Considering allowances for children

Published 5:38 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

QUESTION: What are important things to consider about allowances for children?

ANSWER: Children are ready to handle an allowance when they can tell one coin from another, are comfortable with counting and numbers, and have spending opportunities.

A good readiness signal is when children start making regular requests for money for various items, like crayons, toys, candy or ice cream. These kinds of requests usually occur when children reach the age of 6 to 8.

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The size of the allowance might be determined by your child’s level of maturity, the items it will cover and the amount you can afford. Children can help set their allowance by ranking their needs in order of importance. By including children in the decision-making process, they learn that money is limited, that income must first cover needs, and that the family’s financial situation affects the amount each member can use.

It’s important that an allowance include enough money to cover some fun expenses. If all the money is earmarked for necessities, children have little opportunity to choose among alternatives. A good guideline is that the allowance be large enough to cover the agreed upon basic needs plus extra for savings and fun spending, yet small enough to require choices. Once the amount is set, also set a time to reevaluate it.

To be an effective teaching tool, allowances should be given at regular intervals. This may mean twice a week for a 6 to 8 year old, weekly for a 9 to 12 year old, every other week for a 13 to 15 year old, and monthly for the 16 to 18 year old.

Allowances need to be consistent. Our children feel the same way we do when we do not receive our paycheck as expected. Clarity is also important. Both we and our children need to be clear about the amount, the day it will be paid, the expenses it will cover and the amount our children can use as they choose.

An allowance does not need to automatically increase as our children become one year older. There are two reasons for an increase: 1. an increase in the cost of expenses our child is to cover, such as school lunch prices increasing, or 2. the allowance is expected to cover more of our child’s expenses as his or her maturity increases.

Our guidance and encouragement, rather than control and criticism, about spending, saving and giving decisions will help our children develop confidence in their own ability.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out