More than a year ago, when my friend Ralphie from Simply on Purpose talked about their Family Economy, we started doing one of our own.
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
So awesome! Would you be willing to share a blank version of your spreadsheet?
Janssen Bradshaw says
I just added it!
Such good ideas! I also follow Ralphie and started the Home Economy a year ago. It was going great and then just petered off. I think it was having to complete a day to get paid for it that killed it. I like your idea of paying for each job. I am inspired to try it again!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Same! If they missed a morning chore, there’s no incentive to do anything for the rest of the day. For me, it felt like saying “if you’re late to work, we’d rather you not come in at all.”
THANK YOU for posting this!!!! My experience has been so similar to yours. I followed Ralphie and was determined last year to do a family economy, but ours too just did not stick for various reasons. I, too, found myself micromanaging and nagging my kids to get their tasks done, because they were things that I felt were non-negotiable. I love your new way of setting it up, this is seriously so exciting to me, I can’t wait to implement it with my kids.
A couple questions — so do you not ever deal with actual cash? That has been one of my hang ups in the past. I liked the idea of my kids learning to work with real money, but whenever pay day rolled around, the idea of scrounging up exact change for each of them and divvying that up into tithing, savings, spending just felt like such a hassle. And second, can you access the spreadsheet your husband made on your phone? And edit it on your phone? (I’m probably revealing how technologically slow I am with that question.)
Thanks again, Janssen!
Janssen Bradshaw says
The cash killed me last time too – we do ALL digital. And yes, I almost only use the spreadsheet on my phone, which is super handy, since I can look up their balances at the store, make immediate deductions, etc.
I’ve found that there’s value in coins (and I’m Canadian, so 1$ and 2$ are coins here!) for general kid-level understanding of money.
So every few months we get a roll of each denomination of coins (80-ish$ for a roll of quarters, loonies, and toonies), and tuck them away, and so we always have the correct change hanging around. It’s a minor bit of plannning, but it works for us. I imagine that the same approach would work with a bank trip for paper bills, if you decide to go that route…
We don’t exactly have a family economy, but I do pay my kids for a few small things, always quarters. I am wanting to amp up what I pay the for (not how much I pay them), and to me, getting rolls of coins to have on hand, is a simple solution.
Alison S. says
I love this post! Chores have been something we’ve been trying to focus on this past year, but it is such a struggle and we flame out fast. I can totally see my boys being motivated by getting their money doubled. I’ll be reading this post to my hubby later! 😉
Any chance you would mind sharing your spreadsheet?
Janssen Bradshaw says
I just added it so you can download a copy!
We have been doing the family economy for about a year. And we’ve actually been pretty good about it. Which, honestly, is shocking. I love it for the same reasons you mentioned, not having to say ‘no’ is especially awesome.
Lately my 2 kids that are old enough have decided that they just don’t care about doing their jobs. We had a few of weeks of no allowance. For both of them. And it has been making me crazy. And I hate that if they do one ‘job’ but not another on a given day that they get zero for it, so we might have to change that up…
This is so helpful! My daughter is only five months now so I’ll have to save it for the future, but this seems really practical and sustainable – two things that I have found are SO important to me as a parent!
I really appreciated reading this! Our oldest is just turning 6 and we decided it was about time to give him an allowance. We’ve been semi-serious about chores for awhile but it’s time to give him some money with it. I got a huge fit at the Dollar Store a couple weeks ago because I wouldn’t buy him some cheap junk and this would solve that! Other than me having to put up with his cheap junk around the house (but after a couple weeks I can usually dispose of without him noticing). You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks!
What do you think is the ideal age to start? My 5 year old is probably ready but my 3 year old probably isn’t but would want to do anything her sister is doing.
Janssen Bradshaw says
My 4-year-old is still a little young for it, but since we’re doing it with the older girls, she didn’t want to be left out. She doesn’t earn much money yet, but it’s nice to start easing her into it!
“They pay for anything they want that we don’t provide as part of the family.”–I love this because I think it’s important for kids to know what they will get at home and what is “extra.” I had friends growing up that had to pay for EVERYTHING once they hit about 12, including soap and feminine products. That seemed so extreme, especially since there’s not a lot younger teens can do to earn money, and they weren’t getting giant allowances.
This is such a great post – thank you for sharing! One question: Do you have any experience saying no to self-funded purchases of things like a cat or a turtle, that would require ongoing upkeep and/or care from the rest of the family? My daughter desperately wants a pet but we don’t have the room (and I don’t have the patience) and I am not effectively explaining why that’s not something she can spend her money on. (I’ve tried telling her that a pet affects every member of the household, not just her… but I’m really doing a poor job of getting through to her.)
By the way, it drives me crazy for the chores to go undone, so I charge for it. If I have to make my daughter’s bed, for instance, she pays me a quarter. Not sure if that would work for you, but it has been effective for us.
BTW Janssen, your can add the word “copy” to the end of your Google Sheets share link so that it forces people to make a copy and save it to their own Google Drive (so no one edits the original on accident). Full instructions here: https://shakeuplearning.com/blog/force-users-to-make-a-copy-of-a-google-doc/
Just thought it might be helpful and wanted to share. Love your blog!!
