Like others have stated above, household responsibility belongs to all of us in the family -- largely determined by who is here to do it and who is capable of doing it. I'm home the most, so I do the most. DD is home the next most, but she isn't capable of everything. DH is home the least and therefore does the least, but, he is capable of most everything and will do just about anything I need help with. The only thing he seems incapable of doing is keeping the kitchen sink and stovetop clean and the only thing he refuses to do is dust. He's awesome! We don't pay for chores and we don't even call them chores. DD is 9 years old and has been helping around the house since her first birthday. We started with simple, fun clean-up games for toys and gradually progressed as her interest and capabilities increased. She currently:
~ opens and closes the blinds around the house (morning and night; 4 windows/3 rooms have blinds)
~ helps empty the dishwasher
~ helps set/clear the table, shakes placemats
~ assists in cooking (as she wishes, she leads the way on this one)
~ takes out trash and recycling whenever asked (This isn't one specific person's job in our family.)
~ cleans her own bedroom and desk (and surrounding area) in the family office (I dust and vacuum everywhere, though. She's just learning to vacuum.)
~ helps clean the hall bathroom, which she uses 99% of the time and others also use (She is capable of cleaning the sink, counter, lower portion of mirror, and outside of toilet. She's learning to clean the tub and the floor.)
~ assists with general housecleaning and laundry (as timing allows, I often do these things while she is in school)
~ assists with gardening (she picks and chooses what she wants to do, which is mostly fine with us)
~ cleans all the doorknobs and lightswitches in the entire house (been doing this since she was tall enough to reach them; loves this)
~ clears off foyer and stairs, as asked
~ waters houseplants, as asked
~ waters veggies, fruits, flowers and handles compost items (all when asked)
~ gives the cat fresh water daily and, lately, gives the Christmas tree water daily
The most helpful thing she does is she puts all papers in the designated tray in the family office!!! Every Monday her backpack comes home with paperwork from school. She tells me about anything important on the walk home from school, but she knows to put the paperwork in the designated spot. If she gets the mail, she knows to put it in the tray. If I hand her receipts from shopping, she puts them in the tray. This is just soooo helpful!!! I do paperwork and finances every Tuesday and having it all right there is simply priceless. Truly!
She is just now learning to sweep with a broom and vacuum with an upright vacuum. These are challenging for her. She's been practicing outside with the leaves on the front walkway. LOL Inside was a joke, but I just smiled and encouraged her and I left her work as is and complimented how it was helpful and I was grateful. (Same approach with DH, btw, is what got him to be so willing to help with anything, except dusting.) This time around, I'll do the inside sweeping and let her do something she is more skilled with because we have company coming and it matters more to me. I didn't actually witness her first attempt at vacuuming, but heard from DH. I don't care so much about this, so she can do that this week when she is home from school.
As for allowance, it is for learning purposes. She started getting 4 quarters a week just about two years ago. She put one quarter in the bear bank (like a piggy bank), one quarter in the charity jar, and one quarter in her coin purse (for spending as she wished). The final quarter was up to her every week. She went through phases of putting the extra in each spot for random amounts of time. We were most intrigued by her drive to raise funds for her school's jog-a-thon, which was going to be matched by an anonymous donor if they raised $10K or more in order for the school to install a "real" track (elementary version). She collected her own quarters for weeks; asked family, friends, and neighbors to sponsor her; and she gave her own spending money as well. We matched her efforts. (And the students did meet the minimum for the anonymous donor, so they got the track.)
In 2009, she received $52 for the entire year in allowance money. She donated all the charity money to her school's jog-a-thon. She put all the coins in her bear bank and then deposited them into her savings account. She only spent money on field trips (other than the additional funds to the jog-a-thon). We go half-n-half on most optional things for her that are within her budget. Field trips are the main one. School ones are $1-8 each and Girl Scouts ones are $5-15 (if they cost anything; many are free). When/if I go as a chaperone, we pay all of my cost and half of her cost. She pays half of her cost. She derives such a sense of pride from this! These are meaningful expenses to her and she likes this level of involvement.
In 2010, we changed things up. I didn't enjoying saving all my quarters and begging for them as change everywhere I went and we simply don't go into a bank as part of any routine. We gave her a "raise" and she received $5 a month in cash. The idea was for her to gain new skills. Instead of weekly disbursement, now it was monthly. Instead of single quarters to place in each spot, now it was one $5 bill and she was to rotate among the spots. Honestly, that was too much change for her. She is good with money and understands it and its various purposes, etc. She got accustomed to monthly just fine, but the rotating just didn't work.
She ended up in debt to us several months in a row for field trips and other things. Granted, her teacher did everyone a disservice by cramming all of the field trips into only two months and we all forked over $22 at once with zero notice on just the kids ($11 for DD; needing 3 months of allowance in advance and it was only May). Only because I didn't feel it was fair to punish her for something she had no control over, we agreed to cover her debt. She didn't have any further field trips that cost money, so she lost incentive to build up her spending money. Prior to summer 2010, she was never a kid to really want anything beyond what we provide. Not sure what happened or why, and I'm not particularly concerned since it was bound to happen at some point, but she suddenly wanted to buy her own little things... We usually share one dessert amongst all of us on the rare occasion we go out to eat and even order a dessert. She decided to buy her own one time. When the bill came (we had it separate, as a learning experience), she was shocked to find she didn't have enough money. Even though we teased her about washing dishes at the restaurant to earn it, we paid the remainder of her bill. Another time, she knew we were going shopping and was planning to bring her spending money, but she had switched from the coin purse to a wallet since now she was receiving bills versus coins. She brought the wrong thing along and I had no idea until she was paying for her items and opened it to find only part of the money she thought she had. Again, I paid it. She fell behind again. Ultimately, she just this month received her first cash allowance since May. These are good learning experiences, as far as I am concerned, and I am glad they happened while she is 7-9 years old versus 27-29 years old!
She has asked that we change the method again for 2011. (Excellent response, in our opinions!) I think we're going to try $6 once a month in single bills; at least for awhile. She can put two $1 bills in charity, two in a savings envelope, and two into her wallet. Random change can go into her bear bank or not, up to her. I might do $4 in single bills (charity and spending) and transfer $2 electronically to her savings account instead. Depends on how easy it is to obtain six singles when getting our monthly cash over at the grocery store and on how much interest she shows in physically going to the bank to make a cash deposit after she receives any Christmas money, which she may or may not get this year, along with whatever she has in her bear bank from random change. I doubt she has any bills saved since her birthday deposit.
We purposely started with very low amounts for two reasons. 1) We provide for her, and her long-distance relatives had been in the habit of sending what we consider obscene amounts of cash for her birthday and Christmas (in lieu of gifts past the age of 5-6). Most of that gift money went to buying her shoes (or other defined items) to offset our own budget or into her savings account. Not really for what those well-meaning folks intended. (They felt out of touch with her and wanted her to buy her own gifts. She has what she needs/wants, so that wasn't a good fit.) She didn't really "need" any personal money until this past summer when she suddenly took an interest in things we don't provide. 2) We only were really doing this for learning purposes, so low amounts worked with our family budget best (honestly, those four quarters a week came out of my personal spending for most of that year) and illustrated the points perfectly. We figured we'd start small and gradually go up as the situation warranted. It is working out better than we had hoped.