Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers


Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Lately, I have been feeling bad about our allowance project, which I started more than a year ago.  It’s mostly fallen by the wayside, except when Emma speaks up about wanting something. We need to get back on track; I hate not following through on something that once worked so well! Time to work it back into the routine!

Emma and her coin bank creation

We started an allowance for Emma a little past her 4th birthday.  While for some kids this may be too young, I felt she was ready (I also feel blessed we have this discretionary money to spare).  She is remarkably good about accepting and planning for delayed gratification and I felt that getting a (very) small allowance would help, not hinder, the arguing and pestering for new toys/treats/items that we would occasionally encounter throughout our day.  I don’t believe in giving a kid everything she wants — far from it! — but, I do think giving her this small way to control a tiny portion of her world might be a positive experience for us all.

So at 4, and now 5 years old, Emma gets a dollar a week which she saves, generally for months and months, to buy a toy or treat or something.  For awhile it was a very regular event, handed out on Sunday, the same evening we had a “family meeting” and chose new jobs from our job chart.  Unfortunately, all three of those things (allowance, family meeting, job chart) have fallen by the wayside of late, though Emma still pipes up about her allowance from time to time (she forgets just as much as I do, shockingly!).  Out of sight, out of mind at this age, I guess? Or maybe she has just accepted that Mama is a flake with this at the moment. Gotta fix that!

When we were doing it regularly, Emma would save her coins in her homemade money bank (she never wanted bills, coins felt much more like real money to her, which I totally understand — it’s a tactile thing!).  She’d take them out to play with occasionally, and wanted me to help with counting them every few weeks until it finally reached enough for the item she had in mind.  Once, for a somewhat more expensive thing, I went in half and half with her, because it seemed too much for a 4 year old to save for THAT long so patiently!

Up until now Elsie and Delia haven’t gotten an allowance, though as we start it up again I’ll probably need to include them.  At almost three and a half years old I don’t think they are quite “there” yet, but it would be hard not to include them since they are very much aware of what Emma gets.  They don’t yet ask for stuff very often, though they do express an interest in certain toys or clothes Emma has and hope that they can get them some time! I started a wish list online (both Amazon and Pinterest works well for us) for Emma to keep track of what she is hoping to earn for (or to ask for for birthdays/holidays), and will likely do the same for Elsie and Delia when we start it with them.  If it goes poorly with them for any reason I am up for pulling back on it with them, or making it more of a group thing towards a common goal instead.

The fun part -- putting the coins IN

It’s important to note that giving a preschooler allowance may not be the right choice for every kid or family — you definitely need to consider if your child is able to handle the responsibility (and not feel bad about it), or will even care or get anything out of it.  Also how many kids you will be doling out for, yipes! Someone from my local parenting group — who is well-versed in child development — noted that until kids hit what Piaget called “the 5-7 shift”, their brains are not able to hold onto two conflicting emotions or thoughts at the same time. The brain development that happens from 5 to 7 years of age (later for sensitive kids) is what allows for mixed feelings, reasoning, planning, and impulse control. Asking a kid whose brain is not ready for a delayed gratification (I want to spend this now, but also want to save it for X later) might be a frustrating and developmentally inappropriate request.  That said,  we started and allowance with Emma at a time that was (I assume) before this developmental shift — it was a fairly low-key thing, and we had zero struggles or problems over it.

In our family we don’t tie jobs to allowance and I don’t want to go there at all (though I do want to start back up with regular family jobs, too!).  The allowance is for giving my kids a fun way to learn about money, participate in the decision making in this one area, and curb the shopping requests; the family jobs are something everyone does as a part of this family, unrelated to money.  At some point, I will probably add “extra” jobs that they can do for extra spending money, but that’s down the line a ways — I’m thinking 10 years and up or so?  I really want to avoid the chores = money because I want some things to be expected  no matter what.

In starting the conversation about money, saving and spending, I also really want to add to the table the discussion the concepts of charity and gratitude, particularly how our family gives to others less fortunate.  We’ve touched on this some at random times in the past, but I’d like to do something more concrete, such as having a separate “donation” bank where we as a family can put some of our money, earmarked for a charity of our choosing.  I have a friend with small kids who volunteers as a family at our local food bank each month — I think this might be a meaningful activity to go hand-in-hand with our money discussions, too!

A fun way to kick-start our renewed allowance project  might be to make our own (new) piggy banks — keeping track of our money is a pretty key aspect of all this, right?  Here are some links to piggy bank projects I’ve found. Which ones should we try?

Emma's tofu box "piggy" bank -- ha! Yes, we are hippies!

Do your children get an allowance?  How much, and what age did they start?  Did you when you were a child, and do you remember it positively?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.


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19 comments to Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers

  • We’ve now hit the age (at almost 4) where Kieran has begun asking for things when we’re at the store. This post is helpful for me to start putting together some ideas on how to tackle that, and I appreciate your mention of charity too!

