7 surprising results when you pay your kids for chores

One of our parenting goals is to rear frugal kids. Take care of their stuff. Spend wisely. Save for a rainy day.

Making the goal is easy, but implementing the goal? Definitely harder.

How Our (Current) Allowance System Works

Over the last couple of years, we've been experimenting with the best ways to teach our kids to manage money. What I've learned is that it's best to keep our system flexible as the kids mature and develop more skills. So we decided that our system will probably always be subject to change so we can accommodate their growth, but here's how our family's allowance system currently works:

Family Allowance System


  • Each child has a spiral notebook.
  • Every day, write down the jobs they need to complete. This includes things they need to do for music lessons or school. Add in things that help the entire household run more smoothly.
  • They check off each task as they complete it.
  • If they complete all their jobs, write in the standard pay rate. If they don't? Nada.
  • At the end of the week, total each day and pay them.
  • They must give 10 percent and save 10 percent in their savings account, but the rest is pretty much up to them.

It's Not Without Challenges

I say that what they do with the rest of their earnings is “pretty much up to them” because sometimes we have to intervene a little bit. (See the shoe example below.) So that's a bit of a challenge, but there's other issues to tackle too. If you pay your kids for chores, do you have similar challenges to ours?

Challenges of Paying Your Kids for Chores


  • Finding the balance between having enough jobs for them to do, while still allowing plenty of play time and down time.
  • Deciding how much to pay them — enough so they're motivated, but not too much so they stop being hungry for more money-making opportunities. (But how much is that?)
  • Figuring out what they should be responsible to pay for themselves
  • Thinking through whether any restrictions should be placed on what they can buy.
  • Defining age-appropriate expectations.
  • Teaching a healthy relationship to money.

7 Surprising Results When You Pay Your Kids for Chores

This isn't a perfect system, but I wanted to share what surprised me. And you may notice similar things too.

1. They take better care of their stuff.

Boy taking care of his shoes

Our current system actually started when I decided the kids needed to buy their own tennis shoes for school.

When I bought their shoes, they didn't take care of them. To say the least, our kids' shoes weren't looking good at the end of the last school year. For the 2015-16 school year, it was time they bought their own shoes.

I figured out how much I would need to pay them each day in the summer so they would be able to pay $50 or so for a pair of tennis shoes and still have about $100 left over after their giving/saving money.

In the spirit of keepin' it real, I need to tell you that this was too overwhelming for my eight-year-old. She often didn't complete her jobs for the day, because she just wanted to play. She squeaked by with enough money for shoes, but had very little left over. She also doesn't seem as interested in caring for her shoes. Maybe she's not developmentally ready for this?

On the other hand, our 11-year-old takes GREAT care of his shoes. He rarely wears them outside just to play. Multiple times he's told me that he wants to make them last as long as possible.


2. They make some choices based on quality vs. quantity.

Girl shopping for shoes

Going back to the shoe example, I explained that I had learned that cheaper shoes weren't always the best value. However, they could choose their own shoes and spend as much (or as little) as they wanted. They bought more durable shoes.

Not all their purchases are as mindful yet, though.


3. They prioritize their own wants and spending.

Young girl washing car

If they ask for anything extra, I'll usually ask them to buy it.

If they really want something, I don't mind chipping in. But almost 100 percent of the time, they either didn't really want it enough in the first place or they easily make a plan to get it.

For example, my daughter's school book fair was last week. She didn't have quite enough money for the book she wanted, so she asked for extra jobs to earn more. She eagerly did enough jobs to earn enough to make up the difference.


4. They manage their time better.

Young boy procrastinating at piano

Slowly, I'm starting to see them plan their afternoons better. While they still have plenty of days where they play first, they've started working on their jobs first most days.

Too many times, they ran out of time before completing their jobs for the day. The only thing worse than not getting paid for doing nothing is to do some of the jobs and not get paid for it!


5. They look for entrepreneurial opportunities.

Teenaged boy mowing lawn

When our family complaint department gets complaints of low wages, I say I'll accept proposals for a raise for additional responsibilities. So far, I haven't received any proposals.

However, the kids are looking for opportunities to earn money from others.

I love to see their minds mull over the possibilities. And I love to discuss their ideas — How will you find customers? How much do they want/can they afford to pay you? Why would someone pay you when they could do it themselves?


6. This cuts down on conflict.

Brother and sister raking leaves together

In my opinion, the best thing that's come out of tying their chores to money is that it takes nagging out of the picture (almost – hehe).

At this point, they know they need to do their entire list to earn money. While I still get annoyed if I have to pick up their stuff or dry the dishes, I say to myself, “Their consequence for not putting their backpack away is not getting paid. A lecture is no longer included.”

Er, at least that's how I want to be. Nagging and lectures come so easily, that I'm still working on that. But I'm getting a lot better. I still whip out lectures when the situation calls for it, but I try to let consequences be the lecture in most situations.


7. As they manage their money, they're learning about sales tax, interest, prices, and bank deposits.

Boy opening savings account at bank with parents

Having money to save and spend naturally helps introduce financial concepts to them. They now know they need to consider sales tax in addition to the list price (and shipping if they are ordering online). They look at their bank statements and see the measly interest added to their accounts.

They also seem to be making a connection between their efforts to earn money and what something costs.

While we have a long way to go and we're still making a lot of mistakes, I am happy with the improvements this system has made to our home and their knowledge about money.

If you pay your kids for chores, what positive results have you noticed that surprised you? Do you face any challenges about allowances?

