13 September 2012

Money Matters

The girls are doing very well with some basic "chores."  I use the term loosely because it is less assigned jobs and more just a matter of me riding herd on them so they start to get certain routine activities mastered.  Given their ages they are expected to "make" their beds in the AM, help get dishes in the dishwasher, get laundry in the hamper, pick up their toys before we leave the house/go to bed, get shoes in the closet, get coats on the coat hooks...just general stuff that helps them be functioning human beings. 

So far this is working out well with Charlie becoming pretty self-sufficient and Liz chugging along with plenty of age appropriate reminders and assistance.  I do think Charlie may be ready for a more structured chore assignment in that she can take responsibility for one major task every now and then like gathering the little garbage cans up or sweeping the deck.  However, introduction of real household responsibilities beyond just keeping things chugging along means I need to address the idea of an allowance. I am sure this will come up eventually since most school age kids eventually do this.

This is a really tough area for me since I never had a formal allowance or formally assigned chores.  There was no task roster or set rate of pay, but it was known that if mom asked you to do something, you did it.  End of story.  In exchange you could generally count on getting some cash for a movie ticket or whatever it was you were doing.  I should add here that most of our free time was spent with our horses (a hobby that does not come cheap) so we did not need much funding for social lives, nor was funding of much beyond monthly board, tack and show fees expected.  Fair enough.  This system was good because it fostered an idea that you do things around the house for the betterment of all, and in exchange we all look out for each other.  This system sucked because my sisters were lazy turds and I did the most work for equal reward (or so I perceived, history here may be somewhat revisionist).  What this provided in altruism skills it severely lacked in providing me with a sense of autonomy, not only over my own finances, but over what I would have to do for a discrete reward. Playing "guess the chore" in the hopes of going out for ice cream with my friends was not always a great situation.

In stark contrast Chris' parents provided a "menu" of chores with assigned values and you got paid for whatever you did in the week.  This is great because it creates the direct link between increased responsibility and increased rewards.  It also allows kids to determine the best return on investment for their needs.  If you do the dishes every night, you can count on some cash while if your sister can't be bothered to help do anything then sucks for her when she wants tickets to dance.  This may teach a valuable lesson that my parents' hippy culture didn't instill in some of us.  There are some downsides though.  For one, if kids don't want the pay badly enough, then chores go undone.  Sure you don't have to give out allowance that week, but you also have to mow the lawn, do dishes 21 times in a week and scrub your tween's hair gel off the bathroom sink.  Not sure I want to give up my power to insist that my kids participate around here.  Also, this teaches kids that helping the family is only worth it when you want something. There is no sense of doing something for the household just because that is what co-existing human beings do. 

Having seen the kind of conflicts that Chris and I get into over housework, probably as a direct result of our differing histories, I am searching for some kind of middle ground.  I don't want my kids to spend their lives feeling that they are the "someone," but I also don't want my kids to be 30-yearl old parents of two who still can't show some initiative when faced with a sinkful of dishes or a stray pair of socks next to the hamper.  So what is a mom to do?

I have a tentative idea that you get a set of daily/weekly tasks with assigned money values that add up to the total weekly allowance.  If everything is done, you get your allowance.  If things are not done, then you get those tasks deducted.  You can then collect your reduced allowance after you finish up the stuff you neglected.  In my head this makes the kids understand that participating in the household in not optional, provides consequences for not doing as asked, and rewards for just getting on with it.  Maybe there can be a stash of bonus chores for a little extra so there will exist the option to experiment with choosing what is worth your time, but day to day we can avoid the "I only do this when I feel like I want the cash" mentality.

Of course, getting an easy system in place (parenting is only as hard as you make it after all) is only part of the equation.  How to get the kids into the idea of spending vs saving is a whole other can of worms.  Maybe we need to start Charlie off with a goal item so she can see that doing the work, earns the cash and saving the cash earns the desired item.  One step at a time I suppose.

What do you all think?  Do you do allowances and what works, or didn't work for your family?  I am open to any ideas or suggestions.  I will probably not enact any grand plan until after we move and get an idea of our new routines, but this seems like the kind of thing where some preparation will save a lot of drama.


