Within a few weeks, it completely petered out for us. It was frustrating to all of us and I simply couldn’t make it work.
In January, when we were settled in to our new house, we decided to give it a go again and this time our Family Economy has been much more successful.
I also read the book The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership where the original idea of the family economy came from, because I wanted to understand the foundational principles of it before we tried it again, and that was VERY helpful. I read big chunks of it aloud to Bart and that helped us both be on the same page.
We spent our first Sunday night Family Home Evening of the year laying it out for everyone, including letting them help choose the chores, and we jumped in the next morning.
So here’s WAY more than you want to know about how we’ve laid out our Family Economy and chores for kids in our house.
Our Family Economy and Chores for Kids:
How we organize our chores:
- Our three older children each get twenty possible points per week (4 points per day, 5 days a week).
- Those four points per day are divided into four chore blocks each day and they earn one point for each chore block they complete.
- The chore blocks are broken down like this:
- Morning Chores: Get Dressed, Make Your Bed, Brush Your Teeth, Clear Your Breakfast Dishes
- Afternoon Chores: Backpacks, coats, and shoes put away
- Zones (can be done any time): Bedroom clean, Zone Clean (one girl has the family room, one has the back half of the playroom and one has the front half of the playroom)
- Bedtime Chores: Get in pajamas, clothes in the hamper, teeth brushed
We use these homemade chore charts for kids:
It’s easier to just show a photo than describe these chore charts, but basically each girl has one card for each chore block and as they do them they move them from the “to-do” envelope to the “finished” envelope.
Each night, before bed, they put a slip of paper with their name and the number of chore blocks they completed that day into a little jar with a slit in the top.
How we pay for chores for kids:
- On Saturday morning, we count up all the slips and pay the girls for the week.
- Each girl gets paid half their age, divided by 20 possible points, for each chore. So for Ani, who is 6, her pay is $3 divided by 20, meaning each chore block is worth 15 cents. Ella, who is 8, makes 20 cents per chore block.
- If they do ALL 20 in a week, we double their money so they can get as much money as they are old.
- We use a spreadsheet that Bart created that lives in Google Drive. It has a tab for each girl and it shows at the top how much they have in spending and savings and tithing. When you add income on a line, it automatically breaks it down into those three categories. When you make a deduction, it automatically adjusts the top totals. This is when having a husband that used to be an accountant is very handy. It also means that we can pull up their totals at any time at the store and tell them how much money they have (which they frequently want to know when they’re passing the toy aisle). And we can deduct spending at the moment of spending and look back and see what they’ve spent their money on. You can download a blank copy of the spreadsheet here if you’d like!
What our girls pay for:
- They pay for anything they want that we don’t provide as part of the family. I LOVE this because it means I never have to say no anymore. You want to get a soda with the dinner out that we’re paying for? You bet! (Turns out that soda you have to pay your own $2 for is MUCH less thrilling than when it appears magically for free). You want that toy at Target? Have at it! (Oh, you don’t have enough money? Time to make sure you do all your chores!).
- We decided that clothes were going to be one of the things we provided for them. Bart bought his own clothes for most of his growing up and hated it, and long before the Family Economy was a thing for us, Bart had no interest in making our young children pay for their own clothing. I’m sure we’ll make adjustments as they get older and more into clothing, but right now it feels right for our family for the parents to pay for clothing. Certainly if there was some item of clothing they wanted that we didn’t want to purchase (say, some hideous Frozen t-shirt at Walmart), they could purchase it themselves.
When we tried to implement a Family Economy before, there were several things that were a hang up for me that kept it from really working for us.
- Everything on the list of chores for kids needed to be something that could go undone. I know other families have things on their Family Economy lists that are non-negotiable (like homework or piano practice), but after reading the book, I couldn’t wrap my mind around giving them ownership and responsibility and then INSISTING that they do something on there. So things that absolutely must get done are not part of the Family Economy for us. I don’t have things on their list of chores If their beds don’t get made, my life and theirs go on. They just don’t get paid for it. If they don’t clean up their zones one afternoon, I can pick it up later if it bothers me or they can just do it the next day.
- There are other things they’re expected to help with that are not part of their list of chores for kids. Most mornings, they unload the dishwasher before breakfast. They help set the table for dinner. Everyone helps sort, fold, and put away their own laundry (aside from Tally). We do Saturday jobs most Saturday mornings as a family where the bathrooms gets cleaned, the house gets vacuumed, and things that have gotten scattered around the house get put away. The list of chores for kids are ways for them to earn money if they choose to do so, but they are still expected to help around the house in other non-paid ways too.
- I had to LET IT GO. I was so determined to help each of them get all their points every day when we first did it that I totally removed all ownership for them. This time around, I leave those chores for kids totally up to the KIDS (I know – novel. I’m a slow learner). I might suggest when we get home for the afternoon that this would be a great time to do their zones, but if they don’t, I don’t mention it again. The payout on Saturday is the motivation, not my nagging. I hate to watch my girls NOT earn their money, but I was taking away all the life lessons this was supposed to be teaching them by dragging them through them. It made them unhappy and it made me unhappy.
- I needed to let them actually spend money. My nature is to NOT be a spender, so letting my girls spend their money on candy, ANOTHER stuffed animal, some random art supply, or whatever was so so challenging for me. But I realized as we got ready to restart our Family Economy that if they couldn’t actually spend money, there was very little incentive to EARN that money. The first week, Ani wanted to buy two stuffed animals at Michael’s and although she did have the money, I told her that it would leave her with only a few cents left, and she decided she’d rather just get one. I didn’t have to coerce her into that – I just gave her the facts and she made up her own mind. And that felt pretty magical to me. This is still a REAL struggle for me to let them buy a candy bar at the hardware store (they’re DOUBLE the price of a grocery store candy bar!) or whatever, but I see clearly the benefits of them having ownership over their own money and recognizing how many weeks of chores it’s going to take to earn whatever toy that looks so tempting at Target.
Any questions about how we handle chores for kids and our Family Economy? I’m happy to answer!
Photos by Heather Mildenstein