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Why We Pay Our Children for Doing Chores

Why-We-Pay-Our-Childen-for-Doing-Chores

As parents, one of our desires is to instill in our children skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. We only get around 18 years to train, teach, nurture, and mentor our children. Ultimately, they are responsible for the choices they make. But we want to do everything we can to help guide them now to lay a strong foundation for their future.

One way we’re seeking to teach our children valuable skills is by paying them for doing chores. I know that the whole concept of giving allowances or paying your children can be controversial. But here’s what we’ve decided: we want to give our children the best money management skills possible. In order to do so, they need to be handling money. And we believe the best time to start them is when they are young.

So, we set up a system of Non-Paid Chores and Paid Chores few years ago and, so far, it’s worked really well. Here’s the basic rundown on it:

Non-Paid Chores are chores you are required to do as a member of our family. These are non-optional; we’re a team and we all need to pull our own weight for our family to function well. These are things like vacuuming, cleaning your room, cleaning the bathroom, laundry, and so forth.

Paid Chores are chores you can elect to do and get paid to do. The only requirement is that your Non-Paid Chores have to be done first before you do any Paid Chores (well, you’re welcome to do them, but you won’t get paid for them if your Non-Paid Chores aren’t done first!). These are things like vacuuming out the car, sweeping the garage, cleaning Mom & Dad’s bathroom… the list of options changes based upon what things need to be done around the house at the time.

Why We Pay Our Kids for Doing Chores

Here are four reasons we have decided to pay our children for doing chores:

1. We Want to Encourage a Strong Work Ethic

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me growing up was a strong work ethic. They provided us many opportunities to work hard and while I didn’t always enjoy those long hours of hard work around the house and on our land, I look back now and know that much of my persevering attitude is a direct result of those opportunities.

By giving our children the option to do extra chores and get paid for them, we’re teaching them that there are rewards for hard work. It’s been so fun to see them experience those rewards firsthand!

2. We Want to Teach Real-Life Skills

We have our children start paying for things from a young age. In fact, from the time all our children were three or four years old, they had their own spending money that they had earned by doing chores and projects for us.

When we’re out shopping, they can bring their own spending money and spend it however they’d like (within reason!). This helps them learn valuable money management skills and also prevents the gimme attitude that can quickly pop up when out shopping. If a child sees something they want and they ask me if we can buy it, my response is always, “Did you bring your money?”

I also love the real-life skills our children are learning from taking their items up to the register and paying for them themselves. They learn about counting change, interacting with sales clerks, and making sure they have enough money to pay for their items in the first place. 🙂

Why We Pay our Kids for Doing Chores

3. We Want Them to Make the $3 Mistakes

When our children to use their own spending money to buy things they want to purchase, we don’t give a whole lot of input or guidance — unless they ask us for it. Why? Because we want them to learn how to think through the wisdom of purchases on their own. We won’t always be around to guide their purchases, so we want them to learn to think through what the best deal is and what the best use of their money is without a lot of prodding from us.

We also want them to make money mistakes. This might seem harsh, but we’d much rather have them make $3 mistakes now when they are little to hopefully prevent some $3,000 and $30,000 mistakes down the road.

They’ve learned a lot of lessons when they bought cheap items that were broken within a few days and they’ve learned that spending all your hard-earned money on some impulse purchase can often lead to regret. These instances have resulted in great discussions about how to carefully think through purchases and how to make sure you’re making the best use of your money.

4. We Want to Provide Them Opportunities to Give

One of the greatest joys of paying our children for doing chores has been watching them become generous givers. We encourage them to set aside a portion of their money for giving and we regularly talk about the needs around the world.

We’ve been so proud to watch our children fund Operation Christmas Child boxes and buy goats and chickens and help fund a water project for those in other countries through Samaritan’s Purse. Truly, there has been nothing more rewarding as a parent than seeing our children want to follow our family’s mantra to “Live simply so others can simply live.”

