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Giving Children An Allowance: Tips for Parents

An allowance can be a great way to teach children money management skills and help them learn how to make decisions, deal with limited resources, and understand the benefits of saving and charitable giving.

There's no single correct way to handle giving an allowance. Deciding when to start, how much to give, and whether you want to link the allowance to chores are choices that should fit your family. Also, no particular age is best for every kid, but you may want to consider starting an allowance by the time a youngster is 10 years old. By then, most children have had experience making thoughtful spending decisions but still look to moms and dads for guidance.

How much allowance should you give?

It depends on your financial situation and what kind of commitment you feel that you can comfortably keep. Experts generally recommend that children get no more than $2 per week for every year of their age (e.g., maximum of $20 per week for a 10-year-old). Regardless of how much you choose, give the allowance regularly and increase the amount as your youngster gets older.

Should an allowance be tied to chores?

Again, it's a personal choice. Some experts think that it's important to make this connection so that children learn the relationship between work and pay. Others say that children should have a responsibility to help with housework, above and beyond any financial incentive. Ultimately, you must decide what works best for you. Whatever you decide, be sure that all parties understand the arrangement.

If you give an allowance for doing housework, make sure that your children understand what their responsibilities are and the consequences of not doing them. You might want to involve them in choosing the chores and then keep a chart posted to remind them what needs to be done. It's important to be consistent. Following through on your promise to give a regular allowance sets a good example for your children and is incentive for them to honor their end of the bargain. If you don't keep up with the allowance, they might lose that incentive and stop doing the chores.

How should children spend their allowance?

It's good to have them use it for discretionary things, not essential purchases such as food or clothing. This lets children make buying decisions — and mistakes — without dire consequences. You might want to encourage children to put away a portion for charity and another portion for savings. If so, let them choose where to donate the money. It may be a cause that a youngster can relate to in some way, like an animal shelter or a group that helps sick children. If some of the allowance goes to savings, consider setting up an account at a local bank. This way, your youngster can keep track of the money. 

Many banks offer special bank accounts for children, and yours may enjoy the experience of getting mail, even if the mail is a bank statement. Once children become teenagers, you might want to provide a quarterly clothing allowance in addition to the weekly allowance. If you do, establish a reasonable budget and allow your children to spend it as they wish — but also to honor its limits. If your son chooses to buy a $90 shirt or your daughter opts for a pricey handbag, for example, they might have to make compromises on other clothing choices.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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