Whether or not to give your children an allowance is a decision many parents face. Divorced parents must make the decision both on their own, and together. Parenting and making these tough decisions on your own is difficult enough, add in consulting every decision with your ex, someone you no longer share a life with, well let’s just say things can get interesting.
Your feelings towards giving your child an allowance may differ greatly from those of your ex.
For example: You believe an allowance is an opportunity to help teach your child about the value of money. Your ex on the other hand feels an allowance is “spoiling” them.
In an effort to keep the peace it is important to lay it all out on the table and come to a mutual agreement.
Develop a Plan
Deciding to give your children an allowance is relatively minor compared to the other issues you may have with co-parenting your children. However, even smaller lessons such as an allowance should be dealt with, with a plan in place.
Depending on the level of “friendliness” between you and your ex you may want to sit down and establish the basis of the allowance.
- When to start giving it
- How often to give it
- How much to give
- How it should be spent
- When to Start
Hopefully there will be a few points you agree on and some you can compromise about.
This decision is probably easier than you think. When you’re out shopping together, do your children ask you to buy them things? Walk through most stores and you’ll hear, “Mommy, buy me that toy,” or “Daddy, get me a candy bar.” Since these requests typically begin when your children are preschoolers, this is a good clue that they’re ready to handle money. In fact, child psychologists confirm that pre-schoolers are beginning to understand the value of money, and they agree this is a good time to start giving an allowance.
Since most pre-schoolers don’t understand how to be patient, it’s a good idea to start them out with an allowance once a week. As your children get older, you can decide together how often allowance should be given.
An important thing to remember is to always give allowance to your children on time. For example, if you’ve committed to paying your children at 5:00 p.m. every other Friday, make sure you don’t deviate from that schedule. This shows the importance of an allowance and following through on your obligation. Better yet it begins to teach them that hard work can earn them a steady paycheck.
This one gets most families every time. For example you feel $10 / week is a fair amount for your 10 year old while your ex says that’s way too much. You explain how the child will be taught to spend, save, and donate the money and that $10 works well with this system. Your ex says they can’t give $10 / week on their weeks with the kids and says they’ll just blow the money anyway.
To determine how much allowance is appropriate and fair consider:
- Your children’s age
- How much money you have available to give
- What your children will be expected to pay for with the allowance
You might even talk with other parents who have children the same age to see how much allowance they give. It doesn’t mean, however, that you have to give the same amount. Do what’s best for you and your situation.
The needs of young children are relatively small, so their allowance amount should reflect that. Consider giving pre-schoolers no more than $1 to pay for special treats like toys or candy. As your children get older, however, it’s important to reevaluate their allowance amount. A good thing to remember is your plan isn’t set in stone. You can make adjustments as you go. Showing your children that you’re flexible and understanding goes a long way in establishing good communication.
It’s important to set expectations about how your children’s allowance should be spent. Early on, you might consider having your children pay for:
- Video Games
- Birthday presents for friends
As your children get older, an increase in allowance should correspond with an increase in responsibility related to their spending plan. You might want to add on:
- Vacation spending money
- After school snacks
Remember that an allowance is a mechanism to teach your children about the value of money. Some parents don’t believe it’s a good idea to use it as a reward or punishment in areas such as:
- Household chores. Doing household chores can be a way to teach and exhibit family responsibility. Some parents prefer to take away a privilege, such as after school telephone or television time, if chores aren’t performed.
- Schoolwork. Some parents believe withholding allowance isn’t an effective tool to teach study habits. They might define a study time immediately after school before anything else can be done.
Remember that an allowance plan is something that can change over time as you and your children’s needs change. You may find that the amount of money you’re giving is insufficient to meet the needs you’ve established previously. It’s all right to make changes as you go. Be sure to sit down with your children and your ex to make the changes together. It’s a good idea to write down what you decide so there’s no confusion later on.
Preparing an allowance plan will help your children understand the value of money and establish a lifelong pattern of good money and debt management.
How do you and your ex make allowance decisions?
The Divorce Coach Says
Oh my! My kids used to drive me crazy with requests to buy “stuff” in stores. As a defense mechanism I played this mental game to see if we could make in and out of a store without a request. That’s when we started and our guideline was a their age multiplied by $1 per month . Then of course, the question became, “Do you have your money with you?” And now with my 19 year-old the question is, “Isn’t it time to stop the allowance?”
Suzanne Cramer is a Certified Personal Finance Counselor.
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