Allowances work as lessons about money and responsibility

August 11, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Clean your bedroom, help with the dishes, take out the trash. ...

Some children get paid an allowance for doing these chores and others are expected to do them as part of their family responsibility.

Allowance plans varied among several youths and parents interviewed recently at Valley Mall in Halfway. A steady, weekly allowance wasn't necessarily a given. Some parents paid what they called an "allowance" occasionally when children did chores beyond expectation.

Children interviewed said they received payments from parents or grandparents ranging from 50 cents a chore to $50 a month. Payment didn't necessitate chores being done in every instance.


Amy Nathan, author of "The Kids' Allowance Book," said allowance plans vary and often aren't always successful.

"Whatever system you set up, often it fails. (The kids) don't do the chores or (parents) forget to give them the money," said Nathan, who covered the "allowance beat" for Zillions, a now-defunct Consumer Reports kids magazine.

Getting started

Setting up an allowance is a great idea, especially around the beginning of a school year. Allowances generally are good for children ages 7 to 13, possibly younger if the child is interested in money and wants to buy something, Nathan said. Fewer youths get an allowance as they enter the teen years because older youths have jobs such as baby-sitting, so they don't need that money as much from mom and dad.

Nathan's book, initially published in 1998 and released in paperback this year, is based on surveys of nearly 300 kids and interviews with parents and financial and psychological experts.

Allowance plans might change as children and parents negotiate rates and conditions. Those negotiating and problem-solving skills will come in handy when the child becomes a teen and bigger issues are at hand, Nathan said.

At the start, parents should determine why it is they want to give an allowance, she said.

An allowance is a good way to teach a child how to manage and be responsible with a small amount of money, Nathan said.

Kids might at first spend the money on something cheaply made.

"Let them buy it with their money and find out it's a piece of junk. That will make an incredible impression on them," Nathan said.

Once they are spending their hard-earned money, not their parents' money, they will become more careful and comparison shop, she said.

Tied to chores?

Up until high school graduation, Brittany Ray, 18, of Hagerstown, earned $5 a week for taking the trash out, keeping her room clean, emptying the dishwasher and making the bed, said her mother Karen Manganaro.

Brittany started receiving an allowance in the third grade, when she earned 25 cents a chore, her mother said.

Allowance taught Brittany to manage money and provided spending money for things Manganaro sometimes wouldn't buy, such as comic books and gum, Manganaro said. Her daughters also have chores unassociated with allowance.

Brittany's sister, Sabrina Manganaro, 7, doesn't have a regular allowance yet, but Brittany occasionally gives her a quarter for helping her big sister unload the dishwasher.

Whitney Benedict, 11, of Williamsport, began earning an allowance about five months ago. She receives $10 a week for vacuuming the living room and upstairs every week, washing the dishes occasionally, making her bed and cleaning her room.

If Whitney wants money for something, she knows she has to earn it, said her mom, Candy Saunders.

The surveys Nathan used for her book showed that most families tied chores to allowance.

How they did so varied.

Some parents had specific chores for the kids to do routinely while others provided a list of chores for children to choose from, she said. The work was more likely to get done when kids chose the chores, she said.

Nathan said the psychologists she interviewed preferred allowances not tied to chores. Youths get money because they are a member of the family and they do have family responsibilities, but the money isn't tied to a certain amount of work a week.

Punishment for not doing a chore is not related to money because money can be an explosive issue, she said.

Allowance or payment

Billie Smith of Chambersburg, Pa., said her children don't get paid for doing what they're "supposed" to do because they get room and board and the necessities of life.

If they do what they are supposed to, plus extra, they can earn money or extra privileges.

When Smith's son Catlynn Serfass, 12, cleaned his room and then also vacuumed the house - without being asked - he was allowed to go to a friend's house to go swimming, Smith said.

When he wanted spending money for a trip to see late-model car races, he did extra chores such as helping to put up a new shed, Smith said.

Catlynn is expected to clean his room and takes turns with his sister, Kari Smith, 17, taking out the trash and filling and emptying the dishwasher.

Nathan said a regular allowance, rather than payment for extra chores, allows a child to know there is money coming in on a regular basis. This lets the youth plan to save money for something they want.

Smith said her children are still able to plan and save ahead of time.

"There are certain things in life expected of you, certain responsibilities you need to take care of in life," Smith said.

By letting her children know what is expected of them each week, and if they do something extra they get extra privileges or money, she is preparing them for adulthood and the real world, she said.

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