Do you pay your children for chores? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts. {And if you disagree with anything in my post, I want to hear your thoughts… we’re still learning and very much a work in progress as parents!}

Note: The Give, Save, Spend Wallets were sent to us as a gift from Melissa from A Time For Everything. My kids LOVE them! Thank you, Melissa!

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72 Comments

  • Amy says:

    I like the idea of paid and non-paid chores. Our son just turned 4 and we need to start thinking about these things. The time has snuck up on me! Do all chores earn the same amount of money or does it vary based on the chore? Trying to think what we can afford and what is realistic for his age.

    • Ryan says:

      My daughter is turning 4 this year and I started teaching her how to count coins when she was 1. I’ve created fun games for her to play to get familiar with money, and I’ve setup 4 jars for her to put her money in. She loves playing the games and putting coins into her jars.

      A lot of my friends have kids who are twice the age of my daughter and they haven’t started teaching them anything about money.
      I’ve had quite a few people ask me what I’ve done which got me thinking that perhaps I could create a service that would give parents the tools and material they need to raise kids that aren’t spoiled, who don’t have a sense of entitlement.

      Just out of curiosity, would you pay for an online service that provided you with the material(video lessons, specific examples, worksheets, etc..) you needed to teach your kids money lessons from toddler all the way up to college age?

      • I think Dave Ramsey’s materials (I think it’s called FPU Junior) are worth it.

        You might want to explore which parts of it are the best option. The books are great, but you might not need the envelopes. If money is a concern, make your own envelopes. Get some plain white ones and paint them, personalize them, etc.

        Same for the “commission outline.” Basically it’s a fance whiteboard. You can make your own from a Dollar Tree whiteboard and a ruler and sharpie.

        But the books…I’d splurge a bit on those when he’s having a sale. I think they will help your kids.

    • Chore payments vary based upon the time/effort they require.

    • Sherry says:

      My kids (11 &6) can earn up to their age in dollars . Its easiest for me if each chore is a dollar. My oldest is,responsible for cooking one meal, cleaning a bathroom , vacuuming, reading to her brother one day a,week, etc. My youngest has dusting, sweeping the kitchen floor, emptying trashcans, and the other bathroom. Each year in their birthday, a new chore gets assigned and allowance goes up. They are expected to clean up their toys and projects and plates and do homework for free. Cleaning the jointly used areas are paid chores. Chores aren’t done? Our weekend plans are cancelled. That usually works. They put 10% into one bank (savings), 10 % into the charity bucket, and the rest in their spending banks. I keep a chart of what theyve done and pay at the end of the week.

  • Love it!

    We do the same thing already with our 3-year old. She is learning about money very early.

    So excited about Dave Ramsey’s new book with his daughter, which I got yesterday, about money and kids.

    Probably has a lot to do with why she is already starting her first business 🙂 (http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/my-3-year-old-the-business-genius/)

  • Ana says:

    We also have paid and unpaid chores. One great tip I read somewhere is to start out the month with a jar full of the maximum allowance they can get, and take away money for chores not done. It would be hard to keep up with for every chore, but we do this with cleaning their room. On the first of the month, each boy gets a jarful of 30 (or 28, 31, ect) dimes. At the end of each night, we inspect the room to see if they get to keep that day’s dime. If it’s clean, they keep the dime, if it’s not, we take one out of the jar. This helped our family provide a little more incentive with chores they really struggled with.

  • Jacquie Parker says:

    Love this!! Where did you get the awesome wallets?

  • Jennie C. says:

    Love the idea of paid and non paid chores! I have some practical questions. In the picture, your girls have 3 money pouches labeled and hooked together, I’m guessing you just bought those and made your own labels? Do they keep all of their “give” and “save” money in them or just for the week? You mention that you let them spend as they want, but do you give them any initial guidance of how much to put in each pouch or let them divvy it up? Thanks!!

