How to Teach Your Kids About Money With An Allowance

Do you remember the financial lessons you learned from your parents or other close adults while growing up? No doubt your own financial habits and mindset are influenced to this day by the actions and attitudes you observed as a child. This is a good reminder that your adult behavior around money will most certainly affect your children and other young people who look up to you.

One great way to have a positive influence, even if you’re still on your own personal journey to financial security, is by paying an allowance. There is an ongoing debate about whether an allowance should be tied to household chores or not, but many people agree that it’s a great way to teach children about money and financial responsibility. Regardless of whether you believe children should work for their allowance or whether it should be a gift, here are some tips to make the most of this lesson for your kids.

Be consistent. One of the greatest things an allowance can do is teach your kids how to budget, which requires consistency of income. Whether you pay weekly, biweekly or even just monthly, do it on the same day and in the same amount so they understand the value of making their money last. Caving and paying kids early could be akin to payday loans, which is the exact opposite of what you want to teach your kids.

Help them set goals. This can help them see the value of skipping short-term wants, like candy, in exchange for reaching longer-term goals like a video game. One suggestion is to require kids to put one-third of their allowance into savings and one-third toward a charitable need like an animal shelter or church, with the remaining third available for immediate spending.

Introduce them to banking. Open a savings account for your child’s longer-term savings and show them how to check their balance online, pointing out how interest (however miniscule) accumulates, allowing their money to compound. This is also a great way to demonstrate that the ‘M’ in ATM doesn’t mean “magic.” That cash gets in there somehow!

What if you don’t have the money to pay an allowance? This was sometimes the case in my earlier years, but there are still ways to pass along the lessons even if you can’t pass along cash:

1. Use a grocery allowance. Allow your kids a certain amount of the grocery budget that they can spend on special treats or even for their breakfast foods, which you need to buy anyway. I’ll always remember watching a mom do this at the store. When her son selected an expensive yogurt smoothie, I heard her explain how that was a fine, healthy choice, but if he wanted that instead of the less expensive store brand yogurt for breakfast, he would have to put back the juice he had already chosen. The trade-off was tangible and clear.

2. Keep a written tab. If you don’t always have the cash available on allowance day, simply keep a written record by adding that week’s amount to your child’s tab and then when you buy something for them, subtract it from the tab. This isn’t a bad way to go even if you do have the funds as it’s closer to the way we are paid and spend money in modern times anyway.

3. Remember that it’s often more about the practice than the amount. Perhaps you can’t afford to pay the average $67.80 per month that’s the current going rate. Even just $5 a week can teach the lessons.

These are some great ways to use an allowance to raise financially responsible adults, but I know there are others out there. How do you teach your kids about money? Please let me know via Twitter at @kclmoneycoach or post on our Facebook page.

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