Parental Preferences for Kids’ Personal Finances

Written by Janet Denison
Published on September 19, 2016

Did you know there is an entire website devoted to providing the most current value of a lost tooth?  According to theoriginaltoothfairypoll.com, the current going rate, at the time of this writing, for a lost tooth is $3.91. Personally, I suggest you just leave $4 and skip the change. It would be a shame to wake your child up in the morning and find a dime stuck to their forehead.

The Internet is making so much information available to parents these days. Why ask around if you can Google for an answer? So, I thought I would ask the “great Google” another question: How much allowance should a five-year-old be given? I was surprised by the can of worms the Google opened up with that one!

Which website has the best advice?

  1. WebMD said, “Some people suggest giving a child 50 cents for each year of age. By this method, a 7-year-old would get $3.50 per week. Others suggest a dollar per year, in which case a seven-year-old would receive $7. You might consider how much you spend on your child to determine the amount of the allowance.” Their answer could have been, “It depends.”
  2. BabyCenter.com had a great article. An “expert” suggested: “Consider your family’s financial resources, the cost of daily living in your area, and your own comfort level.” “I’ve seen it all over the place,” says credit union market manager Mark Hodowanic. “While there might be some general rules of thumb, it’s up to your family to decide what’s best.”
  3. U.S. News had a report about allowance in their Finance section. The article began by saying, “At what age should you give that allowance, and should it be tied to chores? Obviously, the right answer is whatever the parent feels is correct.”

I glanced at several different articles, saw several different suggestions, but one common point was found in each article. Basically, there is no set answer for an allowance. Every parent needs to make their own rules. At least the tooth fairy site gave the running average!

Allowance is always a tricky subject. Should it be based on age, earnings, or both? Should each child in the family make the same amount or should a child get a raise on their birthdays? Is an allowance an entitlement, earnings, or something that is done to teach a child how to save, budget, and spend?

I wonder if Joseph, in addition to his coat of many colors, received more allowance than his brothers?  Did Moses get less allowance because he wasn’t a “blood” relative? Did Jesus get an allowance or a percentage of his earnings from his woodworking? As best I can tell, no one received an allowance in the Bible. Does that mean our children shouldn’t either?

In our home, our kids received an allowance when they began to do some chores. If they made their beds, took out the trash, brought me their dirty laundry and later put it away, they earned money that week. It worked for a while but then backfired. Eventually, beds didn’t get made and laundry was left in the basket until they chose to wear it. If they didn’t need the money that week, they just took the week off.

When my kids got to junior high, the PTA decided they could raise much-needed funds by opening up a snack store at the back entrance to the school. The kids would purchase an expensive snack and hop into the minivan with sticky fingers, half-finished cans of soda, and not a lot of their allowance money left. Not to mention, the calories and grams of sugar were costly as well. I found myself in a dilemma. It was, after all, their money they were spending. So, I decided to stop the weekly allowance and start giving a weekly amount of money to be used for their lunches, entertainment, and other things. If they did extra work, they made extra money. This worked very well, for a while. My kids learned that if they skipped that snack shop they had a lot more money to spend on a video game or movie. Then it came to my attention that they were basically skipping lunch in order to save all of their money for those fun games. I brought home starving children who ate everything in the pantry as soon as they got home. That idea eventually backfired too.

So, how much allowance should you give your child? I guess you can sum up this entire article by saying, “It depends”; “whatever you think is correct”; or “good luck coming up with an answer that works.” The tooth fairy is easy. Just Google the going rate and round up or down to avoid change. What is a good amount for a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly allowance? You will have to decide what works for your family . . . and it might not work for everyone.

I would suggest one idea that did work well in our home. We did a weekly allowance and the amount changed according to their ages. We had to guess at an appropriate amount to give. It was more than some and less than most. The only thing I would suggest is this: Make their allowance an amount and then add 10%. My kids paid their weekly church offering out of the money they received for their allowance. They had offering envelopes and it was their job to fill them out and put them in the plate. From an early age my kids learned that part of what they received belonged to God. They could have kept that money, but they didn’t. I think that was the only thing about our allowance policies that never backfired.

Good luck on this particular subject. The only Bible verse I can offer is, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Whatever you give your kids for allowance or whether you give your kids an allowance, teach them to give to God first and with joy. For the rest of it—you are on your own!

Tell us what you think and help your fellow ChristianParenting.com readers. What do you do about allowance and lost teeth in your home? One thing is certain: everyone needs some advice for this one!   

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Janet Denison

Janet Denison teaches others to live an authentic faith through her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. She blogs weekly at JanetDenison.org and often at ChristianParenting.org.

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