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Mediocre Mom Manual: Kids’ Allowance – Why My Son Doesn’t Get A Dime!

kids and allowance

So my son has been hounding me to come up with a list of things he can do to earn money.

He would like to amass wads of cash—not to give away to a local shelter or buy something nice for the mother who cares for him 24/7 or even to save up for a really big item that would be beneficial for a boy his age (say a new mattress for his bed or efficient lighting by which to study)

No, my son would like wads of cash to purchase games for his XBOX 360. This cursed thing has become my kryptonite, closing in on my other arch nemesis, his iPod Touch. Buying video games and new Apps is now the sole reason my son wants to engage in any sort of physical labor or has even a slight interest in performing a duty with a purpose.

My son needs this list of money earning activities because he doesn’t receive an allowance. Although he is 11, we haven’t started the allowance thing for a number of reasons. For one, I don’t feel right about giving him money to do chores. In my opinion, chores are things you do because you are part of a family and everyone has to pull their own weight. Dishes, vacuuming, putting your laundry away, wiping the dust from the baseboards, these are all things I feel my kids should do because I let them live here. No one pays me to cook dinner and pick my underwear up off the floor, why should my kids be any different?

The opposite side of that argument is I also don’t feel like I should give my kids money just to give them money. I’m not going to fork over twenties simply because other parents are doing it or to teach them the “value of a dollar,” or any other rhetorical crap parents use these days. You know when it comes right down to it and Johnny is short $1.23, most parents will chip in the remainder, thereby defeating the purpose of managing money to begin with. Allowance these days doesn’t really seem to teach kids anything. Besides, last I looked nobody was handing me money for the freedom of it, so there you go.

I want my kids to earn the money somehow, but not by doing chores. This means I need to come up with a list of activities and the dollar values associated with each. I don’t want the kid to have to shovel snow for 50 cents an hour, but also don’t think that clearing the front walk is worth 10 bucks. As much as I complain about all the things there are to do around my house, I’m really having trouble coming up with a list of things for my son to do.

I know. You all envision me wearing a black pointy hat and cackling an evil cackle while figuring out new ways to torture my son. That’s okay. He envisions me this way too. But honestly, the allowance or no allowance debate is troubling. He’s growing up and is going to want to have money to purchase things. But I feel like I purchase everything he needs—and let’s face it, most of what he wants—so why does he need to walk around with wads of extra cash? The kids I knew in middle school and high school who had money to burn didn’t do anything particularly constructive with it, didn’t save for their college education or put it in a retirement fund or even invest in the stock market; they mostly used it for well, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and a daily 44 oz thirst buster. The last thing my son needs is 44 oz of soda everyday.

My son is willing to work for spending money, but in typical pre-teen fashion wants the most reward for the smallest effort. We can’t seem to agree on prices for anything.

“Hey son, would you like to earn some money?”

“How much?” he asks.

“Does it matter?” I ask. “You’re always on me to find you jobs to earn money. Here’s your chance.”

“Fine,” he says, “what’s the job?”

“Dad would like you to pick up all the sticks in the yard and then move the mulch in the front yard to the back.”

“How much?” he asks again.

“Five dollars,” I reply.

“Five dollars!” he exclaims. “For all that work? How about we make it ten?”

This is the point in the conversation where I deep sigh and bang my head against the wall. We’re talking about maybe 30 minutes of labor. Easy labor. And wages that average ten bucks an hour. I’m figuring that’s pretty generous.

“Five bucks or nothing,” I say.

“Fine. I’ll pass then.” He tells me.

Fine. He must not want that video game that badly.

I know he’s upset because many of his friends have ample money with dollars to spare. Many middle schoolers these days carry around fives, tens, and twenties in their wallets. They ask for money, they receive money. No labor necessary (but maybe a little whining).

I’ve even gone online to find out what the going rate for allowance is these days. Most places suggested one dollar for each year of age, each week. So, my 11-year-old would get $11 each week. That’s $44 a month. He doesn’t drive, doesn’t work, doesn’t buy his own clothes. What does he need $44 a month for? More video games and Apps? So he can then be more focused on a screen and less engaged in his schoolwork and family, giving me one more thing to yell about?

For now, I’m holding tight. We are still a no allowance family, and if my children want extra money to spend they’ll have to do some extra jobs to earn it.

But am I alone? How many of you give your kids allowance? Do they have to do chores for that allowance or is it “free” money?

If they do have to work for it, how do you figure out what each job is worth? Or are you (gasp) one of those parents who gives their kids money “just because?”

Let the debate begin!

Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.








  1. nordea

    April 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

    i never got an allowance, and i turned out ok. yes, my parents provided the necessary items. the things i WANTED (not needed) were given for christmas and birthdays. my parents had the same thoughts….as a part of the family, we all needed to pitch in around the house, and not expect to be paid for it.

    i started babysitting at the age of 12 to earn extra bucks, and when i turned 14, i got a work permit and a “real” job. i definately learned the true value of money this way, and was very selective about what i spent my few pennies on.

    currently, i own my own biz making handmade soap. i cannot believe how many parents pull out money for their kids just because they want something. last wknd i was selling my wares at a local market, i overheard a little girl (maybe 8 or 9 yrs old) ask her father for a lip balm. he told her that she could use her own money if she wanted it. she carefully pulled out $5 from her pocket to buy the lip balm. i have no idea if this was birthday money, allowance, or what. but i know that little girl will cherish that lip balm, probably will not lose it, and the best part is that she knows that money does not grow on trees (or magically appear in her parents’ pockets.) it was nice to witness.
    so yeah, i vote for no allowance!!

  2. m.e. johnson

    April 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    When I was a kid there was no money for an allowance. In my friends families too. At 12, I starched and ironed Mom’s and her coworkers’ uniforms (they were waitresses). At 12, 13, 14, I walked rich ladies’ foo=foo dogs. At 16 I dipped ice cream. That is hard work.

    You say you “let him live in” your house. Does he feel like it’s his house too? Also, he didn’t ask to be born. That was your choice. Anyway, maybe he should look for jobs outside the family. That way he will learn that “bidness is bidness”. He will learn the difference between what he thinks he’s worth and what he’s really worth (not talking about self-of-steam, talking about money). I feel for your dilemma and am soooo glad I don’t have children in this day.

  3. kt moxie

    April 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    And… to come out on the other side…

    I give my 7-year-old a $5 dollar a week allowance. For that, she has to feed the dog every day and set the dinner table every night (I know — easy stuff. remember — only 7!). We decided to go with an allowance because I was sick of the nickel-and-diming each time we would go out somewhere. “Can I have one of those?” “What about that?”

    So, now — we do exactly what nordea described with the dad, daughter and lip balm. She wants it? She can use her own money. Currently, daddy gave her a saving challenge: If she gets to $90, then he’ll give her the last $10 to get to $100. She already has more than $50 saved. She is learning the value of a dollar, and she does her chores without a fuss because she knows her allowance is dependent on it.

  4. Marian

    August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I didn’t get an allowance growing up either, but there were extra chores (in addition to the chores I was expected to do as a member of the family) I could do to earn a little money. There was a list on the fridge and I could choose to do or not do them, at my preference. My recollection is that they mostly had to do with doing my parents’ laundry for them. 50 cents a load, washed, dried folded and put away. Or I could iron my dad’s work shirts. They had to be properly starched and ironed and pass inspection before he would hand over 25 cents per shirt, lol… Maybe if you made up a list of something you’d rather not do and assign how much you’re willing to pay for it and hang it up and just tell your son to let you know if he’s interested. If not, things continue like they are.

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