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Ask HN: Allowance for kids?
35 points by romanhn on Aug 17, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments
For those of you with children, what is your approach to allowance? The three common approaches are having a regular allowance, tying it to chores, or no allowance at all. That said, there can be huge variations once you get into the details. I'd love to hear how you help (or helped!) your kids grow into financially responsible adults.

If you yourself had an allowance structure set up when you were growing up that you think had positive impact, would love to hear about it as well.




My parents gave me a large allowance, but they didn't give me extra money if I needed it. That made me more independent.

For practical purposes, assume 1 CHF = 1 USD (it's actually 1.04 USD, but close enough). Also note that my parents lived in the countryside and didn't have "curfew" rules. There was no bus to their house, so if I stayed out after they went to bed, I wouldn't be able to get back home! It was lonely, but effective at keeping me out of trouble.

From age 5 to 11, I got 10 CHF.

From age 11 to 14, I got 25 CHF. Of that, 12.5 was "current", 10 was "savings" (only spend on things that cost over 100 CHF), and 2.5 was "giving". From my own money, I had to pay 10% of all my trips (e.g. church camp, travel alone, etc).

From age 14 to 16, I got 125 CHF. Of that, 25 CHF was the same as above. The extra 100 CHF was for "trips". Then I had to pay 50% of travels. This was a big expense, and important for some volunteer service projects I joined.

From age 16 to 18, I got 270 CHF. Of that, 23 CHF was "current", 20 CHF was "savings", 27 CHF was "giving", and 200 CHF was "trips". I then had to pay 100% of trips, although I negotiated with my parents to let me pay only 50% of a trip to visit universities.

I used an Excel spreadsheet to manage my money from when I was 13 years old. It has a record of 230 expenses over 4 years, and is interesting to look back at now, to see what was important to me then (iPod accessories, the price of my first date).

The allowance money was not tied to chores. I could earn an extra 0.5 CHF for washing or drying dishes, or 5 CHF for some gardening. I also got some lunch money for school, and secretly saved the change from that.

My dad gave me a broken computer when I was 8, which I fixed and then used until he gave me my own laptop. That broke, and I then bought & sold a class set of old laptops from the school to let me upgrade.

My parents did not pay for TV. They said that my brother and I would have to share our allowance and pay for the subscription to Sky TV if we really wanted it. We couldn't afford that. However, we had the best Internet connection available in our area (ISDN). So all my entertainment has been web-based. The TV set was too old for consoles (only SCART, no composite video), so all my games were on computer (and we used Mac, so there were very few games). Instead, I started building my own things with AppleScript, and I'm still doing that now.


The current/saving and % of travel is a very interesting approach! I'm assuming that the numbers represent your monthly allowance?


Yes, that's right - those were monthly values.

I paid for half of my iPod (the other half was a Christmas present), all of my food expenses outside (but none if eating with my parents). Education was paid by my dad's job (CERN). They didn't pay for me to learn to drive, and I still can't (I bike to work). They now want me to pay rent if I want to live with them, which is why I call it "my parents' house" not "home".

The bleak reality is in most places I lived since, my disposable income (after food & rent) has usually gone down from that time, now I'm working.


Would you mind volunteering what decades this occurred during.


I don't have kids but I can talk about my dad.

For all the regular purposes like transport, school fee, repairing the vehicle etc. he gave a little more than required, he knew how much it cost but still let me keep the rest. That was enough to hang out with friends, go to movies (it was cheap back then), a little snack here and there. For anything bigger than that I would ask him and he'd mostly say yes. But never encouraged regular allowance on a monthly/weekly basis.

We weren't affluent, I had to be a little conservative on my expenditure. Was also taught early that you should do/buy four things that you need and one thing that you want.

For better or worse I think this made me more responsible than others who grew up with me.


This was exactly my father's approach, especially as I grew older. He eventually gave me my own CC with a limit for emergency use. I think it was a great approach, but I also see the merit of having a limited allowance per period.

Perhaps it's just my nature, but I'm just terrible at tracking my spending in a detailed manner. For instance, if you asked me how much I spend on groceries per month, I would not be able to give you an accurate number.


No kids myself but my parents did not give me an allowance.

Instead, they were very transparent about our finances. We were situated in the lower-to-mid working class, we have basics covered and some "fun money" but no vacations, new cars, little eating out, etc.