    • Marie says:

      I just used jars I had from pasta sauce or pickles etc. Took the labels off and used colored construction paper. Then I used sticker letters I had to spell spend, save, give and the kids decorated with stickers. Super easy. We also have one jar that all their money goes into, since it’s mostly quarters, to make it eaiser to divide up 3 ways because how do you divide a quarter? It’s worked for us. As the one jar gets full we take it to the bank and get bills and divide it up. They’ve used their give money for missions, World Vision, church and special needs

    • The Give, Save, Spend Wallets were sent to us as a gift from Melissa from A Time For Everything –> https://www.etsy.com/listing/187035756/kids-give-save-spend-budget-wallet-set?ref=related-0 My kids LOVE them!

      We give them some oversight on how they divvy up their money, but let them be involved in the decision-making, too. Kathrynne has a bank account where she socks away some money every month, too. (She’s saving for a truck — because she’s ambitious like that!)

  • Wynne says:

    We have used the same method for our kids. We have the “My Giving Bank” from Larry Burkett’s ministry which is divided into three categories, Bank, Store and Church. Each time they are paid I attempt to pay in amounts they can easily divide into threes so they understand the concept of giving to God, then saving and then spending. I have made “paying jobs” out of things that are often above their typical skills or are more challenging than their day-to-day jobs like picking up their room or keeping toys picked up. One tip that came with the literature in the bank is setting a fair price for each job and only paying if that job is done completely. This teaches them that “a worker deserves his wages” and that we work for excellence in all we do 🙂

  • Tara H says:

    I love this! I also love the pouches for the money. Does anyone have any ideas for very easy homemade ones though?? I’d love to buy hers but having 5 boys makes that kind of difficult! I’ve tried just using envelopes before but they get torn up. And it’s just more fun to have cute pouches. 🙂

  • Denise says:

    I love this!!! I don’t have kids yet but my husband and I have already talked about having required chores and paid chores. I think it is important to learn early like you said!!!

  • Ashley P says:

    It’s how my grandmother raised us! We had non-paid chores that we did as part of the family: clean our rooms, clean our bathroom, do our laundry, wash our dishes (and my grandmother was adamant about each person washing their own dishes immediately after use so they didn’t pile up in the sink).

    But we also got paid for certain chores: dusting, mopping the kitchen, cleaning the garage, that sort of thing. She also paid us $50 to paint the porch every summer. It usually took us 3 days to do it, but $50 was a lot to us as kids. And we got to wash off at the end of the day by jumping in the pool, so we weren’t complaining.

    I *did* also get a small allowance of a dollar a week as long as I kept my grades up, and I had to put a dime into tithe, a dime into savings, and could spend the rest as I pleased, which was usually ice cream at school once a week, but sometimes I saved for other things like birthday parties.

    I plan on raising my kids the same way. 🙂

  • Tara says:

    I love these ideas! My boys already make their beds, put away their laundry and help with a small portion of the cleaning. I like the idea of unpaid chores and paid chores.

  • MaryEllen says:

    My oldest is just getting to the point where he has his own money that he wants to spend. (He earns it the same way your kids do.) We had our very first experience yesterday with him buying something that he wasn’t thrilled with and wished he hadn’t spent his money on it. I let him do it even though I was inwardly cringing, because like you say, it’s the $3 mistakes that will help him learn! I’d much rather that then to see him as an adult drowning in debt!

  • I love this! My oldest is 6, and I’m been trying to think of practical ways we can teach him & his brothers and sisters how to manage their money. This was so helpful, thank you!

  • Leah says:

    This is EXACTLY what we’ve done! Love this method for the exact reasons you’ve listed!

  • What a great idea to have three zippered pouches for $ with Give, Save, and Spend on them. And to keep them together on a ring is brilliant ~ great teaching idea. Love the idea also of having kids make $3 mistakes. Very helpful!

  • I am so glad they like them, Crystal! Thank you so much for sharing–it’s fun to see them in little hands. 🙂

    We have paid and non-paid chores at our house as well, for essentially the same reasons. Early on we paid for more tasks, and we saw much more entitled attitudes. (“If I do this, what will I get for it?”) It really helped when we made some changes and required some jobs to be done simply because as a family, we’re a team, and we all play a part in keeping our home a pleasant place to live.

  • Chris says:

    When my son was about 15, I had a job and could work all the extra I wanted. I paid him $100 a month to do most of the household laundry and clean the main areas of the house. I felt it was a valuable skill for him to learn.

  • Ashley says:

    We pay for extra chores, we also pay for extra school work–$1 for every book read off of my “Extra Reading” list and $20 for the successful completion (at lest 90%) of a grade level of math (most of my kids choose to do an extra lesson per day, so they go through 2-3 grade levels per year).

    • Jenn says:

      That’s a great idea, Ashley! I was always ahead on almost every subject except math, because we couldn’t find a curriculum that clicked with me, but if I’d had that kind of motivation, I might have gotten through more of it. (Except Saxon – still hate that math curriculum) I might implement this when we have kids, so thanks!

  • shannon says:

    I need to bring these back….chores…and the boys have been asking to earn money. How does one distinguish between spending and saving? When they put money in savings, do they have a particular item in mind or a particular dollar amount or time frame in mind? My kids struggle with the savings aspect because they are so short sighted. They have a hard time setting a savings goal and sticking to it. Any ideas?

    • We had each of our kids pick one “big ticket” thing at the store they really wanted or a place they would like to go to that cost between $30 and $100 for their first savings task.

      Then I made a table in word where each block of the table was $1. Visual and something that they wanted helped motivate them to keep at it.

      My son picked out a $40-ish Lego set he’d been eyeing and my daughter picked a $50-ish accessory for her doll that she had been hoping Grandma would buy her for her birthday (that didn’t happen).

      Hope that’s helpful!
      Lea

  • SuperMoney says:

    The problem I’ve always had with paying kids for chores is that helping around the house should be expected, not part of a rewards system. The same with getting good grades and being generous.

    Your paid chores system is excellent, though. It’s like a teaser for an actual job. Want some extra cash? Here are your options, earn it. Very straightforward idea this, definitely sharing!

  • My parents handled my sister and I that exact same way 30 years ago. 🙂 I remember they used to pay us for all kinds of strange things, like a penny per weed if we pulled the weeds out of the driveway. It worked, too! Both of us are very hard workers now, and it really drove home the lesson that you don’t get something for nothing. (Except at CVS… but that’s a different story. 😉 )

  • Dee Dee says:

    This is my summer project. I am in the middle of a class taught by Dave Ramsey and this is one of his principles. I love it.

  • Amy says:

    I love this, but need to give some more thought to how to introduce it to my daughter, who is four. With warm weather (finally!) returning, there will be lots of outdoor chores she can help with…

    I agree wholeheartedly that this system strikes the right balance between setting expectations that everyone helps at home, and teaching about working for money.

  • cassi says:

    This is very similar to what we do. In the summer the boys are also free to work for neighbors or friends who go on vacation. My 8 year old saved up for an iPod touch when he was 7. My 5 year old loves putting away money in his savings for a car. Our credit union regularly offers CDs with a 5.01% interest rate when the deal comes up the boys are excited to put their money away for 3 years knowing that it will grow more than if they did nothing. It is work to explain things like CDs and interest rates to them but it is worth it 🙂

  • I love the idea of paid and non-paid chores. Right now my boys are just doing non-paid chores. They are trying to save up for something big, having them do bigger projects over the summer for pay can be a win-win situation! 🙂

  • I love that you have chores that are required just because you are a member of the family. When my kids were young, we are talking 30+ years ago, we did not give allowance because chores were part of belonging to our family. Your idea is much better, but alas…it is too late for me LOL.

  • rebekah says:

    I do something similar….I however do not let them go shopping unless they have saved a certain amount…increases with age. I also give them a allowance which increases with age but I do not buy them toys unless it is a gift. Also my son is now to the point where his allowance is higher but I don’t buy shoes or toys for him. I picked shoes because his taste outgrew my budget.

  • Sissy says:

    My children are in their twenties, it this is one of the biggest regrets that I have. I used to say “No”, all the time when they were little and wanted to buy something on an outing to the grocery store, or other store. We were scraping pennies together and couldn’t afford even a tiny expense. Instead, I wish I would have taught my children to divide any money they received from birthdays, etc into thirds. Saved, Gifted and Spend. I have talked to my husband about this many times before, and to my children now that they are older. Once they have children I want them to teach them to be givers, savers and for their children to learn how to handle money.

  • I’m really interested in this idea of un-paid and paid chores. Right now our kids do their chores because they are part of the family, but I also see the benefits of learning to handle money at a young age.

    Do the kids check with you before they do a paid job? I can just see two of my kids cleaning the bathroom one after the other before I have time to cross that job off the list.

    Also, what happens when something comes up (that’s not a regular chore) that you need everyone to help with? Have you had to deal with the “how much will I get?” attitudes?

    I’d also LOVE a list of examples of paid jobs, just to get my wheels turning.

    • Yes, they do check with us before doing a paid chore. And yes, sometimes we have to deal with the “how much will I get paid?” questions and that typically is a great place for us to have a discussion on serving, giving, etc. It’s something we’re still navigating. 🙂

  • Tara H says:

    I don’t know if any of you who replied to me earlier will see this but thank you!!
    With the help of my mom, I actually ordered the wallets from this post from Melissa at A Time for Everything! She is absolutely wonderful to work with…figuring things out for 5 different boys isn’t easy! But she made it easier!!
    Thank you, Crystal, for the instruction in this post! I look forward to teaching my boys better about handling money!
    And thank you, Melissa, for creating a fun way to help us keep track of their money! 🙂

  • Becca says:

    Thank you for this post. I currently have an almost 3 year old, a 1 year old and another on the way. These kinds of posts really help me to think through how I want to teach some of these life skills and when I want to start teaching them. Rather than forgetting all about these areas of life, and then starting when it is probably too late, I really appreciate the thoughts that are given to help my husband and I think through these issues now so we’re ready to help our children grow and mature into adults.

    • Q says:

      I agree with Becca!! It’s encouraging me to talk with my husband and hear his thoughts in this area and we want to trach our 6 month old daughter about money, responsibility, and work.
      Thank you!!

  • Thanks for sharing this. We don’t have a formal list of chores we pay for, but when the kids go above and beyond, money is handed out. I think I need to make more of a list for them so they can be intentional about earning money.
    We never just give our kids money to spend when we are out at a store or on a vacation. They have to use their own. It is wonderful for them to learn the value of money. Our children have also been saving toward a long-term goal as a group. It’s been amazing to see the money adding up.

  • Karen says:

    Someone has probably already mentioned this but an added bonus to receiving an allowance is that children learn math skills. When I taught elementary and now as a tutor, I tell parents to give allowances. They will learn all the basic math skills by handling their own money. They will even pick up per cent by adding on sales tax. You may even want to give their allowance in coins to help them with multiples of 5, 10, and 25.

  • Emily says:

    I have 3 children – 13, 11 and 9. They have chores that need to be done daily that they don’t get paid for.
    If they’d like to earn some money, they’ll come to me and ask, “Mom, do you have something I can do to earn $X?” Might be picking up dog poop, or weedeating the yard, or something like that.
    I will also occasionally have a bonus – I’ll tell them I have $2 for the first person to empty the entire dishwasher (something they normally split daily), or $3 if someone will fold my laundry. (We each do our own laundry.)
    We clean my company’s office and they do get paid for that, the catch is that they don’t know how much they’ll earn until the cleaning job is complete. I pay based on effort and attitude – and they all know how much each child was paid. I praise them individually and specifically for something they did well during the cleaning, and then offer them a suggestion for what could be done better the next time.
    This has been very helpful for my youngest – he tends to rely on his siblings to handle things for him. He was initially not making any money, or very little and now makes the most for each cleaning job!

