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Ask Rene: Allowance Argument

spending your allowance

Hey Rene:

We give our son Steve an allowance, usually for chores he does around the house. He’s 14 years old and gets $15 each week.

Steve is a good kid and gets good grades at school, but I don’t agree with how he spends his money.

He’ll buy fast food, video games and if he saves enough, very expensive gadgets. He doesn’t seem to understand the value of money or that he should save some money for the future.

When I tell him needs to use his money in a better way his response is “it’s my money, I can do with it what I want’.

So do I have the right to tell my son what to spend his allowance on – or is he right?

Allison, Losing the Allowance Argument


Hey Allison:

Thanks for writing, great letter! In fact, I go through this with my own kids. I do believe in paying allowance for work done around the house, but with that must come guidance, otherwise you’re going to be making up the budget shortfall that your future 25-year-old son is going to be faced with every month once he’s out of the house. So here’s what I would do.

EXPLAIN HOW THE REAL WORLD WORKS: Look at the world through the eyes of a kid. The refrigerator is typically full of food; there are clean clothes and an abundance of toys around. When mom and dad want money, they just walk right up to a machine; insert card and the thing spits out whatever they ask for. Even if they’re old enough to know the ATM concept, they may not have a solid understanding of how the money gets there (seriously), what goes into making it and how to make it last.

GIVE CONCRETE EXAMPLES: I’ll never forget the time my daughter came home from their version of home economics class with an assignment designed to teach students how to live within a budget. Guess how much their monthly income was? $6,000 per month. RIGHT OUT OF COLLEGE?! Who do you know and what sort of job did they get that they were able to step out of a cap and gown and waltz right into a gig paying $72,000.00 a year? So I sat her down and we planned a REALISTIC budget. We looked at ads for rent, plugged in amounts for car payments, clothing, food, entertainment and incidentals. It gave her a solid example of what she would need to live on. I think one of the issues for us as adults is that we have been doing this stuff for so long that we forget that someone had to teach us the very basics too.

BE THE PARENT: Okay, here’s the part of my talk where I’m gonna tell you to buck up. You signed your letter as “Losing the Allowance Argument”. Uh, no you aren’t. Remember these two facts; Steve is 14 and the payroll department begins and ends with you. That means you wield all sorts of power over him, his allowance and ultimately how he decides to spend it.

What he needs to be clear on is you ALLOW him to spend as he sees fit. Until now. Tell Steve that part of your job, as a parent is to prepare him for the future, one where you will not be looking over his shoulder or loaning money from the bank of mom indefinitely. It would be nice if he understood and accepted that without push back. But you need to stick to your guns, even if he doesn’t.

Good luck mommy!

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  1. m.e. johnson

    April 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Fifteen bucks? And he’s managing to save to buy expensive stuff? I’d say he’s doing quite well. And I agree with him on this; it’s HIS money. Rene, you have said yourself that once you give something to someone it is theirs to do with whatever they choose. If hubby gives wifey an “allowance”, does he get to dictate how she spends it?

  2. Rene Syler

    April 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    @m.e. yeah but a “wifey” who’s been through school and lives within a budget because she’s learned to do that (been taught) is different from a child who has not. It’s our responsibility to teach responsibility.

  3. Nicole

    April 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I have to agree wtih the son. Once you hand the money over it’s theirs. As long as he isnt’ coming back wanting more or a loan on his allowance he is doing good. I say leave him alone.

  4. m.e. johnson

    April 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Oh Rene, c’mon. Don’t you read about all the stupid thousands of debt ADULTS have accrued? Being adult does not guarantee good sense, common sense or any sense at all, especially with money. Not such a small percentage of the population either.

  5. Rene Syler

    April 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    @m.e. That is precisely my point. They need to be taught not only how to be good with money, but how to respect it and what to do with it. Of course there are many tragic cases of adults who mismanage money and once they get to adulthood without that foundation, well, many times it’s too late until the courts step in. Bottom line, kids need to be taught. I respect your take but we’re gonna disagree on this one. 🙂

  6. m.e. johnson

    April 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    And I yours. Most times I agree with your wisdoms. So let us take this mom… what is her saving method? Perhaps if he saw her walking the walk she wouldn’t be needing to talk the talk. xo

  7. Jennifer

    April 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    I have three kids. I’ll give them an allowance if they do chores, if not, they are sol. They have to manage their money wisely so if they want to buy a movie, I make them pay for it. If they want to buy books (yes, I said books), or video games or a gadget, they have to pay for it. It’s non-negotiable. The only time they get something without working for it is for Christmas or Birthday. End of story. In the name of responsible parenting, if I feel that they are giving me a reason to not trust them in their purchases? I’m all over them like a bulldog on a porkchop. That’s how I run things in my house and it works for me because I don’t have a spouse to defer to. It’s also my way of setting boundaries and teaching responsibility for the future when they leave the nest.

  8. Vanessa

    April 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    tell him when his name is on a lease/utility bill/car payment he can do what he wants with money you gave him…..

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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