If there was something my Brother or I needed (things we wanted but were not necessary were usually given as birthday/holiday gifts only), they would walk us through their thought processes on how they decided if they could afford it. They included us in the decision and explained how buying certain things would mean sacrificing others.

We were also given money management tasks that were used for necessities. For example, we would be given $20 each to come up with meals we wanted that week at the grocery store. Same thing with new school clothes, sports gear, etc. They let us be decision makers but didn't hand us money to do with as we pleased.

I also got my first job at 13 (farm labor), and haven't stopped working yet.

I was always a little jealous of the kids who got $5, $10, or $15 per week to do with as they pleased - but I will say I feel like I've had a leg up on budgeting, saving, and general money management than many of my peers.

If I have kids I will probably have some sort of similar system. I don't like the idea of giving away "free" money, and tying it to chores is weird to me because they are something that need to be done and won't ever be "rewarded" again after you're a kid.


I read this as if I would have wrote it.

I never got an allowance but I mostly got want I needed and wanted within reason. This was basically determined by the chores I did and how much I generally helped in the house.

My parents and grandparents always sat me down to do the monthly budget with them. I learned early on the way money flowed in and out of the household. That gave me a perspective on debt and credit that many of my friends didn't have.

I did get cash on birthdays and holidays and on some other special occasions.

Once I started working (around 13) that money was mine to do with as I pleased. There was a great sense of personal responsibility. I think that really helped me once I left my parents home at about 17.

I have no opinion on the "free" money of not doing chores. All kids and families are different. I will say that having my parents be honest about our finances and not shielding my as much did help me in the long run.


In our household, the kids have chores. The kids also have an allowance.

The important part for us is that the allowance isn't tied to the performance of the chores - chores are mandatory, part of living in a household.

The allowance is tied to doing said chores promptly and completely when asked, without complaint.

Complaint or lack of completion of chores results in deductions from the allowance. But importantly, the chore must still be done.

Works pretty well for us.


Confused how that's not tying allowance to chores.


It's tied, but indirectly. Completion of chores properly is obviously required for allowance to be received. But it was important to us to not give the impression that this was "pay for work done". Rather, the work has to get done, the payment is for doing it properly and without complaint (ie. to save my and my wife's sanity).

But the important bits are:

1. The job gets done always. There is not an option for the child to say "keep your $2, I'd rather watch TV today."

2. If the job isn't done right, the child has to re-do or otherwise complete the job.

3. Complaints about the job, or failure to do the job promptly (ie. nagging), lead to deductions in allowance, but #1 still applies.

4. The size of the allowance and the size/number of chores are not directly related.

We also give the kids the option to change chores (within reason) - because the allowance isn't tied to specific chores. As they get older, they get more responsibility (more and/or more complex chores) but also more allowance.

Like I said, it seems to work well for us. The chores range from feeding the cats to doing a load of washing to helping cook dinner. They quickly learn that complaining about chores is a no-win situation, and accept that it's simply a part of week to week life.


I think OP meant that the value of the allowance isn't directly correlated with the chores or quality thereof, so doing the dishes isn't $X, and doing them well isn't $Y (netting them more). The child gets $Z amount per month, and that number can only go down based on lack of completion or quality, and isn't broken down to a certain amount per chore.

I could be wrong, but that is what I got from it.


In this case, allowance is tied to maintaining a positive and cooperative attitude. They still have to do the chores and will not get paid or get docked if they do the chores with a bad attitude.


Don't have kids.. but I got paid $1 a week for doing chores, and eventually it was raised over the years, $2.. until $5. Mom helped me get a job around 14-15 years old and my money started being my own.

I think it definitely teaches lessons. I had to save up to get a $5 ninja turtle. That was like 5 weeks worth of work for a while! Chores included: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting. I think I split them with my sister. My mom would even make me cook for myself, teaching me hot to boil pasta, cook an egg, cook steak, etc.

I can only say that it gave me all the life skills I needed to survive. Thanks mom! Thanks dad! Appreciate it! As for the value of money? Which $5 ninja turtle should I save up for? Which one was worth it the most? Which one would be able to keep me happy until I could afford the next best ninja turtle?

This logic has stuck with me and I've managed to mostly stay out of debt.. at least credit card debt for my entire life. Student loans.. paid those off. I currently just have a mortgage and a personal loan that I took out to help my girlfriend is the only major debt I have at the moment.


