The 100 Dollar Allowance Part II

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Read the The $100 Allowance, Part I here

Sweeter words a mother never heard: “Mom, can I have underwear for my birthday?”

When I laughed, she said, “I’m serious!”

And she was.

A year earlier, upon entering eigth grade, my 13-year-old requested a lump sum allowance of 100 dollars for the entire school year. She announced that, with this vast amount of cash, she wouldn’t need a dime more – for anything. She giddily wrote out the contract herself, and after much discussion, parents and daughter signed on the dotted line.

She was rich for exactly eight weeks, and poor for exactly eight months.

But her eight months of poverty were not all bad. In fact, they were very, very good.

Here’s what she learned:

1. To hustle. My daughter began to work. Never before was she so quick to accept a babysitting job and so anxious for the next opportunity to come along.

2. Creativity. With friends, she opted for free activities over those that cost money. At Christmas time, she made her own gifts for friends and family or bought them second-hand. We enjoyed them just as much or more.

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3. Frugality. My daughter didn’t want to buy a yearbook because it was too expensive. She stopped buying fast food on athletic trips and ate at home instead. She didn’t even want to go on her eighth grade trip to New York City because it would wipe out her cash reserve. In the end, she took a babysitting job with me, and we watched three children all weekend. (We both earned the trip, but only she got to spend two days on a bus with 26 other eighth graders. I suppose it all worked out?). She brought little spending money on the trip, something I felt conflicted about. The upside, though, was that she didn’t buy any junk food. The downside was that there were no cheap plastic souvenirs we could throw away a year later. Or maybe that was a plus, too? She did, however, create some pretty superb memories.

4. Independence. Gleeful to be responsible for her own finances, my daughter even looks more confident. Earning that New York City trip was hard work, but there were times during the babysitting weekend that she asked me to go home so she could “be in charge” and “earn her own trip.” I liked that.

5. Gratitude. The change began immediately. Whenever I bought something for my daughter – even if it was just her favorite can of soup at the grocery store – she was elated. For Christmas, she asked for running shoes and some tall brown boots. Before the allowance, these were items I would have bought her anyway, but since she was now the one responsible, she was thrilled on Christmas morning with two basic items.

6. Peace. Our clothing arguments stopped. When at the mall, she didn’t beg for the cute dress or plead for that perfect pair of earrings to match her favorite pair of skinny jeans. At times, she would hint that I would look “really good” in that American Eagle top she could immediately inherit, but absent was the debate, the cajoling, the pouting, the extreme disappointment when mom said “no.” Shopping was actually a pleasure as we browsed together, weighing the pros and cons of a purchase. Upon occasion, she still tests me, just to keep things interesting. “Please, Mommy, please, please, please–I’ll pay you back!” It’s hard to resist. My husband often bolsters me with two words: “Stay strong.”

7. The Budget Queen? “Queen” might be overstating it, but there is a ledger. My daughter hand-writes what is coming in and what is going out: 10% goes to charity, 20% goes to college savings, and 70% is hers to spend. (www.themint.org is just one on-line website that helps kids and parents monitor cash flow.)

The $100 dollar allowance changed to a bigger sum when my daughter started high school. Even with the amount she was given, we still had to help out with the required ipad, athletic expenses, and unexpected trips and fees. There are costs like team sweatshirts that she can’t cover by herself, so we often pay half. But there is still more peace and gratitude than before. When she absolutely needs or wants something, she requests rather than demands.

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The darling dress and matching shoes she bought for semi-formal wiped out all of her hard-earned cash, but it was worth it to her – and that’s what matters. She used her own judgment to purchase something she wanted.

This weekend she’s babysitting after a long week of school and sports and she recently lined up a summer job because she needs the money. I sometimes worry that she works too hard, that she’s become too responsible, too independent. I worry that my 14-year-old should be lounging more, sleeping in, traveling to summer soccer and lacrosse camps like she’d prefer. Then I wonder if this is just the very strange lament of the American mother?

Our family life is far from smooth all the time. Routines and systems are constantly implemented, then revamped or dumped. But the $100 allowance worked for two reasons: My daughter came up with the idea, and she wholeheartedly bought into it.  Literally.

P.S. Yes, did get that underwear for her birthday. And she was happy.

About the writer

Amy Makechnie is a mother and writer from New Hampshire. She writes for many national on-line publications, east coast magazines, and is the author of the blog, Maisymak, where pet chickens, kale smoothies, and potty-training adventures collide.

