Skip to content

Just how much is a fair childhood allowance?

Joyce Walter reflects on the tradition of an allowance
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

A conversation at a recent social event turned to the unusual topic of how much today’s youngsters receive as an allowance from their parents.

I cannot recall why a child’s allowance became the topic of the moment — after all, most engaged in the conversation were too elderly to have children at home, some of us had/have no children other than favourite nieces and nephews, most of whom have their own money. The remaining chat group participants might have had some grandchildren but money changing hands there would be considered a gift and not an allowance.

Some of us went back many years to remember the size of the stipend that our parents might have shared. One lady said she never, ever received an allowance. Her companion agreed.  

That led to other comments that suggested their offspring might have received some money from the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus but they were not paid for doing household chores. Picking up bottles in the ditch came as one way this man’s son earned some money before he got a real job.

This chat led me to do to some research during which I discovered that Canadian parents give their children, on average, the princely sum of $19.39 per week. This detail was part of a survey done to determine how much “discretionary money” pre-teens and teens have to spend. That figure does not include money being earned at regular after-school and weekend jobs.

Another piece of information suggested some parents give $1 to $2 per week for each year of age. That means a 10-year-old might get $20 a week if parents followed this scale.

In my childhood home, I got spare change from doting aunts, uncles and adopted elderly people. That change usually went into a piggy bank to be saved for some worthy purchase. I do recall foraging in that bank for $5 in change and off my friend and I went to buy jaw breakers at the store. Jaw breakers sold three for a penny so imagine how many of those black candies I had to share.

To my dismay, the eagle-eyed clerk at the store blabbed to my Dad who in turn interrogated me about the source of the funds and the location of the candies. I had given half to my friend but I still had quite a stash and it was immediately confiscated. I don’t recall if I was praised for sharing, but I did get a lecture for spending my own money on candy that turned my teeth and tongue a very dark black. 

When I became a teenager, the parents and I came to an agreement, without any kind of negotiation or mediation: the monthly family allowance cheque of $18 would be given to me to be used as I pleased. That also came with a stipulation that I would top up the gas tank whenever I used the family car to transport my friends.

I was always careful not to waste the money because I knew there would be no sense pleading for an increase in my monthly “wage.”

Further research shows I was born much too early. The Canadian Child Benefit cheque now provides eligible parents with $619.75 a month for children under six years and $522.91 a month for children six to 17 years.

I wonder if my parents would have given me the full monthly amount? Unlikely.

Just imagine how many jaw breakers I might have purchased with that kind of discretionary spending? And just imagine how soon the store clerk would have tattled to my Dad!
Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks