What Caused Me to Kill My Kids’ Allowance?

RIPAllowanceLast week we held our annual family meeting (details were given out in our June newsletter, which you can still receive by entering your email in the box to the right on our site), and I threw a surprise on the table that shocked everyone: I told them that there would be no allowance paid this summer. I’ll admit, it was a spur of the moment decision. Tracie and I didn’t talk about it before hand. I just sprung it on them because it felt like the right thing to do. I’ll describe how I got there – maybe you’ll agree with me on this one. One of the big agenda items we have each year for our summer planning meeting is the “Jobs and Chores” discussion. This summer, all three kids are old enough (and skilled enough) to do all of the big jobs around here. I listed them out:

  • Mow the lawn and weed whip as needed (2x / week?)
  • Re-edge along the entire driveway
  • Weed ornamental gardens and apply fresh mulch
  • Spread grass seed, fertilizer, weed killer, etc
  • Trim shrubs and remove all of the volunteer trees springing up

I told the kids that these were big jobs. They could take all summer, and were certainly worth hundreds of dollars each if I wanted to hire someone else to do them. Instead, I would give them a chance to do these jobs instead, and earn some money.

No more allowance

They were really excited about this chance to earn some money this summer. That’s when I dropped the first surprise: their regular allowances would be suspended for the summer. “Your regular full-time job the last nine months has been being a high school student. This summer, you’re on vacation from that job, but I think that you can devote 10-20 hours each week to a new job. This will leave you with a lot of spare time to have fun, and also gives you an opportunity to really increase your income for the next three months.” I got mixed reactions from this. The twinkle in Tracie’s eyes told me she thought it was brilliant. Two of the kids started planning what they would do with their extra money. The third asked if he needed to bid at all, because he didn’t want any jobs this summer. We’re still working on that one.

But wait, there’s another twist: Bidding

Then I told them that they would be bidding on these jobs. Low bidder gets the job. For each job, I gave them a maximum bid – the most I would pay – and then asked them to write down their bids and submit them. This was actually a pretty fun game. The lawn mowing was the most coveted job – and the most aggressively bid. It went for half of the maximum. I had to disqualify one bid, for the weeding and mulching – the amount was too low, and I doubted that the bidder had the work ethic to complete the job. In the end, everyone got at least one job – even the slacker. This will mean about a 30% cut in his allowance for the summer. The other two will see a big increase in their income this summer, assuming they complete their jobs.

Lessons learned

One of the things that we worry about in the way that we manage our kids’ allowance is that it’s not teaching them the value of work. Sure they each have chores during the school year, but honestly those chores take 3o minutes a day or less. If you look at the total amount of their monthly allowance against the work they’re putting in, these kids are WAY overpaid. This is why we don’t tie their allowance to chores; it would be an unrealistic wage for such an easy set of jobs. This summer, they’ll get an honest picture of what their labor is worth – and they’ll also see that if you’re willing to put in more effort (taking on more jobs) that you’ll earn considerably more as a result. That’s the plan, anyway. What are you doing this summer to keep your kids busy? Are you changing the way you’re paying out allowance for the summer?

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  • Nice! I love the concept of having the kids bid against each other, I might have to try that on my boys!

    • I have to say, we were surprised at how it all went down. There was far more strategy than we’d anticipated and in the week since the meeting, the kids seem much more willing to complete the tasks they were “awarded” than they were when they were just regular chores covered by their standard (now suspended) allowance. Our yard has never looked so good!