Now that Little Man is the big five, I’ve been trying to give him a little more freedom (using an empty public restroom alone is so exciting!). I’ve also been giving him a little more responsibility. This is a great age when children are eager to learn and eager to please, and are beginning to form the foundation for lifelong habits. One of the things I’ve implemented with success is a chore and allowance system. I’ve had a few questions about it so I thought I’d share what we are doing. I am no expert, this is just what works for us and it is still fairly new so I am sure it will get tweaked as we go.
Little Man has always been my little helper and has regularly had small things he is expected to do around the house. So when deciding on official chores, I thought first about what he was already succeeding at. I wanted these goals to be attainable to give him a sense of accomplishments. However, I also thought about would stretch him and help me as well. There are many resources out there regarding age-appropriate chores than can assist you in determining what would be best for your kiddo. I ended up with six chores: making the bed, feeding the fish, setting the table, clearing the table, cleaning up toys, and making sure laundry is sorted properly. These are daily chores that he is expected to do simply as a “good citizen” member of the household. In addition, each week I might add on a few optional “extra jobs” he can complete to earn extra. These are things that might help me out that week, like taking down decorations or wiping down the windows.
Creating and Using a Chore Chart
When I started developing our chore chart, I looked around at so many lovely blogs and websites that shared their own kid’s chore systems for inspiration. After researching for a while and thinking I would have to make my own because none were just right, I stumbled across one at The Gilded Pear that was absolutely perfect for what I wanted! I figured rather than recreate the wheel, I would utilize the awesome chart she shared in her post about children’s allowances. (Thank you Leisha!) I chose the blue and green version and modified it to suit our needs. I keep it on the fridge (for now, eventually it will go on a clipboard so the kiddo can reach it himself) inside a clear page protector. I can mark it daily using a dry erase marker, and then erase it at the end of the week. I also store a Notes page on the flipside of the page protector that details the specifics of the chore and allowance system, so that grandparents or anyone that might stay with Little Man can refer to it if needed.
Determining Allowance Amount
I think is very personal to each family’s unique dynamics. You may find that your child is motivated by a small amount, or that you can afford to offer a larger amount. I did a little research on this as well, looking around various financial sites to see what was recommended. I ended up deciding to use the child’s age to determine earning power. So, since Little Man is five years old, he has the potential to earn $5. When he turns six, his allowance will increase to $6, and so on. Once he reaches teen years, I’ll likely reevaluate this depending on his maturity level, involvement in school/volunteerism/extracurriculars, driving status, etc. But for now, I anticipate this working well for many years.
Little Man is expected to complete all of his chores daily, Monday-Saturday, with Sunday free for resting. He earns check marks on his chore chart for each one he completes. At the end of the week, if he has received all of his check marks each day he has earned his allowance. If he misses any chores, his allowance is reduced by a certain amount per chore not completed. His allowance can be increased for that week by completing any “extra jobs” I might have for him. It can also be reduced for behavior. It is known that everyone is expected to be kind and respectful to each other in our household. I wasn’t sure how I was going to track this on the chart, but The Gilded Pear‘s chart integrated it in a fun way for kids. If there are repeated instances of disrespect or mean behavior, his chart is marked with frown faces. If he receives a certain number of frowns, he knows his allowance is forfeited for the week. (So far this hasn’t happened!)
Sunday is Pay Day, the kiddo’s favorite day haha. On Pay Day, Little Man and I sit down together and review his chart. We tally up how much he has earned from regular chores and extra jobs, and if necessary make any deductions. I also use this as a teaching opportunity, taking the time to talk about how proud I am of his responsibility or gently suggest corrections he can make for the upcoming week. Once the final amount has been reached, we bring out the Bank.
The Bank and Money Tracker
To make it a little more fun, I made a “family bank” that holds all of the money I use to pay out allowances. His eyes get so big when as he watches me open the bank and draw out dollar bills and quarters. :) We had a lot of fun creating our bank together. I used a simple office storage box from Target and let Little Man choose stickers to decorate it with. At the beginning of each month I pull out a few week’s worth of allowances (which I have factored into my monthly budget) in singles and put them in the bank. I wanted to teach Little Man about the importance of knowing where your money goes, so I also keep a Money Tracker sheet in the bank. I made a simple form that the kiddo and I use together to record how much he earns each week and what goes in and out of the bank. We also use this form to determine how his allowance is distributed among his three jars.
The Three Jar System
Another big lesson I wanted Little Man to learn is how to manage his money. Once again (noticing a trend here? yes, I love to research things!) I looked around quite a bit for inspiration on child-appropriate ways to teach money management. One of the first things I came upon was the Three Jar system, and I loved the idea behind it. This system divides the child’s allowance among three jars: spend, save, and share. The official Three Jar site uses an online program and has other specifics, but I wanted to tweak the idea to fit our family.
Since Little Man is motivated by visual reminders, I decided to use clear glass jars so he could see his earnings grow. I used some stickers that I let Little Man pick out and labeled the jars Spend, Save, and Give (rather than share, to really nail home the idea that we are giving not to receive anything in return).
Each week, his allowance is divided with 40% to Spend, 40% to Save, and 20% to Give (so with his $5 allowance, he gets $2 each to Spend and Save, and $2 to Give). This might sound too complicated for kids, but its pretty simple right now and as he gets older it will be great math practice. :) The Spend jar is his to do with as he wants. If he wants to spend each dollar on M&M’s the second he earns them, that is his choice. He earned it. If he wants to keep it in the jar to grow and buy a TV with it later, so be it. The Save jar is for savings only. Money is never removed from this year, with the exception of once a quarter or so when we will take it to the bank and deposit it in his savings account. The Give jar is money that is designated for others. He might use it to purchase a gift for someone or to donate somewhere.
Putting It All Together
It all sounds like a very complicated system when you type it out, but I promise it’s not. It has been working very smoothly and is already rewarding for Little Man and I both! He is motivated to work and is learning to be patient as he waits to earn his allowance each week. He is also learning about the value of money and buying things; his little eyes get big when he reads the prices on toys that he never noticed before. He is (slowly, haha) learning to weigh the benefits of immediate gratification (must buy this $1 piece of crap toy right.now. before my money burns a hole in my pocket) with the satisfaction of saving up to get what you really want (a $6 airplane is the goal of the past two weeks). It makes my heart swell as I see him contemplating ways he can use the money in his Give jar (I’ll buy Nana some pie! or give some toys to kids who don’t have any!). Yes, it adds a little more work to my day and week to supervise and administer the system, but it is negligible. Every time I see his face light up with satisfaction at checking off a chore or hear him ask if he can help me, every time I see him count out dollars on his tiny little fingers or scrawl his name across the top of his tracker in his little misshapen handwriting, I realize what an important foundation is being formed.
If you are looking to get started with a chore system, please check out the links I’ve listed throughout this post. Also, I’ve turned my Chore Chart and Allowance Notes as well as the Kids Money Tracker into free printables, so feel free to download them and use them if you’d like. Click on the images below to download a PDF. Easy-peasy! :)
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