Seven Myths About Allowance

Seven Allowance Myths - Mommy Standard Time.
Seven myths about allowance that simply aren't true.  Mommy Standard Time

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Seven Allowance Myths - Mommy Standard Time

Are you trying to figure out if you should start paying your child an allowance? Have you been hearing strong opinions on both sides of the issue and are trying to sort out your own feelings on the subject?

If I were a betting gal, I would wager that you have thought or heard at least a few of the following myths when considering whether or not you want to pay your child an allowance.

I know I did!

Today I’m going to address the top SEVEN myths that I have heard most often, and why (in my experience) they simply aren’t true.

In full disclosure, I should probably get something out of the way first:

I pay my children an allowance that is based, in part, on a chore chart.

So yes, I may be a little biased in this article, but I really think that allowance can play a very important role in any household. I have heard many arguments against allowance (and have even felt some of these things myself in the past), but my own experience has shown these arguments to be flawed.

MYTH #1: CHILDREN SHOULDN’T BE PAID TO DO SOMETHING THEY SHOULD BE DOING ANYWAY

This is the one concept that I struggled with the most when deciding whether or not we should implement allowance at our house.

Do we just fork over money to our kids once a week? No, I knew I didn’t like that idea.

Do we pay them for good grades? Technically, a child’s “job” is being a student. Right?? However, as an educator I really want my kids’ academic motivation to be intrinsic, so I didn’t want to directly tie money to grades.

So that left chores, but I was struggling with that idea as well.

Our kids had grown up doing chores to help out around the house from a young age because we wanted them to learn what it means to chip in as a member of a household.

But now, out of the blue, we’re going to put these tasks on some sort of chart and start PAYING our kids to do them?!

I struggled with this for a long time before I finally had a light bulb moment when thinking about my day job and family responsibilities.

allowance myths

Part of adulthood is balancing work and home lives, but we are compensated for doing so. This compensation keeps us going to work and giving our best effort. We then come home and take care of our home and family responsibilities because that’s just part of life.

If I am preparing my children for adult life, shouldn’t our allowance system be similar?

That’s when I decided that yes, my kids would be paid for chores, but only on days when they go to school. They are being compensated for doing their “job”, which is balancing their home and school responsibilities. I still expect them to do their chores on the weekend, but their allowance is only based on school days.

Sure Stephanie, that’s all well and good for your own reasoning.  But do your KIDS get that message?

Actually, yes. They do. We explain often to them that their job right now is doing their best at school. We talk about the fact that we know it is harder to get chores done during the week when they are expected to do homework and other extra-curriculars as well. But since it’s so important to us that they do their best at school AND help around the house, we are giving them an allowance for balancing these responsibilities.

To sum up the TRUTH regarding this myth: Kids can be paid for things they “should be doing anyway.” In fact, if done mindfully, this can be an effective way to introduce many concepts related to work and responsibility.


MYTH #2: ALLOWANCE WILL CAUSE MY KIDS TO EXPECT PAYMENT ANY TIME I ASK THEM TO HELP WITH SOMETHING AROUND THE HOUSE

allowance myths

I think it’s a valid concern that allowance could cause a “What’s in it for me?” attitude when it comes to helping out around the house.

HOWEVER….

At the end of the day I still call this a myth.

It is completely possible for kids to be paid allowance for certain chores and still be willing to help with other tasks around the house “for free”. (Well, as willing as a child normally would be to help around the house.)

The chore chart that we use addresses this concern: Our kids are still expected to do chores on the weekend…”for free.” As I mentioned above, we are ultimately paying allowance for the kids’ willingness and ability to balance their home and school responsibilities. But on the weekend, they’re not off the hook. We also ask them to help us with additional tasks around the house. All. The. Time.

TRUTH: If expectations are clearly and consistently communicated to children, they will not hold their hand out for a tip like a bellhop every time you ask for their help. Pinky promise.


MYTH #3: KIDS WHO GET AN ALLOWANCE ARE SPOILED

Just as a side note: I read this article out loud to my kids to get their opinion and they actually laughed out loud at this myth.

This is a HUGE myth! In fact, giving kids an allowance can actually CURB the amount of things that parents buy for them.

Prior to our allowance days, if our kiddos asked for a toy or treat in the store, more often than not we would buy it for them if it was a reasonable request.

Now that they receive an allowance, our go-to response is “Did you bring your money?” Our kids know that if they want something outside the scope of the food and entertainment budget that we set for our family, they have to use their own allowance for that item.

Giving our kids an allowance has also given them the opportunity to think outside of themselves since they donate 10% of their income as a tithe. (They also put 10% in savings.) We use zipper pouches to store the different amounts, but these banks are super fun (there is even one that looks like a pirate treasure box).

TRUTH: Working for an allowance gives children an opportunity to practice providing for themselves, rather than having everything handed to them. It also gives them an opportunity for charitable giving.


MYTH #4: GIVING KIDS AN ALLOWANCE IS BASICALLY THROWING MONEY AWAY

Allowance Myth #4 - Throwing Money Away

The thought behind this myth is that kids don’t know how to manage money, so it will either be lost or spent on junk they don’t need.

I beg to differ.

Wait….I need to back up. This myth might hold some truth initially. The money from those first few “pay days” might as well be red hot coal, it burns such a hole in their little pockets. But with a little bit of modeling and instruction, children can learn lifelong lessons about the consequences of spending and the importance of saving.

Our job is to TEACH these lessons. And what better time than now? In fact, research has shown that children can start understanding basic concepts of money by age 3 and their money habits have developed by age 7. AGE SEVEN!