They say that one of the things that determines future success is the ability to defer spending and not have to have something instantly. So this is a good way to see how your child would do. Can they save up for something bigger and better or do they blow it all straight away.


I have a six-year-old and started giving him an allowance when he was five.

The goals for the allowance are:

1. Teach him about saving and compound interest 2. Get him off my back for buying things

Therefore, it's not tied to chores. Getting work out of him would be great but I figure the benefit of teaching him the benefits of saving are much more important.

I pay him $5 a week because it's large enough that he can buy something at the toy store but not anything particularly nice so he needs to save.

And here's the crazy part, I pay him interest for saved money, a crazy large amount. For every $10 he has saved I give him another dollar before I dole out his week's allowance. The money grows fast!

He's already seeing the benefit. He reaaaaaaaly wanted a remote control BB8 and was super good about saving for it. Every Saturday morning we laid out his money, we traded in 10 ones for 1 ten dollar bill and then I paid out his interest by placing a one dollar bill on top of each ten dollar bill, and then I paid his normal allowance.

He's already better with money at 6 than I was at 25.

At some point I'm going to have to lower his interest rate or I'll go broke.


10% compound interest, compounded weekly?

I can't believe you made it a a year, to be honest.


I retroactively instituted a $100 cutoff too. :-)


That's clever :-)


Allowance for doing nothing works pretty well. When you go to stores make sure they bring their money. They ask for less if they are holding their money. When you tell them they can buy anything they want with their money. Suddenly the crap items that said they wanted are long forgotten. The moral of the story is always go shopping with them but make sure they have their allowance on them. This helps them learn the value of a dollar. They become really cheap.


My son is only 2 so we haven't gotten there yet. But I like the block of tasks that the child has to do with no reward because that is a refection of real life(we all have to take out the trash, mow the lawn, etc).

But in addition to that you encourage the child to think outside of those tasks and to proposal tasks for money/reward mini-business plans. Get them to think entrepreneurial. Then hopefully as they grow older they may petition the neighbors, etc.


The incredible amount of time my family spent maintaining, cleaning, improving, and repairing our suburban house definitely motivated me to choose housing as an adult that wouldn't require so much work.


Out of curiosity, how good are your DIY skills?

Were you involved in said repairs/improvements or just an onlooker?


Decent. I got the spirit from my dad but most of the actual practice on my high school's stage crew, and a part-time technician job at one of my university's concert halls.

I couldn't finish a basement or build cabinetry from scratch like my dad did, but I can use a drill and table saw to put together sets that'll look reasonable at 30 feet. Or go at basic household issues with my bag of hand tools.

More to my interests, I can spec, build, configure, troubleshoot, solder, etc. my way around a performance venue's sound, communications, and lighting control systems.


With the caveat that they're not quite adults yet (eldest is 16) so there are no actual results to this experiment...

The children get regular money put into their accounts. We don't put many restrictions on what they spend it on. We take the approach (with this as well as internet access etc) that we trust them until they prove us wrong then we will stomp on them from a great height. Touch wood not much stomping so far.

They have assigned chores that are not directly connected to the money. I guess if they didn't do their chores we could pull some money but TBH there are better levers.

Although some of the chores are there just so they participate in the household (taking out bins/recycling etc), we also require them to make lunch/dinner or go shopping for the family periodically. The main reason is so that they're reasonably self sufficient when they eventually fly/get pushed from the coop.

None of them actually earn money yet (as in from outside family and friends) although only the eldest would be technically legal. He does have a regular job in the voluntary sector which gives him most of the discipline skills having a job entails.

I would say that they're all fairly aware of the cost of things. I'm not so convinced that they're sufficiently aware of the value of things. Maybe that's hard to do unless you've either genuinely lived on your earnings or struggled for money.


I have kids, but they are still too young to set any rules.

When I was younger, I didn't have any allowances at all. I was lucky to get bought what I needed and wanted as long as it made reasonable sense, e.g. books, clothes or toys which kids in my age would have, but I did not get everything. For a while we didn't have any TV at all, then only one for all of us. I never had a NES, playstation, etc... and I had to "work" on my parents for more than 1 year for us to get the first PC. If I got money from my grandparents or other family members, then it was put on my savings account which was put aside, where I didn't really had access to.

