Allowance is discussed frequently in parenting circles. Do you give an allowance? If so, when do you start? How much do you give? Do your children have to earn the money? What are their responsibilities? (What do they have to buy?) In this edition of the Boco Learning Newsletter I answer these questions and more!

Money Management is one of seven aspects of a Boco Mathematics Lifestyle and I have done a lot of thinking about the topic. I have also worked with my children for years and this is what I think works best., Boco Math, Money


Consider first the purpose of the allowance. Here are some reasons parents consider giving their children an allowance:

  • To gain familiarity with money
  • To practice math that matters
  • To develop financial responsibility
  • To empower kids to decide what is important to purchase
  • To motivate kids to get a job
  • To become economically shrewd, a critical consumer

Those are all things that my husband and I discussed, too. I also read about what other people do. 

Do you give an allowance? 

Yes. We give an allowance.

If so, when do you start? 

We started when our kids started asking us to buy them toys and candy at the store. My daughter was three years old; my son was five years old.

How much do you give?

We started by following a rule of thumb: give $1 per year of age. So my three year old was getting $3 per week and my five year old received $5 per week. 

After a while we determined that $3 per week was a little lean, making it extremely difficult to save, so after a year we bumped her to match her brother. 

It has been a few years and our circumstances dictate that we continue to only give $5 to each kid every week, despite the fact that they are older now.

Do your children have to earn the money? 

This is a two-part answer. 

In short, no. We decided to give them $5 per week every week no matter what. It isn’t tied to behavior because we believe that behavior is a mode of communication and undesirable behavior indicates that our child needs support. It isn’t tied to chores because chores are a necessary part of being human; they are members of the family so they need to help around the house.

They can earn extra money though. We recently implemented a “It Makes Cents to Help Without Being Asked” bonus. If they do their chores without prompting then they earn extra. Each chore is worth 10 cents. They clear the table, sweep the floor, do their laundry, carry their things upstairs, put away dishes, take out the recycling, pick up toys, etc.

What do we do differently? 

Our kids essentially get a salary plus a bonus. They don't have to earn allowance by doing chores but they can earn extra by doing chores without being asked.

What are their responsibilities? (What do they have to buy?)

I provide junk food and ice cream at the house. So they have to buy from the vending machines at the neighborhood pool. I have a budget for birthday gifts for their friends but they can add on if they want. I have a budget for their clothes but they can buy extra if they want. 

There are only two things that are off-limits (so far): 1) there is a $5/week limit on Apps; and 2) they are not allowed to purchase the over-priced ice cream from sketchy-looking ice cream truck that sometimes loops through the neighborhood. 


Following this plan for allowance has gotten me the results I had hoped for. I feel confident that they will become increasingly competent and responsible as they grow up. But these are the favorite successes I’ve seen:

  1. Motivation: They both are interested in having jobs and getting paid for their contribution. The more often they try on their entrepreneurial hats, the more they learn about how they want to contribute to the world.
  2. Public Speaking: I love listening to them talk to salespeople. They are practicing asking for help, bargaining, etc.
  3. Wants vs. Needs: Because they purchase toys for themselves, they choose what is the most important thing and what can wait until later.
  4. Giving Thoughtful Gifts: My children choose gifts to give at holidays and birthday celebrations. I think they are good at this because they have had to weigh decisions about what to buy for themselves.

Do you give your children an allowance?  If so, when did you start? How much do you give? Do your children have to earn the money? I’d love to hear your answers, too! Reply in the Comments.

Featured Books

I have seen a half a dozen lists of 20 pictures (or more) purporting to have everything you need to learn about money. You can certainly dive deep or snowball to related topics. But you can get at the basics with this handful of books:

Coin Counting by Rozanne Lanczak Williams

Coin Counting,, Boco Math

The Coin Counting Book is the perfect introduction to counting, addition, and identifying American money. From one penny to one-dollar readers will learn the various coins, their mathematical relationships, and how to add them all together once their piggybanks are full.  Detailed photos of real money against colorful and bold backgrounds depict each coin along with their value. Rozanne Lanczak Williams’ simple rhyming text makes coin recognition, addition, and skip-counting fun and approachable for readers new to counting and currency.

The Know-Nonsense Guide to Money: An Awesomely Fun Guide to the World of Finance by Heidi Fielder, Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

Know-Nonsense Money,, Boco Math

This easy-to-read guide is packed with simple definitions, memorable examples, and funny illustrations to make the way we use currency throughout the world something anyone can understand. With each turn of the page you'll learn a new basic concept about money, including earningsaving, spending, and borrowing, and will also discover the tools needed to develop good money-management habits

With a lighthearted approach, The Know-Nonsense Guide to Money turns serious and important topics into concepts that are approachable and fun for everyone. You'll love learning so much, you might even laugh out loud!

Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock by Sheila Blair, Illustrated by Barry Gott

Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock,, Boco Math

Rock and Brock may be twins, but they are as different as two twins can be. One day, their grandpa offers them a plan―for ten straight weeks on Saturday he will give them each one dollar. But there is a catch! “Listen now, for here’s the trick, each buck you save, I’ll match it quick. But spend it, there’s no extra dough, so save your cash, and watch it grow.” Rock is excited―there are all sorts of things he can buy for one dollar! So each week he spends his money on something different―an inflatable moose head, green hair goo, white peppermint wax fangs. But while Rock is spending his money, Brock is saving his. And each week when Rock gets just one dollar, Brock’s savings get matched. By the end of summer, Brock has five hundred and twelve dollars, while Rock has none. When Rock sees what his brother has saved, he realizes he has made a mistake. But Brock shows him that it is never too late to start saving.

If You Made a Million by David M Schwartz, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

If You Made a Million,, Boco Math

Have you ever wanted to make a million dollars? Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician is ready, willing, and able to explain the nuts and bolts -- as well as the mystery and wonder -- of earning money, investing it, accruing dividends and interest, and watching savings grow. Hey, you never know!

An ALA Notable Book A Horn Book Fanfare Selection A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year A Teachers' Choices Selection

[Note from Julie: Look closely to see how the character earns money on each page.]

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B Williams

A Chair for My Mother,, Boco Math

After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy. A Chair for My Mother has sold more than a million copies and is an ideal choice for reading and sharing at home and in the classroom. "A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family."—The Horn Book

[Note from Julie: This is a simple and sweet book, more about the spirit of saving for something special than the nuts and bolts of money math.]

For Extra Credit read this book about the History of Money:

One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent by Bonnie Worth, Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz

One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent,, Boco Math

THE CAT IN the Hat puts to rest any notion that money grows on trees in this super simple look at numismatics, the study of money and its history. Beginning with the ancient practice of bartering, the Cat explains various forms of money used in different cultures, from shells, feathers, leather, and jade to metal ingots to coins (including the smallest—the BB-like Indian fanam—and the largest—the 8-foot-wide, ship-sinking limestone ones from the Islands of Yap!), to the current king of currency, paper. Also included is a look at banking, from the use of temples as the first banks to the concept of gaining or paying interest, and a step-by-step guide to minting coins. A fascinating introduction is bound to change young reader’s appreciation for change! 

Local to Boulder County? Find these books at the library. 

I've made it easy for you to place holds at the library here:

No one should slave over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.

Get started for free today.


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