We have seen this in action at our house.

It really doesn’t take long for kids (even young children) to start calculating big purchases in terms of how many “pay days” they need. Yes, I have been surprised (and sometimes a little amused) at what my kids choose to save their money for, but I have also been amazed at their stick-with-it-ness to save for what they want.

In fact, we told The Professor we would pay for the other half of a Chromebook if he earned the first half (we had actually already purchased one and had it tucked away for his birthday, but we figured it would take him a long time so we gave the “go ahead”). But that little mister took every opportunity for extra cash that came along until he announced, two days before his birthday, that he had his half saved. Oops! (Luckily, we were able to put off the purchase without ruining his surprise.)

Sometimes I watch our kids save up for something frivolous, cringing as they inch closer to their goal and the eventual “waste” of their money. But then, once they have it all saved up, they often realize they would rather spend their hard-earned money on something else.

And….well….sometimes they do end up spending their money on junk, but they learn a lesson there as well.

TRUTH: The lifelong lessons taught through paying your child an earned allowance is one of the BEST ways you can spend a few bucks.


MYTH #5: ALLOWANCE AND CHORE CHARTS ARE A HASSLE

two chore charts hanging on refrigerator

If you believe this myth, you’re going to want to head over to my post about the No-Fuss Chore Chart and Allowance System. Once you have taught the system to your kids and have implemented it, the system runs itself and you just have to hand out the cash one day a week.

There is no hounding the kids to do their chores.

If my kids don’t do one of their chores and I have to pick up the slack, I mark off that box and they don’t get paid for it. It is as simple as that. You’d be surprised how motivated your kids can be when cash is on the line.

(Although I DO recognize that not all children are the same. Be on the lookout for another post about how to support kids who don’t respond to a chore chart. Signing up for my newsletter will ensure that you don’t miss it!)

From my experience, kids will rise to the occasion when you treat the chore chart like a privilege (they GET to earn money by showing they can balance their responsibilities). There might be growing pains at first, or the honeymoon phase might fade after a few weeks and require some adjustment. But if you stick with it, the system is far from a hassle.

TRUTH: The right earned-allowance system does not have to take much effort at all. Believe me…if our family can do it, so can yours!


MYTH #6: I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY MY KIDS AN ALLOWANCE

I can't afford to pay my kids an allowance.  Mommy Standard Time

I get this one. I really, REALLY do.

Mr. Blue Eyes and I have spent a good portion of our marriage living paycheck-to-paycheck. When I first started considering allowance for my kiddos, there just didn’t seem to be enough room in the budget to pay for it. Heck…for a while we didn’t even HAVE a budget!

But, as I mentioned before, paying your kids an allowance can actually SAVE you money by curbing that extra spending.

It can also help you feel better during those tough financial times because you aren’t constantly saying no to your kids when you can’t afford something. (Over time that can really wear on morale!) Instead, you’re encouraging them to save up their own money to pay for those extra things they want.

My no-fuss allowance system is not a ton of money for the two kids we have earning an allowance right now, but I can see how it could add up in a larger household.

So feel free to modify it!

One easy modification is to give them less money per chore. You could easily cut it in half to one nickel per chore ($2.50 for the week). They would then have the two quarters to easily pay 10% into savings and tithing.

If that still seems out of reach, you could create your own token economy where the kids can purchase low-to-no cost rewards and incentives.

I will, however, give you one word of caution that I will borrow from my pal Dave Ramsey. In my experience, “Cash is king” when it comes to allowance. We have tried token reward systems before and the kids just don’t respond to them the same way they do with money. There is something about saving and spending the same cash as Mom and Dad that keeps them motivated.

TRUTH: An allowance can be modified for any budget. Yes, it is hard to pay your kids an allowance when money is tight, but it can actually save money in the long run. On top of that, you really can’t put a price tag on the lessons learned from earning an allowance.


MYTH #7: MY PARENTS NEVER PAID ME AN ALLOWANCE AND I TURNED OUT JUST FINE

I’m going to tread lightly in calling this a myth, because I really don’t want to offend any of you (or your parents)!

All I’m going to ask is for you to reflect for just a second on your financial “upbringing.”

Did you have to learn some hard lessons as a young adult?

Did you ever make financial decisions that put you on a different trajectory than you would have liked?

Could the learning curve have been a little bit more gentle?

You might be “just fine” now, but could things have been BETTER?

I’m not saying that allowance will set up children for a lifetime of perfect financial decisions and padded bank accounts. However, I AM suggesting that allowance might play a bigger role in their future decisions than we might believe based on our own upbringings.

TRUTH: Earning an allowance gives children the chance to practice some real-world financial lessons under the guidance of their parents. Even if we turned out “just fine” without an allowance, we are giving our kids an awesome foundation by allowing them the opportunity to earn and manage money beginning at a young age.


Parenting is TOUGH! I know there are a bazillion opinions about every choice that we make, especially about things like allowance. I hope that this discussion has helped you sort through your own opinions on the topic. Do you agree or do you think I’m crazy? Are there other myths that you would add to my list? Leave me a comment below and join the discussion!

If you’ve decided to give allowance a try, be sure to visit my post about the No-Fuss Chore Chart and Allowance System for a FREE printable!

Creating a chore system? Save time with this totally free quick-start guide!

I have also recently written a quick-start guide for setting up your own chore system. (It’s as easy as A-B-C!). I know that the three magic words I share in the guide will help you create a simple chore system that runs on autopilot. Check it out here!


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