How to Tie Chores to an Allowance

Young boy helps mom with washing chores
Getting kids into the routine of helping with household chores early will make the process more fun. (Photo:

Do you give your kids an allowance? Do they have to complete certain chores to get it?

These are interesting questions and ones that come up frequently in my own circle of friends who have children. When and how you should start giving your child an allowance and whether or not you tie that allowance to chores is as individual as the kids themselves. There is no one formula that will work for every kid or every family.

A 2012 survey of 2,000 parents nationwide found that the vast majority of parents — 89 percent of them — assign chores to their children. Only 51 percent though, give their kids an allowance. And among the allowance payers, just 21 percent tied the payouts to chores. Forty-seven percent of parents indicated that they provide allowance as a way to teach their kids how to handle money, but not in connection with chores. Most unpaid kids don't go unrewarded though. Additional computer or TV time were listed as popular non-monetary rewards for chore completion.

Fast forward to 2019, and the numbers are much, much different. Children now earn an average of $30 a week for allowance, according to a survey by the American Institute of CPAs, which is up from $17 a week in 2016. The telephone survey included about 1,000 adults and found that 86% said kids should get an allowance, and 52% said it should be tied to chores. Only 3% of the parents said their kids saved any of the money, which alarmed the CPAs who commissioned the survey.

If you're considering assigning chores or paying your kids an allowance, here are a few helpful rules to follow:

chore chart
A good chore chart can keep things clear. (Photo: maryfrancesmain [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)

Start young. The sooner you help your kids understand the value of a dollar the better. My youngest starting getting an allowance when she was 5. Granted, it wasn't much, but it was enough to give her a sense of what things cost and what she could afford.

How much? To decide how much money to give your kids, experts suggest thinking about how much your child might reasonably spend in a week on items that you are okay with her purchasing but don't wish to pay for. For little kids, think small toys or candy; for bigger kids think computer games, music and clothes.

Managing the money. Don't just hand over a wad of cash each week and expect your kids to know how much to spend on frivolous stuff and how much to sock away for larger purchases. Help your kids set financial goals by splitting up their allowance into two or three allotments. Both of my girls put a portion of their allowance into the bank for savings, a portion into an envelope that will go to charity, and the remainder in their wallets for day-to-day spending. (The CPAs would be proud!)

Walk the walk. The best way to teach kids how to manage their own money is to help them understand how you manage yours. If a kid is old enough for an allowance, he's old enough to know how much you are socking away for summer vacation, how much the groceries cost each week or why purchasing the latest game will eat away at your other funds.