Abandoning the Allowance: How to Teach Money Management and Household Responsibility at the Same Time

I grew up in an allowance-giving household. For $3 a week, I was in charge of feeding the dog, setting the table, and cleaning my half of the room I shared with my sister. I took my job seriously, and I don’t think my mother ever needed to remind me to finish my chores. I still think I learned responsibility and the balance between saving and spending from my years of household chores and allowance-earning.

Now that I have children of my own, I’m beginning to think about how I want to manage my household. I want my children to learn responsibility and money management, but I also want them to believe that as a member of our household, they are meant to contribute to its running in some way without expecting reimbursement for their services. If you want to teach your children money management and household responsibility at the same time, consider this three-part alternative to the traditional allowance.

1. Identify the “chores” that must be done by all members on a daily basis to keep the house presentable. Everyone makes their beds in the morning (with or without help from Mama). We all help to clean up the house before lunch, before dinner, and before bed. As my kids get older, I’ll also expect them to clean up their rooms on a daily basis. None of these tasks take very long, but they all help to make life a bit easier and our home a bit more presentable.

2. Assign one or two chores to each of your children based on their age and ability that will be considered their responsibility as a member of your family. At four years old, my son sets the table and pairs socks while I fold the laundry. At two, my daughter enjoys following me around while I dust, using her own duster to “help” me. As they get older, my kids will be able to fold (or at least put away) their own laundry, take care of any pets we might have, and dust the furniture.

3. Create a pay scale for all additional chores that your child can complete for payment around the house. This list can include everything from cleaning the bathrooms, to vacuuming the carpets, to cleaning the interiors of your cars. You can feel free to write down any chore that you regularly do, that you’d like to get someone else do for you, on the off chance that one of your children might do it for you, for pay.

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