"I don't have Diesel and I don't have Gordon and I don't have Bertie the Bus and I don't have a Cranky...."
Never mind that we have enough toy trains to have sent him to college for a semester, earlier this month the Kid started constantly listing the trains and train "infrastructure" that he doesn't have almost daily.
I tried redirecting--"Tell me about the trains you do have, bub"--but he was having none of it. Finally, I exasperatedly told him, "Well, if you want all those things you're just going to have to earn some money to buy them, aren't you?"
I hadn't really meant to start an allowance this early. I worried that he might be too young, and I worried even more when the first thing he picked out to save money for--the aforementioned "Cranky"--turned out to be $40. I was hoping for a more short-term goal to help him get his feet wet, but he was determined.
So, after much parental discussion on the real-world value of 3-year-old labor, we gave him four chores he could do each day--letting out the chickens, feeding Moe, putting the chickens away, and picking up his trains each night. Each job is worth 50 cents, which means that if he's on the ball he should have his Cranky in a little less than a month.
To be clear, he's not doing the chores by himself--except for putting away the trains, mostly--and we are still having to remind him quite a bit. (Because, you know, he's 3.) As such things usually go, it's probably more work for the parents than it would be if we just did the jobs ourselves.
On the other hand, the whining list of toys he wants has all but stopped, and when it does come up in conversation a quick, "Well, you'll have to save your quarters for that," is enough to shut it down.
Overall, I think we made a good bargain.
For the parents in the group--do your kids get an allowance? At what age did you start?