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What Should You Pay Your Child For?

As a parent, you must decide what ways you deem appropriate for your child to earn money. There are many different ways to pay your children, and it depends on their personalities, habits, attitudes, and the choices they make on a daily basis.

I’ll use my children as an example. Both my kids can earn $14.00 a week base pay. Do they? NEVER! Nevertheless, they could earn this amount if they did everything I am willing to pay for.

In the beginning, I was never able to get out of the house in the morning on time. Someone was always in a bad mood, upset, and late for school. I was frustrated every day before 8:00 am. I sat my kids down and said, “Okay, the deal is that I will pay you a dollar every morning if you:

  • get up on time(10 cents)
  • take a shower (10 cents)
  • brush and floss your teeth (25 cents)
  • brush your hair (10 cents)
  • get dressed (10 cents)
  • eat breakfast (10 cents)
  • put your homework in your backpacks (10 cents)
  • put your lunch or lunch money in your backpacks (10 cents)
  • and if you’re ready to walk out the door at 8:00 am (5 cents).”

They were both extremely excited, and we made a deal. I wrote it on a piece of paper, and daily, they would do what was on the list to earn that dollar. I must say it was the best dollar I ever spent.

Eventually, it became a habit for both of them, and I never had to ask my kids to do their morning routine. It took awhile to get into the habit, but both of my children knew the reward that would be waiting for them.

I realized it was not the money as much as it was the reward and benefit of accountability that my kids were learning. And that is how the Allowance Chart - It’s Only a Dollar… Until You Add to It! came about.

I made up samples and had all my friends try it out – many against their wills – but when I explained the benefits, they were willing to try it. And they ended up loving it!

Now, my kids are older, and the chores have changed. Once my kids get in the habit of consistently doing what is asked, I move on to something else. At 10 and 12, my kids know how to vacuum, clean bathrooms, wash windows, and do the laundry. My son says he’s probably the only one of his friends who can do his own laundry and keep the house clean. I told him his future wife will be thanking me for years.

Teaching your children to be independent and self-sufficient will build their confidence and self-esteem, which is every parent’s goal in life.

How to Pay an Allowance

Each family has its own income bracket, and every family spends a certain amount on the needs and wants of the children in the household. What I’m proposing will not cost you any more money, but it will teach a valuable lesson to your child and actually save you money now and in the future.

As an example, imagine that you bought your child a music CD ($20), candy throughout the month ($5), a blockbuster video or DVD ($8), a T-shirt your child had to have ($17), plus $50 on other items your child didn’t need but wanted. This is not including lunch money, school activities, food, and the 100 other things you spend money on throughout the month.

Divide the $50 by 4 weeks = $12.50

Divide the $12.50 by 7 days = $1.78

I propose you allow your child to earn the $50 a month or $12.50 a week, $1.78 a-day, and have your child spend this money on the items you normally buy for them anyway.

When you spend this $50 monthly, your children are influencing you about how you spend YOUR money. When they earn this $50 instead, they learn to decide how they will spend THEIR money. This will have an invaluable impact on your children. They will learn the value of money and the effect of the choices they make with their money.

How Do You Decide What to Pay For?

Some parents reward their children for “extra chores,” and some parents reward their children for “behavior.” Other parents want their children to earn outside the home. I will touch on each area and break it down.

“Extra Chores” can be set up in this fashion: In the beginning, if you haven’t set up a list of certain chores, it’s best to start small and build up to the desired result.

Example: I expect you to keep your room clean daily and set the table nightly without reward because this helps the family unit and keeps it running smoothly. I will pay you to clean the bathroom, do the laundry, and empty the dishwasher on these specific days, and this is the amount you will earn for doing so. Also, from this point forward, items like candy, CDs, and other incidentals will be purchased from the money you have earned.

With the busy life we all have, make sure your child will have the time between homework and activities to do what you ask. Both of my kids participate in sports, and I schedule small amounts of chores on these days. You don’t want to set your child up for failure!

