Five "Jobs" for Children

by Xin Lu on 1 June 2011 14 comments
Photo: clogozm

I have decided that my child will not have an allowance when he grows older because I do not want my son to feel entitled to getting money for doing nothing. He will have to earn his money. Here is a list of "jobs" that I think kids can do to earn their spending money. (See also: Hey Kids! It's Time Your Butt Got a Job)

Couponing

If your children are old enough to read, then they are able to help with couponing. Kids can help identify and organize coupons, and then parents can reward them with a fraction of the money saved. If a kid really wants to buy something, then I think it is also his or her job to find a deal on the item.

Household Chores

When I was nine, my parents paid me for washing dishes. Other common household chores like throwing out the garbage, cleaning countertops, and folding the laundry can also become paid tasks for a child. I think a child probably shouldn't be paid for cleaning up his own room and toys, but extra work such as organizing the garage or cleaning the kitchen and toilets should be rewarded.

Extracurricular Academic Work

In fourth grade we were rewarded Pizza Hut coupons for reading books and writing book reports. If you think of school like a job for kids, then I think it is okay to pay kids for academic work beyond what is taught at school. One thing I plan to do is to let my son write essays about any topic he wants. If they are sensible pieces of writing, then I would pay him for his work. Of course, he will have to do all his regular schoolwork first.

Recycling

In middle school I collected cans and recycled them for a few dollars every month. I think children as young as eight or nine can do work like crushing cans and sorting cans and bottles. You may need to drive them to the recycling center to redeem the goods for cash. It is a good way for a child to cut down waste and earn some money. In states where you can redeem cans and bottles for cash redemption value (CRV), the money could add up quickly. In fact, a teenage girl we know asked friends, family, and neighbors to contribute to her recycling, and she was able to save up enough money for a trip to Africa.

Yard Sales

Every once in a while kids can go through what they have and see what they want to keep and what they want to get rid of, and then they can organize a yard sale. I did this once when I was young, and I made about $23 after putting up signs around the neighborhood and cleaning out my room. I sold some of my old books and toys that were taking up space anyway. My mom supervised me and chuckled at the paltry amount I earned, but all that stuff would have gone into the trash or to Goodwill anyway, so I really lost nothing.

I believe that making children earn their money will make them appreciate it more. If your kids are too young to get a real job, then these are real ideas for how they can earn money from you and others.

What do you think? Do you pay your kids an allowance unconditionally, or do they have to earn it? What do you pay them for?

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Brian N. Henry

My oldest is only three and already we're starting the "earn money" concept. We've started with potty training.

At home he's generally good about "water" but he struggles when it comes to "yucks." (Pooping is, from what I hear, the hardest part of potty training). When we're out all bets are off.

One night we were at a store doing some light shopping when he threw a tantrum over wanting a toy. We told him that we didn't have money to buy it. After a small array of interesting anecdotes unrelated to the point of this, I told him that I would "pay" him for using the potty. Right now the rules are:

$1 for yucks
$1 for going while out (so $2 for yucks while out)
$1 for a whole day without going in undies except while sleeping

When he goes a week, the plan is to change it to $1 day without going in undies. When he goes a month we'll be ready to start paying for chores.

A complete aside to this is he now knows what he's working towards and that he has to save up. He was up to $7 when he blew all his money on a bath toy (the toy he wants is $10 for the cheaper one, with better versions at $15 and $25). He asked how close he was and when we reminded him that he spent it on the toy we've had less "want this" tantrums in stores.

When he finally makes it to the $10 (he's at $8 right now iirc) we'll take him to the store and say "OK - you can buy this toy now - or five more yucks you can get this one or really work for THIS toy."

This way we get to hopefully keep him with goal setting and money management all the while working towards saving me money on training pants, diapers, and wipes :)

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jDeppen

I like it, I think we'll start that too. We're in the "accident" stage right now so $1/day for no accidents would be perfect.
One thing I would suggest is to have him save XX% of his "earnings" so later he will be used to saving XX% of his income (rather than earning $10 and thinking he has $10 to spend).

Thanks for the tip.

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Guest

I have some concern about paying children to do household work that is a part of everyday life. No one pays me to do the laundry, etc. Just something to consider.

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Agatha

I would have to agree to what you have mentioned. Household chores are responsibilities that we all do. A big scare would be paying your child for respect.

Guest's picture

i pay my daughter for certain household chores. It helps her learn the value of money and earning it.