Jennifer H says
I love your insights on this. I’m with all the other commenters that have tried to implement this only to have it fade away after a many months. I’m taking your advice here to restruction how we improve this plan for my family–my kids really miss getting paid and have money to spend on non-essentials.
I love hearing the different ways people implement the family economy. I’ve had some struggles too, so I keep making adjustments here and there. I like some of your ideas, maybe that will give me some inspiration for problem solving. My kids (and I) can never remember to get the charts signed off!
So, do they get paid per chore in each block? So if they did 1 chore out of 4 in the morning block do you pay for that one? We tried this ofer summer, but like you it seemed like me nagging to make sure they made the most money possible!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Nope – they have to do everything in that block to get paid for it.
Shae Lynn Watt says
I really like blocks vs. chores or days.
What do your girls do with their savings? Right now we have four categories, which is making me a little nuts, but felt right when we started. Spend, Save to Spend (he can open it when he has a plan and more than $20, because he never got enough in his regular spend bank to buy anything except a hot wheels car), Save to Grow (this one he can’t touch, basically), and Share (donations).
Because we have so many categories and he fills them equally, we upped what we pay per chore, but I really like your system and I want to go back to the drawing board on how we track and organize the chores!
My experience is very similar to yours and I studied the same resources. It’s so helpful to hear your insights and thanks a million for sharing the spreadsheet!!!! I’ve tried several apps for tracking chores and money but none have stuck…I think this will be perfect!
We are restarting out family economy as well so this is perfect timing and inspiration. I’m sometimes challenged by the ‘savings’ category. Do you have them save for the long term or save for a larger “want” item or something else?
I have tried and failed at the family economy too but this is re inspiring me! Thanks!!
I LOVE how you broke this down and addressed so many little issues. My little is only 7 months, so we’re a long way off from this, but I’m glad to have this as a resource when we decide she’s old enough for it!
Emily Stephenson says
I grew up with a family economy and loved the Entitlement Trap so I eagerly jumped into doing this last year but it fizzled out after a couple of months. You highlighted some of the exact issues we had when we started running this as well. I was constantly doing the nagging so they wouldn’t miss out on money. And the all or nothing approach didn’t work because then my oldest particularly would miss one thing and be like, well there’s no point now! We’re trying to relaunch this coming week with spring break so I’m taking your ideas into our new plan. It has to be something where they take the ownership and I don’t feel the need to nag them or I know it just won’t work long term! Thanks for sharing how you adjusted!
thanks so much for your breakdown! your way of handling the family economy seems much more doable than others i’ve seen… i’m encouraged to try it out with my girls 🙂
Love this explanation. I’ve been following simply on purpose for awhile now and even Merrick, but both of there ways didn’t work for me either. I think what I was missing was exactly what you described here. I’m excited to give it a try again. Thanks for this and the spreadsheet😊
This is SO a helpful!! Thank you so much. I think your tweaks make it exactly what we need in our home.
Most people have 30 minutes of reading as a chore. You don’t. Can you explain your reason? I want to know.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Reading is such a normal part of our day, it didn’t even occur to me to add it. Plus, I don’t want my children to see reading as a chore or something they have to get paid to do. If they already have intrinsic motivation to read, I don’t see any reason to add extrinsic motivation.
How/where do you deduct in the spreadsheet when they spend some of their money? I’ve been playing around with it and I can’t figure it out!
Janssen Bradshaw says
Just put a – sign in front of the cost and it’ll subtract it!
Danielle Cardon says
I love this so much! We’ve been trying to implement chores in our house, and one of the hardest things was keeping track of their money. I had a friend tell me about greenlight debit cards for kids, and it’s been a game-changer! We just recently returned from Disneyworld, and my kiddos brought along their own personal debit cards to buy whatever their little hearts desired, it was wonderful! Thanks for the great info 🙂
Carly Brewer says
Do you have accounts set up for them where the money actually exists? I guess I’m just confused on where the funds actually are.
Janssen Bradshaw says
It doesn’t really exist except for the money that we periodically deposit into their savings account.
Do they ever get to spend their “savings”? My 10 year old today asked me, “what am I saving for?”.
Is there a straightforward way to change the percentage automatically calculated for savings?
Our oldest keeps 10% spending, 10% tithing and 80% savings for his earnings from his job. I’d love to add a tab for that to keep track of both his FE money and his work money.
I’m not sure what percentage I want my kids to keep from family economy, but is there a way to change it?
Thank you so much! I loved that this concept helped me realized what I hated about reasons for allowances. I didn’t want to nag to get things done so they could earn money. So I am using your concept for that plus another chart for non-negotiable chores (things that I will nag them for but also the incentive is screen time after chores are complete.).
Hey. I am so glad I found this. I have been also trying to use Ralphie’s economy…and I love the adaptations you made.
I am curious how and when you have them pay tithing and/or put money into a savings account? …do you just sit down once a month and have them do this and then zero out the spreadsheet? Or do you do this weekly?
Janssen Bradshaw says
Usually just once a month or so!
I love your account. Can I ask for further explanation on what things are on your chore chart? Also, how do you present it to your kids of the these are things you can do if you want to get paid versus these are the things we just do because we are a family?