Kids’ Allowances: What Rules and How Much to Pay?

Some interesting allowance statistics:

While these general guidelines are helpful, most parents still have lots of questions about allowances. Of course, there’s no single, “right” way to structure your child’s allowance. However, these tips might help you decide what works best for your family:

When should I start giving my kid an allowance?

Most parents start around age 8, according to a T.Rowe Price survey. This is a good rule-of-thumb age. One tip: If your child mixes in cash and coins with her toys or routinely leaves money sitting around the house, she’s not yet ready for an allowance.

How often should I give it?

Weekly for younger kids and allowance beginners. They’ll have trouble making their money last much longer than seven days. Switch to giving your kids a monthly allowance when they’re about 11. This requires them to budget their money over a longer amount of time.

How much should I pay?

Although the current U.S. average is $67.80/month, that’s for kids of all ages. Your mileage may vary. For instance, you may want to pay a dollar or so per year of a child’s age, and give raises at every birthday. By high school, you might prefer to give your teen enough money to cover his own costs for clothing, personal supplies, bus, etc. You can base the amount on how much money you think is reasonable for your child to spend, rather than just his or her age.

Should I tie allowance to chores or grades?

There are different schools of thought on this.

  • Tie to chores, yes: Some parents advocate paying kids “commissions” so money remains connected to working hard.
  • Tie to chores, no: Kids could decide to skip chores if they don’t need money.
  • Pay for grades, yes: This practice can teach kids that good work leads to rewards.
  • Pay for grades, no: It could take away their sense of pride, or be tricky for kids who truly struggle academically.

Should saving and/or donating be part of the allowance picture?

Most experts say definitely yes on this point. Give kids jars, envelope, segmented piggy banks or help them set up digital budget categories for Spend, Donate and Save. Older kids might also need bank accounts or digital categories for saving larger amounts of money—for a car, college, etc. Your goal is simply to help your kids see that money is never just for spending.

(photo courtesy © James Thompson cc2.0)

The Best Gift is One That Gives Back

We love the holiday season at Greenlight. It’s a time when families have thoughtful conversations about what they’re thankful for. Many talk about the importance of generosity and reflect on our responsibility to give to those less fortunate. Some families offer their time to support noble causes and give back to their communities. Some choose to make donations to nonprofits.

Throughout this Thanksgiving season, we encourage you to share with your kids the gift of giving. 

Generosity is part of human nature. And it leads to happier lives.

A research study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2015 explored generosity in toddlers by putting a container of marbles at shared tables to see how their children would distribute the marbles. Most of the time, the kiddos would distribute their marbles equally. 

In another variation of the study, toddlers were given separate trays and the researchers randomly distributed the marbles between them. In situations where a child was given more marbles than their partner, one-third of the time, the lucky toddler with more marbles would give up their extra marbles to their partner to even the score.

A different study by the University of Zurich in 2017 found that generosity actually makes people happier, even if they only give a little. 

Choose your way to give.

Ashley Noto, Greenlight’s SVP of Product and Analytics gave us a look inside how her family gives back during the holidays: “With all the gifts from friends and family during the holiday, I think it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate the joy of giving with my kids,” she said.  “At the beginning of the season, we adopt a family in need. We all contribute earned allowances and participate in buying items for the family. As the season comes to a close, my kids give back — either a toy or a portion of gift money they received — to a charity of their choice.”

There are many different ways kids can share their generosity and give their time, effort or money! 

  1. Time: Choose an organization to volunteer with as a family. Volunteermatch.org is a great place to identify opportunities to donate your time. You can even search by different causes.
  2. Unwanted items: Involve your kids by encouraging them to clean their closets and donate old clothes to local organizations.
  3. Toy or food drives: Many schools and local businesses run toy and food drives around Thanksgiving to give to those less fortunate. 
  4. Money: Donating money helps enforce lessons in budgeting with kids while instilling the importance of generosity. 

Set monetary donation goals.

In anticipation for the holiday season, work with your kids to set individual or family donation goals. As your kids are gifted money for the holidays, work with kids to put funds back for an end-of-year donation. 

  • Allocate a percentage of allowance payouts into your kids Give accounts which can only be used with charitable organizations. 
  • Create a Greenlight Savings Goal to help kids track progress toward a larger donation. Did you know that kids who set saving goals save 29.5% more than kids who don’t? Have your kids research their favorite charitable organizations — ones they identify with the most. If you need someplace to start, these are the 3 most popular organizations for Greenlight kids.

