Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Johnny Paycheck

We've hit some uncharted waters here at The HomeFront Corp: the employees are getting paid.

In an effort to begin teaching our kids how to handle small amounts of money, and to curtail the "I Wants," we've decided to start allowances on a trial basis. I will admit that this decision has been uncharacteristically discussed to death, mostly by me.

Believe it or not, Rob and I are usually pretty quick to decide on a course of action and then follow it. If it turns out to be the wrong decision, we'll have a discussion and make a course correction, but we don't usually talk about it incessantly.

The allowance is different. Since I didn't receive an allowance, I didn't know where to start with my kids. What should they do to earn an allowance? How much do I give them? What chores should be considered a natural part of living in a family and therefore not eligible for payment?

I would have been content to ignore the whole thing, but Francie has been asking me money questions lately: what is the best way to earn it? how should she decide what to save and what to spend? She has worked hard to earn all of the money for her horse camp supplies this summer, and I had to admit that it might be wise to start teaching her the basics of finance management. I don't want the kids to have no idea how credit works, or how to avoid living on it.

Even though I worked at different jobs, I didn't really learn to manage money well until I married Rob. Which is funny, because we were po' when we got married. We were sitting on cheap lawn chairs in our living room and storing our clothes in suitcases. We had nothing to manage.

Rob didn't know much more about money than I. He also worked through high school and college, but when he got a loan in med school for his living expenses, he stored that money under his mattress. Under his mattress, my friends! Like some kind of crazy old coot living way back up in the mountains or something. (He let me share this with you all as long as I promised to tell you that he has come a long way since then. He now is a great supporter of banks and other financial institutions. And he has gotten rid of that moonshine still, too.)

I did a little informal research on the internet and I polled some friends, and then Rob and I cobbled together a little plan:
  • Anyone over the age of five is eligible for a wage.
  • There will be a posted list of chores that must be done CHEERFULLY each week or there will be no allowance.
  • Rob and I are the final arbiters of the degree of cheerfulness in each child's attitude. If we catch even a whiff of bad attitude, we have the right to reduce or revoke the allowance.
  • Each child has the opportunity to earn a dollar amount equal to one half of his/her age per week.
  • Each week, the child must divide allowance into three groups: Spend, Save, and Share.
  • Allowance will cease when the child is old enough to get a real job.

When I told Francie and Fiver about the plan, you could practically hear the cha-ching! in their heads. Fiver immediately made plans to "buy all the trains and digital pets they have at Target." I guess it's good to have goals.

Since this is only the first week, I am interested to see how the Summer of the Allowance will pan out. Hopefully it will motivate them to work hard and not to just expect that money will be falling into their laps at the end of each week.

What about you, my friends? Does anyone else do allowance? Any thoughts on the pros and cons? I'm interested to know how other people handle this.


  1. We've gone back and forth on allowance. One problem we had tying it to chores was when the kids didn't feel like working they just "passed" on the allowance (usually when it was a chore they didn't like). So, often the chores didn't get done. Eventually I started docking them for undone chores and then they owed me (I tried to make it like real life, but if you don't work in real life you just get fired). Eventually they owed me so much that they owed me instead of being paid. Now they work because they eat. And no allowance, but occasional rewards for good behavior. Unfortunately they still aren't learning how to handle money.

  2. No, we don't do allowance.
    We do, however, pay for certain "extraordinary" jobs. Actually I should say that TheDad pays for "extraordinary" jobs--ones he does not want to do himself, like lawn mowing and garden weeding. Middle Sister occasionally "dog-sits" for the neighbors and makes some extra cash that way.

    I think that in 8th grade I got $1.25 a week to fold all the household laundry and distribute it. My sister got the same amount to iron everyone's school uniforms each day. (And we walked to school uphill coming and going, barefoot in the snow...LOL)

  3. We do chores for money in our house too. We kind of borrowed Dave Ramsey's plan, with a few changes.

    Kids 4 and up do chores here. I made a chart with each child's name on it and a list of chores they get paid for doing. Right now that list is cleaning their room, helping with dishes, sorting laundry, folding laundry, vacuuming the kitchen, dusting, and other. Other might include helping me with the baby or doing something not usually needed. As the kids get older the list will change. We won't be paying them for cleaning their room forever. We wanted a list of several chores so that they can have ample opportunity to earn money. As they get older they can do more chores and things like cleaning their room will be expected and done for free.

    We give them a mark for each job done. If we have to ask too many times or if the job is done poorly or with attitude, they don't get a mark. Opting out of certain chores is not an option. They have to sort the laundry and clean their rooms. If asked, they have to unload the dishwasher (things out of reach just go on the counter) and vacuum the kitchen. Each mark is worth a quarter. We pay them about twice a month, in accordance with Husband's pay period. They have give, spend, and save envelopes. We determine what goes in each one, following a basic 10/10/80 plan but not precisely b/c we don't mess with anything less than quarters. Give envelopes go to church and the money is put in the collection. We also put our check in the basket so they see that we give too.

    This has worked well for us. Our kids are helping out around the house. They don't ask for everything. They see something they like and save their money for it.

    Sorry for the long comment. I hope the plan works well for y'all. One challenge for me has been letting go of the desire for perfection in their efforts. This is about learning to help out, and the quality of the job will improve with age.

  4. Anonymous8:18 PM

    We just started a chore chart here for allowance. They are some "musts" and then some "extras" for more money. We however decided that if someone doesn't do a chore, a sibling can do it and sorta steal that allowance. If you do the work, you get paid. If not, someone else will get paid because the work needs to get done!

  5. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Daddy and I tried to give you children allowances, but there were times when we just could not keep up...we did not give allowances for work (even though Daddy would sing "he who doesn't work, doesn't eat" to you guys). You did, however have chores because in our view, we all lived together and just as Dad and I worked to keep the household running smoothly, we expected your age-appropriate help as the years passed. We had hoped that you would learn personal responsibility and that would translate to your adult behavior. It worked for some of you...


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