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debi 1 year ago

Great Job. My daughter worked since she was 13. It was the difference between her going to concerts and shopping where she wanted. Not because I was trying to teach her a lesson but because we lived in a very wealthy town and I could not keep up with the other Parents. I told my daughter if she wanted to go see Dave Matthews and Phish that was all good but it had to happen on her dime. If she needed clothes from me it was Goodwill or Walmart. If she wanted cool courts fom Abercrombie and Fitch that was on her dime. SHE WORKED. And maintained her grades and was on the soccer team,the choir and BBG.Now she is expecting her first baby. Time flies.

Amanda 1 year ago

How often do you give her $100???every month?? How does the allowance work?? I have an almost 11 year old and she is always asking for the extras! She is a competitive gymnast and those Leo’s aren’t cheap 😉 an allowance would help along big she is my oldest and I don’t know where to start?? Thank you

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Rebecca O’Hare 2 years ago

We are doing this. We pay in quarterly installments and she gets $15 per week at 11yrs old. We will pay for all her necessecities and she pays for extra fun and wants. She banks $5 of that for savings and we co-contribute $5 to her savings as well to encourage her to save. I am interested to see how she manages her money:)

Vienna Groark 2 years ago

My kids are still very young, but I need to start planting these seeds now.

Kristi Holmes-Gallego 2 years ago

I really like this one.

Bren Kambouroff 2 years ago

Awesome

Jamie 2 years ago

Loved the blog as usual, but decided to post for the first time just to say: required iPad? What is the world coming to where text books are no longer enough? :/

Sarah Sousa Stevens 2 years ago

Love this idea!

Michelle Nades 2 years ago

I’ve always been responsible for my finances. In college when everyone was maxing out their parents credit cards at the bars. And trust me they did!!! I had to pay for my own college, car etc so I made sure I went to class. And when some classmates got a DUI they never thought twice..
I had to pay for my car so I kept saying there was no way I was getting drunk and driving bc I would still have to pay for my car that I couldn’t drive. It taught me a lot and I’m grateful for it!!!!

Sara Fionna 2 years ago

What an entitled little brat.

    Jenny Long 2 years ago

    Wha? How? Wait, are you trolling?

paulann 2 years ago

Excellent…

I collected cans as a youngster.. : )

Melissa Espinosa 2 years ago

I think I may adopt this when my LO is a teen! Good read!

Jo-Ann Mason 2 years ago

If I’m understanding this correctly, the allowance would work out to $10 per month ($100 for a 10 month school year) and out of that sum her daughter is expected to buy her own clothes?? And everything else too? WAY back in high school (40+ years ago) I was given an allowance of $20/week and did not have to buy my own clothes. With the cost of everything today this just does not compute.

    Jenny Long 2 years ago

    I agree with you, Jo-Ann. I was given a very short leash financially as a teen (and I worked from 15 yrs old), but it sounds like the girl paid for everything except food, lodging and athletic fees. I don’t 1) see how that’s even possible 2) I’m all for financial responsibility, but $100/year for everything seems a lot of stress for a young person.
    I’m not being mushy about it, I just think it’s over the top.

Nicole Harrigan 2 years ago

This is great!

Valerie Ann 2 years ago

Love this!!!

Beth 2 years ago

I’d love to hear the daughter’s perspective on this story…..

Kathy 2 years ago

When I was 14 my parents divorced. My mom gave me the child support that my dad gave to her. She gave am a roof over my head, food to eat and clothes to wear. Everything else came out of that $53 a month. My dad paid for my car insurance too.
It helps to learn the value of money when it is yours that your spending. I worked every summer after I turned 15 to earn extra cash. I am now a good money manager.

Melina Lodge 2 years ago

Before i was even a parent i had read an article in our local paper by a financial planner who did something similar with his son. Kid blew it all in the matter of weeks but learned the same valuable lesson. I plan to do the same with our children. How can we expect the next generation to learn to value and properly manage money if you dont give them the change to try, even if they fail a few times before they get it. Far better to fail with a few hundred bucks while under my roof

Shawna Parrish 2 years ago

We have a chore cart and since my girls are 6 and 3 some of the items are very simple; such as no fighting; while broad they know exactly what it means. And at this age we have yet to give money at the end of the week but we do things instead. Like a trip to the ice cream shop, messy things they don’t get to do every day like finger painting, maybe a toy they have been wanting. It’s nice with the two of them bc they are more willing to help each other out to complete the chart bc at this age they don’t want to risk their “prize” if the other doesn’t finish. I know the money will eventually be the prize but for now I’m enjoying the fact that they are happy with a trip for froyo!

