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How Much Do Parents Spend Bribing Their Kids?

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Taking care of kids really adds up. There’s the food, toys, clothes, healthcare, day care and education expenses (not to mention the cost of actually giving birth or adopting them), but there’s something a lot of parents do and may forget to budget for: bribing their children.

Kids on their parents’ payroll are doing all right: The average child 10 years old or younger receives $1,360 a year in allowance, bribes, rewards and gifts from his or her parents, or about $113 a month, according to a new survey from coupon site Voucher Cloud. The data was drawn from polling 2,174 American parents of children between 5 and 10 years old. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Parents Feel Pressured to Pay Children

The majority of moms and dads in this survey (71%) said they regularly give their kids money, and they shell out cash for a variety of reasons: 77% give a monthly allowance, 61% give money as a reward for good behavior and achievements, 55% say the cash is a bribe to make kids behave better, 46% give cash for birthdays and holidays, and 44% pay their children for doing chores.

To pay each kid about $100 a month can take a huge chunk out of parents’ budgets, and they know it. The majority of parents surveyed (65%) said they would like to give their children less money, but they feel obligated to dole it out. Of the parents who wished to provide their kids less cash, 45% said they feel like they’re competing with the parents of their children’s friends, 24% said they don’t want to disappoint their children, and 17% said their children like expensive things and need enough money to buy them.

Paying Kids Versus Paying Debt

An extra $100 a month can make a huge difference for a family with debt obligations. If you’re trying to find a way to cut back on monthly expenses, your kids’ allowances should be an easy place to start. Here are a few things you can do with that extra cash:

  • pay off credit card debt
  • build an emergency fund
  • start a college fund for your child
  • pay off student loans
  • settle collections accounts
  • save for retirement
  • start a “fun fund” for future family outings and vacations

If your finances are in tip-top shape, then sure, giving children allowance makes sense. As far as bribes go, that’s probably not the best strategy for teaching kids about money, but all parents are entitled to employ their chosen child-rearing techniques.

At the same time, if you have debt, flexible parts of your budget (like giving your kids cash) should be the first to go toward tackling those bills. The longer debt goes unaddressed, the more expensive it will become, and if you’re planning on paying for your children’s college later on, you may find yourself unable to contribute because you have years of interest charges to reckon with.

Budgeting requires thinking about the future. If you want to give your children monetary rewards, that’s fine, but you should make sure it’s the best use of your money. Check your credit scores to see if you have areas for improvement (you can do so for free through Credit.com), and if you see the need to work on your debt management, take that as a sign you need to re-evaluate your finances. You can even use the change in cash flow as a teaching opportunity — your kids need as much financial education they can get.

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