When you’re out and your child asks you to buy them something, simply say, “Yes, you can have that, but you need to use your own money.” You most likely will get a reaction like, “But, I don’t want to waste my money.” Just say, “I understand, but I really don’t like wasting my money either. If you really want it, though, you can have it.” I must say the first time I got this reaction from my children, it was very rewarding. They both looked at me in shock. I said yes, but they had to use their money. They were speechless because they didn’t have a comeback.

This will also teach your child the valuable lesson of choice. We all have choices in how we spend our money, and the sooner your child makes these choices on their own, the better. It’s like failing forward. When your child makes financial mistakes early on, they learn to make better choices later. Imagine if your child never handled money, then moved out, bought a car, but couldn’t afford it. This financial mistake will last a long, long time.

Behavior Based

This is a delicate subject. Should you pay for behavior? Psychologists say no. But when you have a child that misbehaves, you will do anything to rectify the situation. I will say that my son is more behavior-based, and my daughter is more chore-based. I like to say that I am breaking a habit versus a behavior, but they are basically the same thing.

If you have two kids who antagonize each other, that is a behavior, but it’s also a habit which has become natural to them. I decided one day to pay my kids a dollar if they didn’t fight the whole day. Guess what? It worked! And it worked better than anything else I had tried in the past. What I did was reward them for acting in a different way. They thought about how their reaction to each other would hurt their reward, so they made a better choice. It’s similar to the person who talks negatively all the time. After awhile, they don’t even hear the negativity in their words because it has become a habit.

You can reward your child for breaking bad habits. If your child has the habit of never picking up dirty clothes and putting them in the laundry basket, you can pay them a certain amount to change this habit. Once your child has become accustomed to putting their clothes away consistently, you can stop paying them for that chore and move on to another bad habit. A word of advice, though – don’t try to correct too many bad habits at one time.

Don’t Forget Who is the Adult

Although your child can be involved with picking the chores, it’s ultimately your decision as to what chores are tied to allowance. Your child cannot decide to boycott or tell you they don’t want to do a certain chore because they don’t get paid for it. Allowing your child to earn money is a privilege and is not mandatory.

You may be wondering what happens if I ask my children to do something, and they turn around and ask me how much I will pay them for it. I am a big believer in encouraging children to ask for things. I believe it sets them up for when they must ask for a job, a date, or a pay raise. But in this situation, I just calmly say, “Actually, this is not on the list of items I agreed to pay you for.” If your children consistently nag you, ask them if they’d like to lose their allowance altogether. That will certainly do the trick.

The sooner your child learns how money is earned, the better off your child will be in dealing with the real world. Few people in the working world receive money for nothing. Security, according to General Douglass McArthur, comes down to your ability to produce. Any other kind of security is an illusion. The sooner your children realize that they have complete control over their income, the better prepared they will be for real life.

How Often Should You Pay an Allowance?

In the beginning, I suggest you pay your children daily until they get in the habit of consistently doing their chores. This will bring the cause and effect lesson into play. Consistency and remembering is a big problem, and this will be rectified when you pay them daily. As your children get older, you can move to the weekly pay day.

Daily pay will also show your children what rewards they did not receive. If you have agreed to pay your child for a certain chore and they decided not to do that chore, then it will be a loss they recognize immediately.

At What Age Should I Pay an Allowance?

It depends on the child, but I know my kids could walk into a room at age two and total it in a matter of three seconds. If a child knows how to pull toys out of the toy box, then they know how to put toys back in the toy box. If a child can pull pillows off the bed, then a child can put the pillows back on the bed. If a child can take off their clothes, then a child can put those clothes in the laundry basket.

Children can earn little amounts of money starting at age two. You will need to show them how to do it and be with them as they perform their chores, but you’re with them all the time at that age anyway. Your children will see the positive reaction from you and from the money being put in their piggy bank. This will motivate them to do more of the same in order to get this reaction again.

