By Jon C. Wiebe
Many parents struggle with what kind of allowance to provide their children. While I believe there are very few “rights and wrongs” in this area, there are some best practices that can help parents set their children on a course for God-honoring money management.
1. Start the allowance when the child is ready to learn. The best time to start giving them an allowance is when your child is ready to begin to learn the stewardship principles you want to teach them.
2. Provide the allowance on a timely basis. When children are young, they probably need to receive a smaller allowance on a more frequent basis, increasing the allowance gradually year by year. Giving teenagers a larger allowance each month lets them exercise their ability to manage money. We started out giving our children $1 per week and then increased it by 25 cents each year. At age 14, we made a shift to giving them $25 per month.
3. Don’t tie the allowance to work. I think it is helpful for every member of the family to know that even though they don’t contribute to the household income, they still share in the family resources because they are part of the family. Likewise, I think children should grow up knowing that as part of the family, they have chores that contribute to the family’s well-being. But I do encourage parents to hire children to do some jobs around the house. This teaches the children that they are loved and have some responsibility to others, but they also have opportunity to better themselves through hard work.
4. Teach your children how to use their allowance according to biblical principles. Give them three jars labeled Giving, Spending and Saving and help them divide their allowance into these jars. We started out by saying they had to put at least 10 percent in the Giving jar, no more than 25 percent in Spending and the remainder in the Saving jar. The Spending money could be used to buy whatever they wanted (can of pop, candy at the checkout line, etc.). The Saving money was to buy bigger ticket items like a Lego set and required parental approval. Notice that they could Give more than 10 percent, but we limited how much they could put in Spending. The value of delayed gratification and the dangers of impulse buying is something that we need to help our children get a handle on at an early age.
5. Be flexible and tailor your allowance system to match the child’s personality. Don’t worry about whether or not your system is “fair” between children. More important than perceptions of fairness is whether or not the child is growing in taking responsibility and applying stewardship principles. Early on, I found myself telling my youngest son that he only had to Give 10 percent. He always wanted to give considerably more, and I felt bad that it didn’t leave him much for Saving. When I realized how I was stifling his generosity, I made an about-face and have tried to encourage him in this “grace of giving.” On the flip side, our oldest son has a tendency to save more, and we’ve had to find ways to help him learn to live more “open-handedly.”
Jon C. Wiebe is president and CEO of MB Foundation, the U.S. Conference stewardship ministry. He and his family are members of Parkview MB Church of Hillsboro, Kan.