Like so many of my brilliant ideas, this one fell away for a while, but I called a family meeting recently. The girls both rolled their eyes, but sat down ready. They ended up being really glad.
I watched Suze Orman's Money Class PBS special recently, and fell in love with one of her ideas.
I've heard both sides of the allowance argument (it's good/it's bad for our kids' future relationship with money), and felt that both made valid points. My indecision led to no decision until hearing Suze's take.
Suze recommends that children should have the opportunity to earn funds by doing more than what we feel they should be doing as members of the household. She also says that some jobs should be worth more than others (just like in the real world), and that children should first have to accomplish the lower paying jobs before being given the opportunity to do more for more money (again, like the real world - you work hard, you do a good job, you earn a raise...theoretically, of course).
I thought this was an awesome idea. So I came up with a list of $2 Opportunities, $5 Opportunities, and $10 Opportunities. I valued them both by the time and amount of work it would require...and also, how much I dread doing it myself, and would happily pay for the help! They have to work their way up, and I've also put a cap on the amount they can earn each week (just like my pay - and I've added the maximum amount to my own budget). I will, of course, have to evaluate and approve their work before they've officially earned it.
The girls were SO excited. They had tons of questions, and of course, they came up with things I hadn't thought of yet, but I noticed as well that they're pretty used to me by now and waited for me to think it through. They wanted to create their own schedules to figure out how to get the max every week. Eventually, we'd exhausted every "what if" question they could think of...at the time. I also told them that they're free to come up with other opportunities for us to discuss and define a value. (Although I did draw the line at any opportunities beyond the three dollar amounts; that's complicated enough, I think!)
Riley tried to negotiate when it came to an opportunity that she can't actually do just yet. Of course, I added the opportunity to do laundry, but Riley's too short to reach inside the top-loading washer in our laundry room. I reminded her that there were plenty of other opportunities, and that they are indeed opportunities. No one is obligated to do any more than they already do. She eventually relented, and then amused herself by calculating just how much they could make this summer if they earn the max and not spend any money, and then if they did half the max and not spend any money. And then what the minimum they could earn for the summer. (Of course, I told her that the minimum is $0.)
We also talked about what they could buy with the money earned. If they weren't with me, could they just get what they want? I'd prefer they run it by me first, but I also expect them to use their reasonable judgment. I said if they came home with something that was completely unreasonable (i.e., a shirt with inappropriate language), they would not get to keep it, nor would they get that money back.
Sylvia wanted to know if she could use the money to buy herself lunch when she starts school. I make them a lunch every day but Fridays. I said, hey, it's less work for me, but at the same time, as her mother, I am responsible for feeding her every day, so maybe we split the cost? She reminded me that it was my money in the first place, so I would have already paid for it!
After all that excitement, neither of them chose to do a single opportunity that night. But they did suggest that we bring back family meetings!