ThreeJars Daily: Should You Tie Allowance To Chores?

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Should You Tie Allowance To Chores?

It’s one of the biggest questions around allowance, and one that many parents struggle with. What are the pros and cons? Read on for two experts’ takes, as well as ThreeJars founder Anton Simunovic’s point of view.

By Eileen Gunn

Yes, you should tie your child’s allowance to chores.
Expert: Steven Siebold, author of How Rich People Think
Why you should do it: “You’re tying money to value and teaching children to think, How can I create value in exchange for money,” says Siebold. “It teaches kids to look for problems to be solved and to be entrepreneurial. They associate money with solving problems and not with entitlement.”
How to do it right: Sit down with your kids and set a price on all chores that go beyond the basics like making their bed and cleaning their room. “Keep the amounts small,” Siebold advises, and do your research. For example, if a chore is mowing the lawn, find out what the going rate is in your neighborhood and don’t exceed it.
You should have a combination of tasks that have to be done daily or weekly (taking out garbage or general yard work) to provide the basis for a weekly allowance, and extra chores that happen periodically, like cleaning the car or shoveling snow, that kids get paid extra for. “If they want money for a toy, you want them to look around the house and think, How can I help. What can I do to solve a problem and earn money for the toy,” Siebold says.
What to avoid: Being inconsistent about enforcing that chores are done. If your child’s base allowance is $10, but two chores aren’t done, the allowance should be less, Siebold says. “If there is something going on that the kids really want the money for, tell them it’s an advance.”

No, don’t tie your child’s allowance to chores.
Expert: Dr. Susan S. Bartell, a parenting psychologist in New York and author of The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask
Why you shouldn’t do it: “Doing chores is a commitment to being in the family. You don’t have to be paid to be part of the family and support the smooth running of the household,” says Dr. Bartell. “Contrary to what most people think, if you learn to do these things only because you expect money for it, it devalues them. Also, you’re only going to be able to teach kids to save and budget and make buying decisions if they get that allowance every week. If you tie it to chores, that just doesn’t happen.”
How to do it right: Give allowance every week at a regular time and establish expectations of what the allowance is for—discuss what your kids will pay for with their allowance and what you will still pay for or split with them. “And be sure to follow through,” says Dr. Bartell. For example, Bartell buys most clothes for her low-maintenance 16-year-old son, but with her daughters “who want new clothes every week,” she pays for the basics and leaves the fashion updates up to them. It’s okay to put limits on how what your kids buy, too. Bartell wouldn’t let her kids spend their allowances on any food when they were younger and still won’t let her tweens buy junk food. “My 14-year old knows that if she goes to the mall she can buy a seltzer,” she says.
What to avoid: Caving in. Once you set the parameters of what you will buy and what they will buy, stick to it. If you agree that Saturday matinees are theirs and they run out of money on Friday, they have to be out of luck once or twice or they won’t learn to look ahead and save money for weekend movies the following week.

Where ThreeJars Stands

Allowance teaches kids to be accountable, and allows them to practice using money when the stakes and consequences are still small. But for parents, things can get complicated when we talk about how the kids will receive allowance.
Having spoken to many families on the topic of whether to tie allowance to chores, the one over-riding “rule” is to reflect your own personal money values. That may mean having your kids “earn” their money by doing routine housework, or it may not. Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily have to be an either/or question. There can be a middle ground approach. In my own family, my wife and I give small amounts of allowance to my six kids that’s not tied to chores (they have to do chores no matter what), but we also encourage them to think up projects that need to be done (cleaning out the garage, creating a home movie, throwing a surprise party for a sibling) if they want to earn more money. Their entrepreneurial spirit kicks in. It’s a lot of fun to watch!
But whatever you decide to do, we created to support your efforts. That’s why our interactive service lets parents tie or untie allowance to chores and/or assign special projects. You could try both ways or use my middle ground way, and see which works best for your family. And if you have a minute, tell us how it’s going. We’d love to hear from you!
—Anton Simunovic

Eileen Gunn has written about personal finance, careers, and other topics for The Wall Street Journal,, Parents, US News and many other publications.


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