  • L.L. says:

    I love the envelopes in the photos. Soo cute! Are they plastic or cloth? Are those photos of ur daughter holding them or did u get it off the web! I would love to get those envelopes (or a pattern if they are cloth! Do u know where u can get them!

  • Kim says:

    I would love it if everyone would compile their “paid task” lists with the amount you are paying. We already do the chores are required as a family member, but are looking to add paid jobs to it and are not really sure what amount is reasonable for payment.

  • Crystal Beyers says:

    I love this idea. We had started doing chores with our son when he was 4 (now 5). We were paying him for what you would consider non-paying chores, but it did get to be a problem. He would complain about doing something as simple as putting his clothes in the hamper, but still want the reward. We have since gone wayside with the chore list. He is ok with doing the everyday tasks at hand, but I love the idea of rewards for larger more involved chores. He is always asking to help with things like yard work, cleaning in the garage, etc. I think this is a perfect way to get him to understand.

  • We’re slowly coming up with a list of possible paid chores. Any ideas?

    Right now I’m thinking about jobs I would normally do, but it would be nice if someone did for me – making Daddy and Mommy’s bed is at the top of my list 🙂

  • Kelley says:

    I have to say, when I first read the title I immediately thought “no way! We don’t pay our kids for chores” and I was a little surprised that you did honestly! lol! But having read your thoughts now, I think this is a great system, and one we may implement…because I too think that the kids need to learn how to handle money and to save, and to give…but I also don’t think that they should get paid to do things that need to be done for the house that we all live in. I’ll be talking to hubby about this idea tonight! love it.

  • Amy says:

    I have a 9 year old daughter and I have a hard time trying to figure out what to pay her for the “paying chores” can you help me out??

  • Tonia says:

    We refer to their “non-paid” chores as “responsibilities”. These are the things they are expected to do because they are part of our family and because we are trying to teach them to be “responsible” for themselves. “Responsibilities” include putting your dirty clothes in your hamper, cleaning your room, putting dirty dishes in the sink, doing homework, etc. “Chores” are things they are paid to do and are done after all their responsibilities are completed. We pay them for short term tasks that come up on occasion. They include hauling bricks to the barn, raking leaves, etc. Calling the non-paid tasks “responsibilities” has helped them figure out what they are “responsible” for and has led to them doing those tasks more on their own without being told. Their “responsibilities” have changed as they have gotten older. For example, as soon as they could walk, they put their clothes in the hamper (I did have to watch they did not put toys or trash in it as well). Now (at age 7 and 8), they not only put their clothes in their hamper, but they also take their hampers to the laundry room and sort into the “light” and “dark” hampers so I can see when a load is ready to be started.

  • Sarah says:

    I started a new system over the summer that is similar to Crystal’s. Nonpaid work is rooms clean, dishes in dishwasher, laundry put away, bathrooms cleaned once a week. Paid work is vacuuming ($1), baking dessert ($2), dusting ($1), emptying dishwasher (.50), taking out the trash (.25), watering flower pots (.50), sweeping patio and steps and garage ($3) among others. The 13 yr old makes $5-$8/ week, but the 11 and 9 yr old only make money if I tell them to pick a $1 chore. I could see the system as a failure since the younger ones still aren’t motivated to work, but at least they are learning new skills and helping me out. They have asked , “Do I get paid for that?”, but that’s a legitimate question (most if the time) if I’m trying to teach them the value of a dollar. I plan to stick with the system.

  • Ocean323 says:

    We pay for chores, but my girls have 4 different jars in which to put their money. Spend – is for those trips to the store when you see something you want. Invest- (my husband is a reseller) they can give money to him to buy a product in their name to sell for a profit. Save- This is for vacation or whatever big expense they decide they are saving for and at the end of every month we pay them an addition penny for each dollar in there. They learn about interest. The last one I feel is most important. It’s donation- they put at least 5cents for every dollar earn in their donation jar. Then they can choose who to give it too. They’ve made donations to the local food bank, make a wish, toys for tots. It’s up to them, but whatever they donate we match with them.

  • linh says:

    what is the word ‘gimme’ mean?

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