Families with teenagers are used to hearing about how expensive everything is for kids these days, how all the kids at school have got the latest sneakers, phone and so on. All of this usually comes out in a big build up to the real point of the conversation taking place: Will you increase my allowance?
Parents and their children seem to have very little understanding of what an allowance is about. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of discussion when it comes to the idea of earning an allowance, or what the allowance is to be spent on, or why they should get an allowance in the first place. It seems parents just accept it and kids demand it as a right, as if it were in the Constitution, or the Bible.
As it happens, there are perfectly good reasons why you should give your child a certain amount of allowance without any prerequisites. The main reason is to give them some money to spend at their own discretion, so you can see how it is spend and give them financial guidance. You hope that your child will enjoy a part of the money and set another part of the money aside in savings, either for a rainy day, or even better, to invest in other money-making methods.
Some parents set the amount of allowance according to their child’s grades. This is both fair and unfair, in that it acknowledges the fact that the child cannot work full-time to make money as they are told to prioritize their studies. On the other hand, it does not reward effort, simply talent or even cheating. So the amount should be fixed and not depend on grades.
When your child asks you for the allowance to be increased, you may consider asking them to do something for you in return. Don’t, whatever you do, pay them a wage for their labor, painting the fence, for example. This is reinforcing to them the idea that they should survive as wage slaves when they grow up. Instead, ask them to solve problems for you. Once such example goes as follows:
One January evening in Syracuse, NY, a teenage son asked his daddy what he could do to get a higher allowance. His father told him that he would pay him more if he agreed to wake up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow with the shovel. The boy thought about it. He hated shoveling snow. Then he asked his father to buy a snow blower – if he would agree, the boy wouldn’t ask for an increase in allowance, but would clear the driveway with the snow blower every morning anyway.
The father considered it to be a pretty good deal, but he hadn’t yet figured out why his son would be effectively offering to get up early every morning and clear the driveway of snow for no extra money. He could see how using a snow blower beats doing it manually, of course. So his son explained that he could likely clear around ten driveways with a snow blower in the time that it would take to clear the one driveway with only a shovel. He would clear his own house’s driveway and then set about clearing the neighbors’ driveways for five bucks a go.
Father and son got online right away and ordered the snow blower they thought would fit the bill. Dad got a new snow blower and his driveway cleared for free every morning. The neighbors also got their driveways cleared every morning at the very reasonable price of $5 a day. And the son got the extra money he wanted –a cool $900 a month on top of his regular allowance, all thanks to a flash of financial genius, sparked by his father’s response to being asked for money.
You don’t have to live in a winter wonderland to find similar opportunities for your child to earn money. Some children walk their neighbor’s pets, mow lawns, wash cars, wash dishes, fetch groceries and whatever else they can think of to make a buck. Remember that when your teenager asks you for a raise next time.