Liz Wittkamper 2 years ago

Love it. I would like to know what highschool has a requirement for an iPad unless I misread that. My parents tried to teach me to budget. It just didn’t stick… Finally I get it now that I have another mouth to feed!

    Amanda Swann 2 years ago

    I know a few that have iPad requirements, some are loaned out, but some require purchase since in a few years they’ll need to be updated. The school I went to many years ago is implementing this this year.

Carly Phillippie 2 years ago

So great!!!!
I would love to know what, how, & when this author started the whole ” money” thing with her kids. She should write a book!!!

Katie Sue 2 years ago

I LOVE this idea! :) Can’t wait to implement it.

Brooke Wondra 2 years ago

Love it.. the lessons are priceless!

Lori Batchelder Hardy 2 years ago

Awesome!!

Kelsey Marie 2 years ago

As an eighth grade teacher this is amazing! I wish more parents would stay strong and teach these important lessons!

Kristy Jenkins 2 years ago

I would love to start this with my boys but it will only work if it’s “his” idea. Would love to figure out how to plant the idea in his head!

Lacy Varner 2 years ago

Kudos for Mom for staying strong. If my Mom would have tried this with me as a teenager, I probably would have cried and thrown a fit and gotten my way. (reformed spoiled brat)

Kayla Muncie Luckie 2 years ago

Oh how I wish … Kinda lol. My kids used to drive me crazy with “It’s only 2 dollars!” On things not worth that and then the opposite of thinking something is super expensive that’s worth the price. So I taught them the VALUE of a dollar and all the things to consider. They would NEVER go for that… Haha unless it was 100 a month

Marla Christensen 2 years ago

Doing this with my 10 yr old only 50.00 for the entire summer. I proposed it to him. Today is payday we will see how it goes

Amy Slusher 2 years ago

My kids do this too. The youngest takes care of feeding the animals for a dollar a day (30/31 dollars the first of each month after he earns it) my middle child is baby sitting his cousins over summer break for $10 a day (he earned $50 this week, sometimes its 10 most weeks 20), and my oldest is paying off a $1500 computer by doing house chores and mowing lawns. He earns 20 each week from me and 10 per yard, his computer will be paid off in another month and a half. He chose rent to own over saving but thats a lesson he had to learn on his own.
They appriciate everything they buy so much more because they earn it themselves.

Leslie Sansom 2 years ago

I love this!

Lindsey Dawson 2 years ago

The question is how to get your kids to “come up with this idea” one their own, as she says this was the key to success.

Nicole Van Hoose 2 years ago

My son had once proposed a larger allowance. We were very willing to give him a large allowance, but told him with that comes more responsibility. He would be required to buy his own lunch, it would be all of his spending money for class trips and fun activities. All of those times when I give him $10 for this or $5 for that, would stop. He would need to take it out of the allowance. He could use that money as he sees fit, and when it is gone then it is gone. He thought about it for a day and then decided against it. He realized that he had it too good to give up the of the Automatic Teller Mom and take on the responsibility of financial independence. He just turned 13, so I am okay with waiting a little while longer. Maybe next year, when he starts high school.

Sara 2 years ago

Here, here sister! I give my kids 50 bucks a month. I will not be nickled and dimed at Target, Walgreens, etc… They spend their money much more frugally.

Lisa-Marie 2 years ago

Wait, ipads are required now?! This is an awesome idea tho, I have 2 boys under two but I will save this for later!!

    Tina Michelle 2 years ago

    I was thinking the same thing about the ipad! Where are you that it’s required? The cost!…ouch!

    Kris 2 years ago

    I do not approve of apple products so if it is ever “required” My son will have his own LABTOP and Tablet. lol.

    because apple sucks.

    Also that’s the only way he’s getting his own labtop or tablet… He can get one when he can earn it.

    Kim 2 years ago

    iPads are encouraged for 3rd grade here.

Life in the Parenthood 2 years ago

I have my 3 yo on a Stars for Cars program! He has yet to get 10 stars towards a matchbox car, but he isn’t pestering me all the time to go to the toy store either :-)

Laura Henry 2 years ago

Genius!

Sam 2 years ago

YES, YES, YES!!! I actually had a similar experience in my youth, though I don’t remember who came up with it. Twice a year, in the spring and fall, I would put together a list of clothing items I thought I would need. Together with my parents we came up with a reasonable per item value and that become my clothing allowance. It all started when I wanted a complete outfit from the Gap. Needless to say, I choose NOT to purchase that outfit when it was my money. This worked for us from sixth grade through high school!