It’s always important to remember the power of the collective. Even the smallest donation is part of a much larger community of givers.

Rewarding generosity.

It’s also important to reward your child’s generosity. Praise them for contributing to causes larger than themselves and weave giving back into regular conversations. You’ll notice how naturally these conversations emerge – whether it’s an ill classmate in need or a school-sponsored food drive.

At Greenlight, we are proud to celebrate generosity. In December, we have some special things planned to encourage the giving nature of Greenlight kids and reward them for their efforts. Stay tuned!

Give with Greenlight!


Sign up for Greenlight today to encourage giving. 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year to Save and Budget

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! There’s no better time than now to take up the topic of budgeting and saving with the family. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday retail sales will be up 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $730.7 billion spent on gifts for family and friends! Before your kids make their holiday gift lists, start conversations on how to set budgets and save up.

Bring on the budget

Setting a clear budget for the holidays and sticking to it will show your kids they don’t have to go into debt to have a holly jolly holiday season. The average American took on more than $1,000 in debt during the holiday season in 2018, so showing kids the importance of setting a budget, planning for the budget (calculating how much everything will cost for the season and how much they will need to save) and how to stay within the budget will serve them in the future. 

Make a list (check it twice)

Lists aren’t just for Santa Claus to find out who’s naughty or nice during the holiday season — they’re the perfect tool to help stay on budget when it comes to spending.

Before heading out to a store or logging onto Amazon, ask your kids to make a list of who they want to buy presents for and if they know what they plan to get each person (if so, have them add their gift idea to the list). To make sure your child doesn’t run through their holiday budget, ask them to look into the price of what they want to buy before they plan to shop for it.

Having a list to work through will keep shopping focused, both in-store or online, if you’re out shopping on Black Friday or going after deals on Cyber Monday, teach your kids focus is key.

Set a savings goal 

Within the Greenlight app, encourage your kids to set up Saving Goals, specifically for holiday. Perhaps they name it their Christmas Fund or their Gift Goals. Here’s how to set up a Saving Goal: 

  1.     Navigate to your “Save” tab.
  2.     Tap “Add a Savings Goal.”
  3.     Enter a title or description of what you will be saving for.
  4.     Enter a goal amount.
  5.     Tap “Add Savings Goal” to complete the set-up process.

Parents, remember that your kids need permission to spend their savings. As they move money out of their Saving Goals into a spending greenlight, they’ll send you a request. Be on the lookout for when it’s time for them to cross holiday shopping off their to-do list.

The season for deals and shopping steals 

After your kids have saved to meet their holiday Saving Goals, it’s important to talk them through smart spending. The holidays are a great time to teach bargain shopping (especially with a budget in mind). Here are the three shopping days you and your family should consider for deals and steals: 

  • Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the busiest retail days of the year and it’s known for its big sales, discounted prices and often crazy in-store crowds. Black Friday is a good day to teach your kids how to navigate in-store experiences and what it’s like to shop with specific items in mind. It’s never too early to start shopping Black Friday deals, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
  • Small Business Saturday: The Saturday after Thanksgiving (also known as Shop Small Saturday) is an opportunity to teach your kids about supporting locally owned businesses and small, unique brick and mortars in your neighborhood.
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, is the hottest day for online retailers to offer some of their best deals for the season. Can’t make it to the mall on Black Friday? Consider shopping Cyber Monday deals from the comfort of your own home. 

Talking to kids about sales, coupons, discounts and the benefits of when to shop in-person and online can help create savvy shoppers for life. 

A little thoughtfulness won’t break the bank 

Gift giving often becomes a major focus during the holiday season, but not all gifts have to come from a store. Some of the most thoughtful gifts come straight from the heart. When your kids are making their holiday gift giving lists, make sure to have the conversation that small, thoughtful gifts can go a long way. 

Cookies, DIY ornaments, arts and crafts projects, handwritten cards and random acts of kindness to those we know and love won’t break the bank. And the warm and fuzzy feeling they bring about is what the holiday season is all about after all.

Add Parent-Paid Interest 

Parents, to encourage saving, consider adding Parent-Paid Interest within the Greenlight app. 

Greenlight offers parents the opportunity to set and pay interest rates on savings to demonstrate the magic of compound interest. Here’s how to set up parent-paid interest!

Get ahead for the holidays with Greenlight

Join Greenlight today to encourage wise saving and smart spending ahead of the winter holidays. Set up a holiday specific savings goal today!