The Easiest Allowance System Ever: Turning Chores Into Habit


When school started this fall, our morning routine picked up speed. We no longer had time for the boys to lollygag around; there was no time for several reminders for making  beds or straightening up rooms or waiting to brush their teeth at noon. Since I work mostly from home, I can feed the turtle or make a bed or clear the breakfast table after the kids head out, but that doesn’t teach them to take ownership or do their part to help around the house.

I came up with a system that we’ve been using for a couple of months now, and it is so stinkin’ EASY, which is why it has lasted this long. It doesn’t require much of my attention at all.

Step 1: The Chores

The boys each have a list of “morning tasks” that they need to complete, and we taped it to the bathroom mirror so they can’t miss it. In the morning, before they head downstairs, we remind them to review their list and make sure everything is done. Sometimes we send them back upstairs to double-check the list. But for the most part, it has become a habit, and they don’t need a whole lot of reminding anymore.

Their lists include basic hygiene like “brush your teeth” and some simple daily chores like wiping toothpaste from the bathroom sink, making their beds, and closing their dresser drawers and closet door. (I’m trying hard to teach them “you open it, you close it,” if only because half-open drawers drive me bonkers.) There are also a couple of things that aren’t on their lists that they are expected to do, like clearing their plates from the table after meals or emptying the recycling bin when asked.

Step 2: The Allowance

Each of the boys has a small plastic baggie on the kitchen counter. If I were a craftier mom, I would make some fancy little “allowance jar,” but a baggie works just fine. At the beginning of the week, I put eight quarters in each of their baggies. This $2 is their allowance, which is a significant increase from the 50 cents a week they received until this fall. My husband didn’t think we should raise it, but the bottom line is that 50 cents wasn’t motivating them. At all. It took too long to save up for anything they might want to buy, and they would just get discouraged.

Throughout the week, if a chore is left undone, my husband or I will do it, BUT we charge a quarter per chore, which gets taken out of their baggies. Usually a quick reminder, “I’d be happy to do that chore, but I charge 25 cents” motivates them to get the job done. If I end up making a bed or straightening up a room after the boys have gone to school, I let them know later that I did one of their chores.  The key is that we’re very matter-of-fact about it. It isn’t shaming or punitive – just a “Hey, I did this, and it cost a quarter.” However, they have become so great about doing their chores that it doesn’t happen very often.

I am tempted not to take a quarter on some occasions, and sometimes I do cut them a little slack – especially if I know there is a reason that something didn’t get done. For the most part, I try to be consistent because knowing that their allowance will be smaller if they don’t follow-through is what makes this system work. On Sunday morning whatever is in their baggies goes into their sweet little hands then typically, into their piggy banks.

What I love about this, and what makes it so easy for us, is the fact that there is no “chore chart” or day-to-day tracking of “did this get done/ didn’t this get done.” I don’t have to worry about how much chores are worth or whether they have done enough of them to earn their allowance. The boys are motivated by the knowledge that $2 is waiting for them when they do their part.

Over the past three months, their chores have, for the most part, become a habit, and, ultimately, that is what I hope to instill – good habits, along with the understanding that money is something that we earn and manage.

Head to the Family Room

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media LLC.

Ellie blogs at Musing Momma, where she shares inspiration for happy parenting and reflects on life as momma in a mixed race family. Ellie has a Ph.D. in psychology, and she counseled children and families for several years before changing paths to spend more time with her family. She resides in central Pennsylvania with her husband, their two adorably mischievous boys (ages 5 and 8), and their sweet, arthritic dog (age 84, in dog years).