Adriane 2 years ago

My kids are 8 & 10. They get $20/month for doing their chores. That is their fun money. I buy the necessary stuff. If they want something extra but don’t have the money, they do without. They don’t fuss and whine, they ask for extra chores. Working pretty well for now

Jewel Cavazos 2 years ago

This is frakking brilliant! I was just talking to my husband about this idea.

findingtheearth 2 years ago

My parents made me work – first as a babysitter than getting a job when I turned 15. I paid for most things with my own money. It has taught me to be resilient and creative. They know that if I actually ask them for help, it is because I have used all my other options.

    Keri 2 years ago

    I love this! My parents didn’t have much money for extras when I was growing up, so I became an entrepreneur in order to get things teens “need.” I babysat, had after school jobs, and learned to bargain shop. I always felt a sense of pride at my work ethic and *maybe* a tad smug that I had earned my clothes, my car, my college education whereas other kids had these things given to them. Heck, listen to me. I am still proud.

Roshni 2 years ago

Wow! That’s an amazing idea!! I’m excited to talk about this with my husband and implement it in our household when the kids are a bit older!!

Liz 2 years ago

This is AWESOME. My daughter’s just learning to crawl, but I am totally saving this idea for later.
I brought this up to my family the other day and everyone around the table thought it was a fab idea. Because it is. Kudos, and thanks so much for sharing.

Justine 2 years ago

This is excellent! When I was a kid, my parents bought things that I needed, and nothing more. Anything extra (unnecessary clothes, fast food, etc) came out of my allowance (which I earned doing extra chores, not just keep my room clean etc) and odd jobs for family and neighbors. this was all out of necessity, my parents simply didn’t have the cash to spend. I learned the value of a dollar early on. My younger brothers on the other hand, (born in a more prosperous time) have no idea how to save. You may be worried your daughter is missing out, but this is a great lesson, and one she will take with her the rest of her life. She knows she has to work for the things she wants, which is something a lot of people her age don’t understand. Props to you, mama!

Andrea Miller 2 years ago

YOU ARE AMAZING!!!! My SIL needed this blog post 10 years ago or so! Her daughter who are now 20 &23 bleed her dry and she continuously lets them. Each daughter could own her own department store and yet they never have anything to wear. I swear 1 of them only wears something once!! And my poor SIL is stuck, as she created these monsters she sees no where out! I really hope I can do what you have done when my children reach this age.

    Amymakechnie 2 years ago

    Andrea, thanks for the nice comment. It’s definitely trial and error with everything mothering, but it’s so nice to see something work!

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes 2 years ago

Fantastic!

    Meadow FIchera 2 years ago

    I can only speak from my point of view. I am 31 years old and I have been working since I was 13 years old. I worked on the weekends, through the Summers, babysat after school, etc.

    I do lean toward frugality and have always been reasonably responsible with my money.

    However I missed out on a lot. A LOT. And at 31 (with three kids and a LOT of respnsibility) I really wish that I had worked less and enjoyed ‘Life’ a little more before I had so much non-negotiable responsibility on my plate.

    I am also tired. I love L-O-V-E my job. But I am burnt out. Taking on jobs for the last 18 years (while attending school for a lot of that time) has left me feeling exhausted at the end of each week. Naturally there is no end in sight… I may retire in my mid sixties….

    I suppose the point I am trying to make is that you might want to consider sending that girl off to camp for a month each summer. We live in a society that no longer values play. Life is short. Play is essential.

      Laura 2 years ago

      I could not agree more. There is all the time to make money. She needs to live a little

      Amy Mak 2 years ago

      Meadow, I hear you. Kids do need to play and not feel the heavy weight of money on their shoulders too early. I definitely don’t want to kill creativity and the joy of life. I know you can’t have any way of knowing what our family life is like, but we have plenty of play around here :) I’m also sorry you are feeling burned out. Best to you.

      Nicole 1 year ago

      I feel exactly the same as Meadow–I am also 31 and have been working since the age of 13 (and to be honest, I’m slightly bitter about it). I learned how to be responsible with money incredibly early and a good portion of the money I earned went to necessities/helping my mom pay the bills. I saved up all year to go to camp for 2 weeks in the summer.

      I don’t think that your daughter deciding to work to afford fun treats is a bad idea overall, but I do think if your family could afford to pay for her to “travel[] to summer soccer and lacrosse camps like she’d prefer,” you should consider giving her that opportunity. She won’t be able to have those experiences once she grows up. Now that I make a good salary as an engineer, I really regret all the hours I spent making $3-5/hour instead of having freedom to participate in activities that are impractical as a working adult.

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