I was also lucky that my parents paid my studies afterwards. This would also cover going out, small vacations, etc... I assume as long as reasonable. Whatever I earned in side projects/work was my personal money, and wouldn't be deducted from what my parents gave me. This kept me very much motivated to work on my own projects and gave me the opportunity to start my own company afterwards.


I'm a parent of two boys (16 and 10) and I'd strongly, strongly advice tying it to chores and then using it to teach that performance matters. Do a good job? You get your allowance. Do a bad job? Sorry; no allowance. Saving is a hard skill to learn as is that performance matters. An allowance is a great way to teach both.


I have been told the opposite. Kids should learn to do chores as part of living in a house, not to be paid.


Meh, chores should be just part of regular home life. Everyone should clean their dishes or whatever without any financial incentive.


then what happens when you're an adult and you don't get paid for chores? :D. Will you do them?


We started giving our kids money to spend on a comic or similar at the corner shop as soon as they were old enough to handle it. From school age they had regular pocket money that they could save or spend. This was mostly not tied to chores, which were expected anyway, though we did give them opportunity to earn extra for doing extra chores when they were saving for something significant. From early teens we gave them a monthly allowance intended to cover clothes as well as spending money. I would say that they've turned out very good with everyday money and also very helpful about the house. They are all grown up now.


I had a meger allowance of 0.25 USD per week. At the time, in my cohort, it was below average but at least it was something.

What really benefited me was having a before school newspaper delivery job. I felt a responsibility to my employer and the subscribers and would get up early in the dark to walk though the cold Detroit winters to deliver papers every day.

In retrospect, it was just the right level of challenge and reward for me as a kid. I saved enough money to buy some things I wanted as a kid: a new bike, a tennis racket, and a slide rule!


> a slide rule

Now that is interesting! Care to share the story behind that?


I used that yellow Pickett slide rule from junior high school through my EE degree at MIT. It was a yellow Pickett model N4 (http://www.sliderule.ca/pickett.htm).

The slide rule was a wonderful thing for me. I got the idea that I would like having one from the book Have Spacesuit--Will Travel, by Robert Heinlein, a book I read when I was around twelve. The paper route a couple of years later gave me enough money that I could buy one.

Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, there were no computers used in everyday life. The slide rule was the only practical way to perform calculations quickly, sadly to only 3 significant digits. An important skill taught in High School back then was using tables of logarithms and trig functions to perform calculations (with this approach one can easily get 5 significant digits of accuracy). I still have my CRC handbook of Mathematics that I bought for myself in High School, I learned a lot by studying each formula and each kind of reference table in that book.

I taught myself to program from a book on Fortran in 1967. I was able to submit programs punched on cards to a friend who would run the program on the School district's single computer used in their administration building. A couple of days later I would get my listing back!

Like the TI Calculators today, slide rules were ubiquitous in my engineering classes. Although I went to college in 1969, I've taken classes at the local University as recently as ten years ago for fun. I brushed up on my long unused differential equations and learned some new things, a Graduate course on Combinatorics.

It's very interesting to see the difference between my approach to working through problems and the methods used by other students in my differential equations class. They would almost invariably reach for the calculator to work through a complex expression, entering each term and finally coming up with the answer. By habit, I normally simplify, factor and reduce the complex expressions before doing any arithmetic. The younger students are masters of the calculator; I'm not very fast with a calculator. I just never had access to a calculator while in school and never gained the proficiency of today's typical college students.

I've got an advanced TI calculator sitting in a drawer (and the old slide rule stashed somewhere in the house), but I never really use it. If I need to do some quick calculation my preferred method is to simply fire up the Python REPL in a terminal window.


Growing up I initially had tiny regular allowance, which gradually became tied to specific weekly chores & subsequently bigger. As parent myself now I think approach works well, as it balances "I'm giving you this $ because I love and support you" and "hard work should be rewarded"


Don't have kids, but heard of a cool company doing something tangential: Current (current.com)

> The debit card for teens (and parents)

> – Automates chores and allowances

> – Notifies you about spending

> – Works with your bank


Tools for snooping in on your kid's spending is an instant ugh reaction from me.