Alicen said...

I am going through the exact same thought processes! I guess having kids of similar ages means that we tend to think about things at the same time.

What my thoughts are so far are that I don't want "chores" to be tied to money. Reason being that I don't want them to only do chores because they are getting paid but rather because that is what a responsible human being does! I am thinking he gets $1 for every year, so he will get $6. I need to talk to Brian and see how often he will receive an allowance. The chores will be a separate matter and they are just expected to be done because you are part of the family and we all work together to keep the house liveable. I also plan to have him put a % of his allowance away each time to save (like a savings account). Maybe like $1 or $2 bucks. That portion is untouchable. Intermittently we will go deposit that into his savings account. With the remainder he will be able to spend almost as he pleases. I'm sure there will be many silly impulse buys but eventually (I hope) he will catch on to the fact that if he saves up he will be able to buy something bigger and better. Not sure if this will work but we are hoping to teach him about the importance of long and short term saving and about budgeting.

My other thought has been when to start with E. I plan to start this on his 6th birthday but she may be sooner since brother is doing it. However, I don't think it would do much now so we'll be waiting a while longer for her. Hopefully I will have all the kinks worked out before that happens!

Now none of this helps to teach that working hard means earning a living but I figure we can wait until he's a little older to tackle that. I also thought about making "bonus" chores which will be paid. This way if he wants to earn money faster then he can do extra work to earn extra money!

Good luck! All these new "problems" beginning now that they are getting older.

Alexis said...

I actually prefer the idea that the pay is not linked to chores. Treating chores as a fact of life and the money as just a life skill tool may be the answer. However, I feel like access to the allowance, and the resultant spending power, is a useful tool in a parent's arsenal. I still feel like the allowance should be linked to some method of "earning" but I can't really find a way to make that happen without linking it to chores. Your plan to keep the two separate with overlap via the bonus tasks is looking like the best way to handle it.

Ginger said...

Growing up, I had a weekly allowance (it varied as I grew up). I also had some chores that were always my job (changing the catbox, helping with laundry, and vacuuming come to mind). But it wasn't a one to one relationship. I could do my chores, but lose my allowance for things like mouthing off, or not doing my homework 3 days in a row. I could not do my chores and still get my allowance.

Our house was much more a "you do chores because you're part of this family, and when mom says she needs your help, you help her. Full stop" house. I would be more likely to lose an activity (going to the mall, say) for not doing chores, than lose my allowance.

I don't know what we'll do when J gets old enough for an allowance, but I know that chores aren't going to be solely about the money. I don't know how, but I'll cross that bridge later :-)

Sarah said...

When I was growing up we had certain chores that we had to do, thus contributing to the family. Making our beds, dishes, laundry, etc (basic things every kids should be able to do since they created said mess). These were not paid items. These were absolutes.
Once old enough, you were given extra responsibility that was rewarded with an allowance (dusting house, vacuuming, etc) You were never able to not do the chores you had been given, this was non-negotiable. You could either do the chores and get paid (it was a very small amount) or you could pitch a fit, still do the chores in the end and then not get paid.
There were certain extra chores that were bigger money earners (cutting the grass, washing the car, clean the bathrooms entirely). These were optional.
All money earned, regardless of how, was divided evenly three ways...short term, middle term and long term. Short term was money that could be spent on anything and was given to you directly. Long term went into savings. Middle term had stipulations. You had to explain where you were going to spend the money. An example would be towards a larger toy, special clothing item, birthday present for someone. Basically it prevented my brother and I from blowing all money but long term on BS nonsense. We were never really denied the middle term money. It just made us pause for a minute and decide whether the item was worth having to justify it to our parents.
Really don't know what effect it had on me as an adult and I have no idea what route I'll go with my kids.

Alexis said...

I love all this input. The consensus seems to be that chores are done because we are co cohabitants here, and the money is a separate issue. That actually makes me a lot more comfortable with the idea. Allowance being a tool for disciplinary action (as terrible as that sound when I say it like that)for general non-asshatery helps kids learn the idea of consequences/money handling without jeopardizing the odds of me getting a damn load of laundry put away.