  • Funny isn’t it – my ten year old still prefers coins to notes; it feels heavier and looks more I guess. Thanks for sharing that you start with good intentions and let things slip; I’ve always felt terribly guilty about that, but I guess it happens to the best of us :)

  • My eldest is just over 3 and a half so not quite at this stage yet, but these ideas would be great for when she is ready to get her head around it. She’s not yet asking for things when we’re out and about, although she told me she’d like Father Christmas to bring her some roller skates!
    When I was little we each got 50pence a week, I don’t really remember what I spent it on, I think it fizzled out quite early on (my mum had a lot to deal with when we were younger) but I do fondly remember carefully placing my very own 50p in my money box each week.

  • I agree with the no chores = money thing… well said.

    Really enjoyed reading this post, thanks for sharing :)

  • My children are 7, 5.5, 3.5 and 1yr. The oldest 3 get $5/week. We don’t call it an allowance. We simply share with them so that they can buy things just like we the adults have money to buy things. Like your daughter, my daughters are learning about saving and also about buying for others.

    I think that we give more money than many parents of young children, but we really think it is important that they see us sharing with them. Also, we want them to buy things that aren’t so cheap that they are useless. They use their moeny to buy many of their own toys and books and craft supplies and also to buy presents for each other for birthdays and Christmas. We let them make their own choices and they are very good at influencing each other or at pooling their money for something to share (such as new markers.)

    I like your approach to giving some responsibility for money to your daughter. She will certainly learn from the hands-on experience.

  • That is really fascinating about the 5-7 switch…I’ve been wondering when Munchkin will start to get the idea of mutually exclusive choices. I guess we’re still far from that point!

    It sounds like introducing an allowance before this developmental milestone was a great choice for your family. I totally agree with you that chores should not equal money. It sounds like your girls will learn some valuable lessons from getting an allowance!

  • We started allowance when Moira was just over 3, because she was constantly asking for things at the store. She figured out the point of saving her money for a larger toy pretty quickly, so the constant begging for things mostly stopped, but now she has a super long list in her head of things to save up for, one that will take her a couple of years at her current rate of $1 a week. It didn’t surprise me that she started saving so soon, because she’s always been a hoarder of things.

  • THANK YOU for this post! I’ve been thinking more and more lately that Esther (4 in January) needs to receive an allowance. She LOVES to put money (and buttons!) in her piggy bank. :) She’s been handling more responsibilities around the house lately (making her bed, setting the table, etc.) This really gives me a jumping off point. Although, I’m totally like you, I’ll probably be forgetting more often than not ha!

  • My husband and I agree that when the right time comes, the Critter will have an allowance. Not sure yet when that right time may be, but I’d say Piaget is a pretty good guide! As well as observations of the child him/herself, as you’ve done with Emma.

    I agree 100% that an allowance shouldn’t be tied to chores. I like the word caretaking, and I want the Critter to understand that taking care of the home is something that we’re all responsible for. I don’t want there to be an “award” tied up with that. My husband doesn’t quite agree, but I’m sure I can convince him….

  • Pop

    D1 is going to turn 4 in a few months and my wife and I have been discussing this issue at length. Both of us grew up in immigrant families who struggled to get by, so we got used to living on a little – so that was all the financial “planning” we needed. But now that we’ve achieved a certain level of affluence, we wonder how we’re going to teach our kids the value of money. My wife reminds me that one of the things would be that I don’t get to get everything I want whenever I want either. Boo hoo 😛

    I love that you’re teaching your kids the value of charity and giving to those less fortunate.

  • Oh, my gosh, how did I miss commenting on this post on carnival day? Must have been when my browser crashed & I lost all my windows that were open…

    Anyway, what a wonderful article on allowance! We also don’t want to tie money to chores, though I like your idea of having extra things that can be done for money when they’re older. That makes sense to me. Kind of like I had chores to do as a kid (somewhat irregularly — in hindsight, maybe my mom was a flake, too, hee) that had nothing to do with my allowance, but then I could babysit my brother and earn (wait for it) $1/hour. So I could make a choice (theoretically) whether to babysit him for the extra cash and fun of it or not.

    I didn’t know about the 5-7 shift. Maybe that will help us be even more patient when Mikko just can’t imagine saving up for something… But, as you said, we’ve noticed that he can save up for things sometimes. Or maybe it’s just when he forgets to spend his allowance for awhile because we haven’t gone out. :)

  • […] Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers. Thank you for subscribing to my RSS feed! I love the conversations that blogging sparks, so if you have something to say about today’s post, please jump in and share your thoughts! You are also welcome to share this post elsewhere on the web to invite others to join the conversation. […]

  • We have four kids and started usually started allowance when one would enter elementary school. We give a very small weekly allowance, certain chores that are expected and optional jobs to earn extra money. As they get older, they have to budget and pay for items, such as a cell phone. Keeping up with the allowances and IOUs became very difficult. My husband and I created a system that helped us stay consistent and accurate. We have turned this system into a website, MoneyTrail is a free, online, virtual family bank. Feel free to check us out!

  • […] Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers. […]

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