Chore Time: Allowances for Adults


The concept of an allowance has been around for decades, usually as a means to motivate kids to do their chores without complaining or forgetting altogether. Although allowances are commonly used for children, they can also be applied to adults. (See also: Five "Jobs" for Children)

“Pay Yourself First”

As the old adage goes, you need to pay yourself first. And this doesn’t just mean allocating your biweekly or monthly income in a budget spreadsheet to account for expenses; you need some cash for non-necessities too. This is what your “allowance” is for. It can either be a fixed amount (say, 10% of your income for a given pay period) or it can fluctuate based on how much of an income surplus you have beyond your budget for necessities.

What you choose to do with your allowance is entirely up to you. Just like how some kids prefer to save up their allowance for an expensive toy or gaming system, you can choose to sock your own allowance away in a savings account for something such as a new car or down payment on a house. Or, like the kids who blow their entire allowance on movies, candy, games, etc. every week, you can put this money towards drinking nights with friends or a day at the spa (basically anything you haven’t accounted for in a short-term fixed budget).

There’s no right way to go about managing your allowance, but it is a crucial remedy to the monotony of living on a strict budget.

A Rewards System for Housework

So, how do you go about setting up an allowance system for the adults in your family?

First off, this goes both ways for spouses — each one receives a monetary reward for work completed around the house (for single-income families with a stay-at-home spouse/parent, this method might need some modifying). With kids’ allowances, they receive money based on work they do around the house. Likewise, you can build a system of monetary rewards using housework (vacuuming, washing the dishes, etc.) and yard work (mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, etc.) as the means for increasing your own allowance.

There are also consequences in this set-up. For example, if hubby forgets to do the dishes a few nights, then he receives a reduction in his "allowance" that would’ve been used for going drinking with the buddies that weekend. The rewards/penalties will vary from family to family, but the concept of allowances themselves ensures that everyone does their share of work and receives a fair stipend of "fun money" in return.

The allowance system won’t work for everyone, but it is a simple way to set aside funds for non-budgetary needs. It is also helpful in tracking just how much you (and your partner or spouse) are spending on entertainment each month.

What about you? Any fresh ideas on keeping your non-necessity expenses in check? Tell us in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

My wife and I budget relentlessly, and until recently, we didn't have any personal allowance. If one of us wanted to go out to eat for lunch at work, we would have to apply that towards our 'eating out' budget, and the other person missed out.

Recently, however, we allowed ourselves a bit of spending money because we made the last payment on our mortgage. Just a few bucks a month, but it sure is nice to not feel bad about downloading a new video game on Steam and having to apply its full cost against our joint entertainment budget, especially knowing that she will never play it herself.

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