I used to think so too, then I had kids :)

One interesting approach is to use snooping tools but to then explicitly tell the kids and to discuss the results periodically. I.e., "my job as a parent is to help you figure out how to be a grown up. Part of that is managing money. I noticed you spent money on X and wanted to talk about it"

I think for the 'cellphone based GPS-tracking' there was also an explicit rule that the parents wouldn't get the kids in trouble for information gathered from the GPS tracking. They might talk to them about it afterwards, but they wanted the kids to be willing to not circumvent the device for safety purposes.

But yeah - it's weird how it both ughs me out and at the same time scratches a deep itch/fear that I'll still be able to keep my kids safe even as they age.


Keeping your kids safe at all costs isn't good parenting. It encourages suffocating closeness and loss of independence. The point isn't to get your child to the age of 22 without getting criticized for it. The point is to provide the necessary conditions for a successful adult to form.

>"my job as a parent is to help you figure out how to be a grown up. Part of that is managing money. I noticed you spent money on X and wanted to talk about it"

This will teach children to spend like someone's watching. It's external motivation, and it's likely counterproductive IMO. Better, in my opinion, is to let them find out the natural consequences of spending money - that is, not having it for other purposes, or needing to do things to get more money.


> The point is to provide the necessary conditions for a successful adult to form.T

+1000

When I grew up it was routine for children to deceive their parents, especially about stuff like friends, smoking, drugs, drinking, sex etc. The assumed parental answer was always no so if you did any of that stuff you had to hide it. It was amazingly easy, we (four brothers) lead our secret lives and the parents mostly had no idea. There are problems with this: if the child gets in a bind there is no way they can ask for advice or help; if the parent finds out and overreacts badly it can seriously damage the relationship. I have a stepfather who I've never contacted since leaving home partly due to this.

Raising our son my wife and I agreed (mostly) that there is no practical way to completely control a _person_ and that trying to do so would just make him hide things from us. We thought the best we could do was to try to instill decent values and good judgment and to avoid useless opposition. This was a bit scary sometimes, "good judgment" and "14 year old boy" are not an obvious combination. He has turned out really well. It may have been just good luck, but I like to think that we avoided a lot of the mistakes our own parents made and that it helped.

As for allowance, we tried to pick a reasonable basic amount for the age and set no conditions. He could earn extra by doing extra work around the house. We also set up "Bank of Dad" where he could save money and get a good return. Learning how to make choices was definitely part of the plan.

Chores were not optional but were not tied to allowance. This was not completely satisfactory as he often delayed chores more than we liked unless cajoled into it somehow. I do this too sometimes.


This always puts it into a bit of perspective for me.

We'd had, say, 99999 generations of people precede us.

For 1 generation, we've felt that a vital component of every parent-child relationship is actually the United States Air Force Space Command and their array of 24 orbiting spaceships enabling us to pinpoint and record the geographical position of radio tracking devices in our childrens' pockets, via a world-spanning ground-based civilian telecommunications network.


Well, sure, but we've also had 99999 generations where things like 'infant mortality rate' is a very real, everyday concern, too. Here in the US, those in the middle-upper classes basically don't have to worry about that.

Think about it this way - it's 5pm. Your late-elementary school kid is always home by 3pm, or else they've texted/called you to let you know where they are. Today they didn't. It's 5pm. Things are probably fine, but you live in a city and sometimes bad things happen. Wouldn't you rather have a way of checking in, just to make yourself feel better?

We have these nice, new technologies that are changing how we live. Networked, pocket computer we keep calling 'phones'; data center clusters you can rent by the minute for your distributed applications; I could go on and on and I'm sure you can, too. Of course we're going to look at ways that we can parent differently, just like we're looking at different approaches to business, medicine, etc.

I think what's really interesting about this isn't a simple, binary yes/no on whether to do it, but the possibilities it opens up. It makes for an interesting discussion, if nothing else.


Train them for serfdom while they are young


And the alternative is what? Financial innumeracy is a pretty big problem even for people with steady jobs and decent incomes.


It's been my (anecdotal) experience that my peers whose parents tightly controlled/supervised their finances as kids had a bad time when the training wheels came off, while those who had to rely on themselves for discipline (or else be broke for a while) were much more responsible.


The app gamifies the uber style serfconomy for kids

However teaching children to do chores out of respect/community, giving reasonable pocket money regardless of tasks achieved, and encourage entrepreneur ism to make more cash beyond that.


ffs. put down the internet and talk to your kids.


I don't have kids yet, but I just wanted to thank OP for starting such an interesting thread. Definitely bookmarking for future reference.




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