Children and Allowance: Flat Rate or Chores-Based?


Depending on your family background, you probably already have some thoughts and opinions on the topic of children’s allowances.  In this post, we’ll explore some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Give Kids a Flat Rate Allowance

The flat allowance is a sum of money that parents give to their kids each week or month.  The amount is set, and the child is not asked to do anything in return for the payment.

Reasons to Give a Flat Rate Allowance

It teaches kids to manage money.

Those who support the idea of giving an allowance typically do so to teach their kids to manage money.

The theory is that when you have money, you get practice and experience managing money.

It teaches kids you shouldn’t help people just because you expect something in return.

There is the possibility that if you do give a child a job to do around the house for an allowance, then you’ll teach your kid only to be motivated to work or help when there is a financial reward involved.

“Junior, can you bring me the dirty clothes from upstairs?”

“Sure, mom, but how much will you pay me?”

It teaches kids about unconditional love and acceptance.

Some families want to reinforce the idea that when one member of the family is blessed, it impacts all members of the family.  Thus, dad’s or mom’s paycheck is distributed amongst all family members simply because that’s what it means to be part of the family.

We teach our kids that they are included because they are family, not because of how they perform.

Give a Chores-Based Allowance

The chores-based allowance is a sum of money that parents give to their kids each week or month.  The amount is paid only when a child has properly completed an assigned task or job.

Reasons to Give a Chores-Based Allowance

It enforces the relationship between earning and working.

Some who don’t support the idea of giving an allowance think that what it really teaches kids is they get something for nothing.  By nothing, I mean the money is not given in exchange for work.  It is important for kids to learn the value of working.  Thus, the only thing that a kid might learn is that benevolent people will willingly give you money when you need it.

It teaches kids to manage their own money.

In the corporate world, people typically manage their own money differently than the company’s money.  The fact is, we manage others’ money differently than we manage our own.  It is possible that by giving an allowance, our kids will never really learn to actually manage the money until they have a vested interest in their allowance.  This is why a summer business for older teens is such a good idea.

It establishes a firmer giving foundation.

Similar to the previous point, it is entirely possible that giving someone else’s money is very different than giving your own.  When you teach children to give you want them to learn to give part of themselves because the giving becomes more real.

As you can see, each system clearly has its advantages and disadvantages.  Likely, the factor that will most significantly impact your decisions will be your own background.

In our home we do a chores-based allowance system.  Our two oldest kids have a small job.  When they complete their job, they get paid.  However, in order to balance things, we also give (non-compensated) jobs to our kids.  My son helps with breakfast dishes and my older daughter helps with lunch dishes.  They have jobs like cleaning their room and picking up the living room before supper.

As such, we’ve tried as best as possible to enjoy the benefits of chores-based allowances without succumbing to the dangers of them.

Only time will tell if this was an effective strategy.

Can you think of any more advantages of either chores-based allowances or flat allowances?  Do you give your kids any sort of allowance?


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  1. Josh Levitt

    The most successful scenarios I’ve seen involve a combination of work based “commission” and chores. Chores are expected to be completed because the child is a part of the family and therefore has certain responsibilities. Maybe it is something like making sure their room is clean. No money is given for these chores. Additionally there are commission jobs that can be completed for money as are destined above. You work, you get paid. A basic life lesson that some of us need to be reminded about.

    I really don’t like the term allowance. It sounds like welfare and implies something for nothing. That’s not what we need to be teaching our children.

    Teach your children
    right from wrong,
    and when they are grown
    they will still do right.

    -Proverbs 22:6

  2. Lea Sadler

    As part of the family, my son is expected to do certain things without monetary reward. A lot, really. I think that offering an allowance for common chores is actually damaging to a child’s idea that they are part of the family, and have certain responsibilities. It can actually harm their feeling of being part of the group–and, it encourages them to think “what do I get out of it” just for doing what they should be doing, anyway. My son does not get allowance–although I do spoil him immensely. 🙂

  3. Bill at FamZoo

    You can also go with a hybrid system and get a combination of the benefits described above. With our 5, we do a flat allowance and have the kids responsible for a set of “expected chores”. Their allowance gets dinged when they don’t follow through on the expected chores, so there’s some form of consequence. We offer some paid jobs for extra, bigger tasks (wash car, clean out garage, etc) and encourage the teenagers to get outside summer jobs (lifeguard, retail, etc) and/or volunteer work.

    Also think it’s a great idea to introduce kids to budgeting. Our favorite tool is having the teens propose a clothing budget. After approval, we give them a clothing allowance that’s equal to the budget and have them manage the spending. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Always a great learning experience.

  4. We currently walk a fine line between the two systems. We give our kids a flat rate allowance which is not tied to specific chores. When we introduced the allowance for each child, we said that just as they were old enough to manage their own money, they were also old enough to be part of the family team and handle some jobs around the house (e.g. emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, helping fold laundry). We wanted to avoid the “how much will you pay me to clean my room” scenario. If the kids resist their chores,we don’t threaten to take away their money, we simply remind them that they are part of the family team and need to do this.

    I’m thinking that it’s time to add a list of optional jobs which allow the boys to earn extra money. They are starting to set their own savings goals and this would be a good way to encourage them to see how they can earn extra money.

  5. NCN

    There are certain things that are expected in our family – things we all do for free, b/c they help keep things neat, tidy, and organized.
    For other things, things where the kids pitch in above-and-beyond, we give them some spending money.

  6. zak

    I do not any kids as yet to give an allowance. But my parents brought me up to do chores as part of the family and received no payment. I got an allowance when i was old enough and was also held accountable on what i did with the money. i hope to employ the same model once the Lord blesses us with Kids..

  7. BCS

    We have 5 children and chore based is the only way to go. As our two oldest daughters got older, they obviously started earning more money and the chore income was small compared to what they got from babysitting. Now the chores aren’t about the money for them, but we still emphasize everyone needs to do their share of the work.

  8. Susan

    Our family of 3 – which grew to 4 just a couple months ago with the addition of a 14 month old foster child has set up a system that works very well for us. And I guess that is the key thing – setting up something that works for you and your family. Often parents set up systems that end up being complicated and hard to keep track of which then allows for that lack of follow through and consistency.
    We have chosen to allow everyone in the family an amount to call their own every month because they are a member of the family. It is a different amount for different age groups. In a separate category are chores that are expected as being part of the family. We do not “dock” money for chores not completed, but rather if the tasks is not done when it is expected (normally 5 PM everyday) then they are given another chore to do in addition to the one they did not do. I can tell you this process really gets the child in tune with getting their things done in order to avoid additional jobs! Actually, it helps me out a bit too when I have tasks that need done!
    It works great for us and whatever you call “allowance” – it does ultimately help your child learn about money, how to manage it and the value of it – as long as you do not continue to dole out additional funds when your child asks or they run out!

  9. I grew up in a simple family and we are used to be given money by chore based allowances, For me it is good by for my younger brother it is not. There is a negative effect on him that he is now thinking that you can only help people if there is a financial reward involved and it is not good. Now, we are having bad times disciplining Him.

    It can be case to case basis, for parents out there; whatever the allowance that you will give to your kids makes sure that it is clear to them. There is no harm in explaining.