As your child gets older, encourage more chores for more money. Your children will have learned to be fully self-sufficient by the time they move out of your house. Their future days could be paid for, and you will know you have raised a financially savvy, self-sufficient young adult.

How to use Chore Charts

As I mentioned earlier, determine how much money you’re currently spending on your child per month for “non-necessities” – things like candy, toys, games, videos, CDs, etc. Think of these as WANTS rather than NEEDS. Start with that amount of money, and allow your child to EARN IT!

Let’s say you spend $25 per month on “WANTS.” Start with what you are already spending ($25) and divide that by 4 weeks. You get $6.25. Now, divide that by 7 days – you get $0.89. Round it off, and let your child earn 90 cents per day.

Choose from the list of chores already included in the allowance chart, or make up your own. You decide which chores are appropriate for your child’s age and situation. The chores, money, chore pieces stick on and peel off, just like the old Color Forms did when we were kids, and the pieces can be used over again.

Once you and your child have agreed on the chores they will do for the week, make sure it will fit into your weekly activities schedule. You don’t want to give your child a list of chores on a day they can’t accomplish their duties. If you do, both of you will be upset.

Assign a value of money to each chore, task, or job. You have 5…10…25 and $1.00 pieces to choose from. For example, you might determine that taking out the trash is worth 25, while cleaning out the cat box is worth 50. Just remember that the goal is to give your child a chance to earn an income.

Explain to your child this is the list of chores and the amount you will pay each day. If they don’t do the chores on the list, they won’t receive their payment. Explain that they’re able to earn money for the items they want, but if they choose not to earn the money, then they won’t have the money for what they want. Tell them that the choice is theirs.

Each day, have your child add up the amount and total it in the space provided. This will also teach your child how to count money and see how it all adds up. In the beginning, you may want to pay your child daily, until both parties get used to the routine.

Give positive reinforcement, and your child should look forward to completing the chores on the list each day without even being asked. This encourages personal responsibility. You might decide that it’s okay to give one reminder or none at all. The goal is for each chore to be completed each day. Any chore that is not completed gets a sad face (provided.) This shows your children that you’re sad they chose to do part of the work for FREE.

The chart has an area for goals, dreams, and desires. With the pen provided, have your children write their goals for the week, something they’re dreaming about, or an item that they desire. There may be a special toy they’ve been thinking about, or they desire to get an A on their next test, or maybe your child is dreaming about earning a certain amount of money. Review this list with your children frequently so that they will see the value in setting and accomplishing goals.

At the end of each week or each day, you and your child should add up how much money was earned. This shows how money GROWS (and easily demonstrates why It’s Only a Dollar…Until You Add to It!)

While shopping, when your children ask for something, have them spend the money they have earned to purchase the items they want. This quickly teaches the value of money by clearly showing the connection between earned money and spent money! Your children will place greater value on the items bought with their own money, and think twice before spending foolishly!

Sample Chore
Wash/Dry laundry

Fold/put away laundry
Clean off dishes
Load dishwasher
Empty dishwasher
Empty trashcans
Bring trashcans inside
Dust furniture
Clean bathroom
Clean floors
Clean windows
Set dinner table
Clear dinner table
Wash car
Help put groceries away
Organize closet/toys/drawers
Put away outside toys
Wake up on time
Make bed
Brush/floss teeth
Comb hair
Get dressed
Have backpack/homework ready
Make breakfast
Make lunch
Do homework
Clean room
Put toys away
Put dirty clothes away
Get out clothes for next day
Complete monthly book reports
Read a book
Clean out lunchbox/backpack
Clean out car
Feed pets
Clean pet droppings
Wash pet
Walk the dog
Clean pet’s cage
Help make dinner
Take bath/shower
Get ready for bed
Go to sleep when told
Water plants
Weed flowers
Extra credit
Do something without being asked
Stop when asked
Help neighbor
Exhibit good manners
Baby-sit sibling
No whining
No fighting with sibling

kids and money piggy bank