My five year old is starting to learn the value of a dollar. Ok, he doesn’t realize the value, but he has figured out that it can buy him things! I’ve known this time was coming and my wheels have been turning on how to allow him to earn money, but stay clear that some chores we do just because we are a member of the family.
I have wanted to design a chart for him for quite awhile, but of course 50 other things always seem more important on a day-to-day basis. But last week he picked his sister up out of bed and then held out his hand toward me for a payout! Whoa, son. That’s not quite how it works. So I promised him I would make him a chart that would clear things up and send him on his way to buying his next Star Wars Lego set.
So here we go, these are my kids and money strategies:
We won’t be handing out a set amount of money per week. I explain to the kids that money doesn’t grow on trees, I might as well show them too. My hope is that they learn to work for what they want at an early age. Things won’t be handed to you in life, you’ve got to make it happen!
Family chores are not paid
As a member of the family, the kids have certain responsibilities that don’t earn money. Because we’re a team in this family, we each have to do our part. That means:
- pick up your room
- make your bed
- pick up the toys
- help with your own laundry
- clean up the kids bathroom
Of course I don’t expect perfection here, but a good effort. Once this becomes habit, it should only take a matter of minutes. Let me explain.
Laundry: I only do laundry once a week, so that’s not an everyday task they need to help with. They each have their own basket and we dump the whole thing in and wash it in cold! More on cleaning in this post. I only expect them to put the clothes in the washer (they like to help me add the soap and press the buttons), transfer them to the dryer and put them back in their respective baskets. I’ll add folding in later, but at ages four and five this gets us started in the right direction.
Bathroom: I clean their bathroom once a week (ok, ish), so all they need to do is make sure no towels are on the floor, wipe down the sink an on occasion slap on some gloves and wipe down that toilet! That’s right, asking boys to wipe up/clean their own bathroom is tactical on my part. Boys miss a lot, if you know what I mean. Maybe they’ll start hitting the target more if they have to clean it up!
Toys: It’s important to note here that if you expect your kids to keep their toys picked up, then you have to make it possible for them to achieve it. If they have a million and one toys and there is not a designated spot for each of them, it will be impossible and unfair. I’m a strong believer in less toys and more experiences, but that’s a post for another day. See how I organized and simplified my house here.
By expecting them to do these things without payment, I’m trying to teach them to be independent individuals who will flourish on their own as adults. Doing everything for your kids, even if it out of pure love, can hold them back as they grow older. They won’t see it as love straight from a mother’s heart, they will simply see it as your responsibility.
Family chores before paid chores
Kids don’t get the chance to earn money until their family chores have been completed. Is the bed made? Toys picked up? Bathroom in good shape? Now we’re talking. Let’s check out that list and see what you can earn!
Dave Ramsey recommends paying your child right after they finish the chore so they can see the reward. He also suggests using a clear jar they can see through. I like this, but our money-holding objects shift so much, we can’t seem to make one stick yet— sandwich bag, wallet, piggy bank … I’m not picky about this. When they are earning it, loosing it isn’t much of an issue.
How much to pay kids for chores
To keep things simple, I give either $.50 or $1 for each chore.
I’ve assigned a dollar amount in advance to avoid making rules up on the fly. My oldest catches on when I’m making rules up as I go and would love to start a campaign on why he should earn more. He’ll be running for office in 40 years.
Teaching kids to give
Marcello and I tithe 10 percent of our income. I talk about why in this money post, but it’s the best monetary decision we’ve ever made. We want to teach our kids to give to God’s kingdom as well.
I don’t claim to have the perfect method of teaching kids to tithe, but we’re moving in a good direction. Right now the strategy is for the child to give $1 for every $10 that he makes. He can choose where to give it, but it has to be in the name of the Lord. In other words, to church, a Christian organization or simply given to a someone in need with the expression that it is from God.
I want to teach the kids that God gives us so much — everything, in fact — and only asks for a small amount back. Talk about it before they even earn their first dollar so they know what to expect. Melinda Means has some wonderful, practical ways to teach children about tithing, including ideas like baking 10 biscuits and showing them that God only asks for one. Her article is worth the read.
- spray and wipe down dining room table
- set the table
- clear the table
- clean windows
- wipe down kitchen cabinets and front of refrigerator
- help empty/load the dishwasher
- Swiffer the floor
- sweep rugs (I have a little cordless sweeper they use for now — affiliate link)
- water plants
- dust (and I don’t mean with a feather duster)
- organize kids book shelf
- organize playroom toys (this is more detailed than the everyday pick up of toys)
- weed the yard
- rake leaves
- sweep walkway
- take out the trash
- wash the car
- clean out the car
- babysit (even if it is keeping baby occupied for 30 minutes while you are right there)
- carry in groceries and put them away
I just use water and vinegar for the cleaner because I just know that somehow these boys will manage to A) spray each other or B) somehow get it to end up in their mouth or lick something. Plus, they spray a ton.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s ok if two kids do the same chore. It’s not worth a fight or negotiation. I’ve got two random spray bottles filled with water and vinegar for just that reason.
Printable paid chore list
I made a printable checklist to hang on the fridge. It didn’t have to be this detailed, but what can I say? That’s what graphic designers do, design things. I laminated two of them, one for each boy, and hung them on the fridge. That way I can use a dry erase marker, but stickers or crayons will work too!
Click image to download high-resolution version.
It’s probably impossible to create a chore chart that will work for two different families, but if you’d like a copy of what I’m doing, here it is! My kids can’t read yet so I included icons by the text so they can remember.
Click image to download high-resolution version.
And here’s a blank chart in case that helps someone. But you better send me a picture of your hand drawn icons if you use it.
A few things
Get on the same page as your spouse. Talk about your plan and how you will implement it.
Don’t be tempted to offer them $.25 to be quiet or something silly. I only mention this because Marcello and I both caught ourselves wanting to do it! We give money for chores only, not behavior.
Also, I don’t take it away from them for misbehaving. At four and five years old, discipline is usually timeouts (one minute per age with a timer), taking toys away (when they can’t get along) or running laps (when too much little boy energy is involved!).
And finally, I really only buy toys at Christmas and birthdays. Want your own junk from the dollar store? You’ve got to pony up, kid. Dying to waste money on that $5 Lego guy at the Target checkout? Go ahead, but from your own wallet. Chore money is a game changer for the I-wants.
Talk about money with kids
Identify things that cost money. Talk about saving for family trips or outings. In other words, talk about money with your kids. If your going through hardship, don’t scare them, burden them or make them feel guilty, but explain that Mom and Dad have a certain amount of money and have to figure out how to pay all the bills with it. This means some things might not fit in that did before.
We don’t just become adults who understand how to spend, save and give automatically. We have to learn. While my method might seem strict, I’m doing it with my kids’ best interest in mind, in hopes that they’ll be high-functioning, independent adults one day.
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We’ve only just begun this venture, so I’ll be sure to post an update after we’ve been at it awhile. How about you? Do you talk to your kids about money? Do you have a chore system? How does it work for you?
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