Giving children an allowance seems to be a pretty common practice. Sometimes it’s done “just because” and other times it’s attached to chores. Other times it’s done just to give children an opportunity to learn how to manage money.
Our children don’t get an allowance, for several reasons.
The main one being, giving an allowance costs money, multiplied by the number of children you have. We try to keep to a fairly tight budget and giving children an allowance isn’t really part of it. Also, we couldn’t think of a suitable reason that sit well with us to give them money. We don’t want to give them money attached to their chores because we want our kids to realize that chores are simply a part of life and that it’s not realistic to expect anything in return for having done them, beyond the satisfaction of a job well done. We tried giving them money just to learn how to manage it (a small amount monthly, based on age) but that didn’t seem to work well for us, either.
So, we just stopped giving them money. This seems to work pretty well for all of us. My husband and I don’t have to worry about if they’ve done enough chores to “earn” their money, the kids don’t feel entitled to money, and they think of creative ways to earn it in other ways (and they eagerly look forward to birthdays and Christmas, when they can count on receiving at least a few dollars as gifts.)
So how do they earn money? Creative thinking with a healthy dose of trial and error.
One summer Tobi decided to hold a lemonade stand. We bought the supplies for him but told him that he’d need to pay us back a couple of dollars after he made his money. He helped make a sign, set up a stand, and waited. He quickly realized that pretty much no one walks down our quiet street so he asked if we could set up elsewhere. We brainstormed for a few minutes, made a quick call, then loaded up our little red wagon and hauled his stuff over to a friend’s driveway on a busier road around the corner. His cuteness helped and he made a whopping 9 or 10 dollars, then handed over $1.50 to help cover the supplies we’d bought.
For the last few years, he’s also grown pumpkins to sell. The first year he grew 3 large pumpkins and sold them for about $21 total. He did the weeding and upkeep. Last year he decided to grow sugar pumpkins instead. This gave him a greater yield in our small space, and they were easier for him to care for. He planted the pumpkins, weeded the patch, and washed them before selling them.
A few projects didn’t turn out so well. He’s tried to make finger scarves to sell, for example, but there wasn’t much demand for them. That’s OK! It was a lesson in itself.
This year he will be growing his pumpkins again, but he’s also come up with a way to make money in the spring instead of having to wait until fall. He is going to try to sell plants! I helped him make up a “business plan” and he decided what he would plant, how many of each, and we agreed on how much money he would pay back to cover materials (soil and seeds.)
He wasn’t too impressed with the task of washing out yogurt containers to use as planters, but he persevered and got the job done.
He filled his pots, planted his seeds, and it’s his job to water them. Most of them have sprouted already (it’s been less than 2 weeks since he’s planted them) and he’s so excited.
Children having to come up with their own ideas to earn money is great life experience and a great way to tie education into real life. Here is a quick breakdown of just a few lessons they learn.
Critical thinking: what can I do to make money? Will people want what I’m trying to make, sell, or provide a service for?
Planning: What supplies do I need? What steps do I need to take? Do I need to buy supplies or can I use what I have on hand?
Math: How much can I charge for my service/product, and how much will I make if I sell/provide it x number of times? How many do I need to sell to reach my goal?
Life skills: baking, gardening, cleaning, handicraft…whatever they decide to do will give them real life skills that they’ll use in years to come! Not to mention the life lesson that we’re not entitled to money; it has to be earned. Also, sometimes business plans just don’t work. Keep on trying!
Handwriting/spelling: any lists or signs that need to be made will help these skills!
And the list could go on and on!
Not sure how to help your children in earning their own money?
Let them fail. Help them to set realistic expectations but if they want to try something that you know won’t work, let them do it anyway. We all learn more from experience than lectures. Rejoice with them in their success, be their cheerleader. Help them if needed but have them do as much as they can themselves. Sometimes this means they won’t get as far. If my son doesn’t weed his garden, he won’t get as many pumpkins, which means he won’t have as many to sell. Or, if I have to weed (after all, they’re in the main garden and weeding will affect the family’s garden yield) then he has to pay me a small fee. All of this will depend on the situation of course but the main idea is to keep it as age/ability appropriate as possible but to let them learn through success and mistakes alike.
Do your kids receive an allowance? What works for your family? Please share your experience and ideas!