each week to “save”, “donate”, etc
    This is helpful for my kids who will just spend everything they receive each week.

  3. MikeC says:

    This Works! I had a daughter 15 and son 11. They have two decorated coffee can each that both have ledgers in them. One is for spending and one is for saving. They have received a $6 per week allowance since they were old enough to hold a toilet brush. One coffee can is for savings account and the other is for spending account. When they receive allowance or any money they put half in spending and half in savings. Each has a ledger that we balance to the cash every once in a while. Their spending money is similar to your system. As they got older they would contribute to things they wanted. Typically half again. The “Savings Account” coffee can had a rule where they could not spend any money out of it unless they have written on a note, dated and put it in the can as to what they wanted to buy. They had to wait 30 days from the date of the purchase wish before they could pull any savings money out and buy the item on their wish list. SOoooo many times they would decide they didn’t want the item. Over time they have ended up just saving and only buying something it they wanted it for much longer than 30 days. They have grown to like having a sizable amount in savings just in case they want to buy something bigger like a car or ATV or something like that. 🙂

  4. Lesley Dewar says:

    This is an excellent article; love the ledger and we have posted a link to it on our Facebook page at
    We have asked the opinions of other parents too.
    It will be interesting to see what they have to say.

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