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Debbie M

I don't have kids, but I like how my parents did it. If there was any extra money around, we got an allowance. If there were any chores to do, we did chores. If there was any homework to do, we did homework. On the one hand, we didn't learn about having to "work" for our money, but on the other hand we didn't learn that chores and homework weren't worth doing unless we got paid. (Also, there was the advantage for my parents that even when there wasn't extra money, we still did chores.)

If we wanted more money than our allowance, we had to get jobs (obviously, this didn't come up when we were young), but I chose not to work until my college financial aid package informed me that I had to work. And that's even though I only got allowance for two stretches of time.

One more note--be careful that your child doesn't learn that getting better at something reduces the rewards. Even little kids can get good at working the system.

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a

We kids were not paid for doing any house chores, whether in our rooms or just general like washing the dishes or doing laundry. Definitely not for doing homework or anything that was our assigned duty.

If we wanted to earn money, we had to figure out a way. We recycled, sold lemonade, had yard sales and did other things (I created designer doll clothes and accessories). It did encourage us to have a business-oriented outlook, which has served us well throughout life.

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Cheryl

I had regular chores that my children were expected to do and those were not linked to their allowances. My rationale is, we all have things we have to do because we are all members of our household and therefore have to participate in it's upkeep. (And it illustrates our family...ness)

I also provided a small allowance, as we all need to figure out how to budget our money - and to learn what's important to us. We also offered a funds matching program for saved money.

Thirdly, there were from time to time additional jobs that could be done for extra money. And I was always willing to help come up with ways to get more money.

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Guest

This is the system my parents used, and I'm far better with money and household everything than my spouse.

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Angela

I agree with you. We all do house work because we are all part of the family. We all pitch in. If money is tied to chores, is it an option for kids to say, "Keep your money, I don't want to do the dishes?"

My son gets an allowance that is not based on housework/chores. It is strictly to teach him about money. He gets a dollar for each year old per week. For example, he is 14 years old. He has a CD and a savings account. Each week $7.00 is automatically moved from our family account to his CD (he is not allowed to spend unless Mom, Dad and son agree on the purchase - savings for first car or school trip or something big (he has $1,300.00 saved). Another $7.00 is automatically moved (from family account) to his savings account. He has a debt card that can only be used at the credit union. When he wants something, he saves and buys it. he use to spend it as fast as he got it when we first started (I think we was about 5 yrs old). Over the years, he has gotten pretty savvy with sales and waiting and saving for items he wants. He is also creative in the gift giving as well. We all make cards with photos and personal messages on the computer for birthdays, Christmas, Father's Day, etc. We also give each other coupons - wash your car, play video game with you, help with yard work, etc. I am not saying he doesn't ever buy anyone a gift, he is just more observant and thoughtful when he buys something. For example, we don't have cable t.v. - we sit watch shows for free on HULU. Only issue was we couldn't hear it very well. For Christmas, he gave me a set of little speakers for my netbook. It was really a gift for all of us!

Guest's picture

I don't have kids yet, but I've given this a lot of thought and, when I do, I imagine that I will pay them a small allowance to teach them about money, and allow them to suplement it with bigger chores around the house (raking leaves, lawn mowing, painting, etc.).

I understand the idea of not encouraging a sense of entitlement, but I don't think regular household chores should be paid. My reasoning is that, as an adult, you have to do them and don't get paid for them. Cultivating a sense of accomplishment for a job well-done is better than creating an expectation of payment for a basic chore.

But who knows, when I have kids I may change my tune entirely. Posts like this are extremely valuable to me because they force me to reconsider and defend my convictions.

Thank you.

Guest's picture

My wife have 2 children (our son is 10 and our daughter is 7), and instead of giving them allowance, we have them earn commission for tasks around the house.

If they want to buy something, then they need to look around the house and figure out something that needs to be done, come to us, and negotiate the commission that they'll earn. We've found that it's a great way to motivate them to both earn money and also to develop their problem-solving/opportunity-spotting skills.

As a business owner, I want to teach my kids the skills they need to be successful so that they might someday start their own businesses. One of the best benefits of being self-employed is the paradigm of independence, freedom, flexibility, and possiblity which I didn't have as an employee. Owning a business has truly changed my life; I blog about that and other issues on my blog (http://www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com), where I show others how they can start and run a successful consulting business.

I truly believe that entrepreneurial skills have to be taught to our children if we want them to be financially independent and successful.

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Maureen

We love all the ideas, but especially agree with household chores. In our house everyone has to pitch in, but we do pay the kids for doing more than the normal amount of work.

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Alexandra

Yep, that's what we do. We don't have an allowance, but my 14 year old son earns money for extra work. He has a choice, but he always takes on extra work for something he wants. We didn't start this until he was 14, so he does his regular chores without complaint or expecting anything.