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My Factoring Network
My Factoring Network
4 years ago

Financial challenges are a part of life which should be taught to children from a very early age. This has positive effects in their life and they start to learn the value of money from very early stage. Nice article. Thanks for sharing.

amanda
amanda
4 years ago

I like this, I think my favorite part is that you get paid only if you do all of your chores. The next favorite part is cut down on nagging. Taking out the household trash was my chore growing up, and I think I noticed it more readily. Lastly, showing your kids about banking early on makes it less scary in the future.

Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor
Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor
4 years ago

My challenge is getting organized to keep track of the chores, pay, and having my son bring his money with him to buy things. He’s four so we’ve just started and already I can see benefits. Right now he is motivated to earn so he can buy food for a food drive, and buy his little sister a ($1) birthday present. As he gets older we are going to need to be more organized about what he pays for himself, though.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago

I also have problems with keeping myself organized. Even though I rewrite their lists every day (which doesn’t seem efficient), I only have to keep track of one notebook per child. Probably wouldn’t work for a 4 year old, but I feel your pain!

Thomas
Thomas
4 years ago

We have been using Three Jars for quite a few years. It is great for tracking chores and payouts.

Barv
Barv
4 years ago

While I approve of teaching kids responsibility, some chores should be done simply because you are part of the family. Keeping rooms clean, doing the dishes, taking out the trash and putting away your own clothes come to mind. I can see docking allowances for these being undone, but not making them paying chores. There are plenty of other chores that can be money earning. I mean seriously, no one pays me to cook dinner or mow the lawn.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago
Reply to  Barv

Barv, you hit the nail on the head. Why isn’t anyone paying us to do the laundry and cook?! That would be fantastic!
As you can see in my comment to Jules, I was not paid for chores, so I don’t know if it’s the best solution. But it’s definitely working well now.
I know our plan will evolve again eventually

Beth
Beth
4 years ago
Reply to  Barv

“There are plenty of other chores that can be money earning.” Like what, do you mind me asking? The reason I ask is this: once, my mom found out my dad was paying my brothers for extra help doing yard work around the house and my grandparents cottage while I was expected to do extra work around the home for free. Message being received was that “men’s work” = $$ while “women’s work” = free. Needless to say Mom put a stop to that pretty quickly! We settled into a system where there were chores we had to handle ourselves… Read more »

Jules
Jules
4 years ago

From the other side, we were never paid for doing chores as children. Chores were what you had to do as your contribution to keeping the household running smoothly (my parents didn’t want us to get in the habit of expecting a reward for what was essentially good behaviour). My parents taught financial responsibility by giving each of us a budget for essentials and a corresponding list of things that had to be purchased. It was up to you how you split your budget among the required list (so you might spend more on tennis shoes and a designer t-shirt… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago
Reply to  Jules

We also weren’t paid for chores when I was a kid. So it’s been challenging to pay the kids, but this is working really well for now. I am sure we’ll adapt it again next summer.
Eventually I would like to get to a system like you had. By the time our kids graduate from high school, I want them to be budgeting for everything we would normally buy for them.
But we’re at a good starting point for now.
Thanks for sharing your family’s experiences!

Karthigan Srinivasan @ StretchADime
Karthigan Srinivasan @ StretchADime
4 years ago

I recently started using a reward system at home for completion of a daily to-do-list and it is working out great. This post offer me a lot areas where I could get creative and teach personal finance to my kids.

James Pollard
James Pollard
4 years ago

I always got paid to do my chores, and I must say that I’ve developed all of these traits. I’m not sure about “reducing conflict” though, since I was an only child. I plan on paying my kids to do chores – they’ll be my little butlers and maids. Kidding!

Brenda
Brenda
4 years ago

Instead of paying our children (6 and 9) for chores, they pay us for the chores they don’t do. The get a set allowance every week and a list of chores they’re expected to do. On Fridays they’re paid their allowance and they have to settle up with us, any chore they didn’t do, they have to pay us back for doing it for them. We also encourage saving – any money they put in the bank and leave for a week, we match. They also donate 10%. I agree, the items they’ve purchased with their own money are better… Read more »

Susan
Susan
4 years ago

I think you’re missing one important part of the equation. They shouldn’t be taught just how to save their allowance, they should be taught how to invest it. I’ve set up custodial investing accounts for my kids. I’m teaching them how to buy stock in companies that are interesting to them such as Disney. I’m hoping that they will learn about the stock market and investing as well was saving and budgeting. This is how my in-laws, who were both immigrants to this country, taught my husband and his brother. It worked very well for them. We are repeating their… Read more »

Louise
Louise
4 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Important point about investing!
Also, whenever I see the enforced breakdown of spending, giving, and saving, I wonder when the children are allowed to spend the savings. Who decides that, and how?

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago
Reply to  Louise

Louise, this is how we’re doing it right now. The 10% they goes into their savings account. And it doesn’t come up until they have something big to pay for (college, car, etc.) or until they reach 18. If they want to save more than 10% for a short-term goal (maybe something big like a bike). It’s a work in progress!

Susan
Susan
4 years ago

I think you are missing one very important part of the equation. The kids should not be taught just how to budget save and give to charity, but they should be taught how to invest as well. My children are required to invest part of their allowance. I’ve opened custodial investing accounts for them and have them invest in stocks that are of interest to them such as Disney. My goal is for them to learn how to invest and to learn about the stock market. This is how my in-laws,who were immigrants to this country taught my husband and… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Right now, we are paying them a very low amount, so 10% of their monthly wage is kind of pathetic. BUT, this is a great idea when they start earning more!

Anna
Anna
4 years ago

This is a great article. I found you through the “should you buy your child a car” article. They are definitely related subjects. As you have stated a couple of times when you and your husband are raised differently you have differences on what you should do with your kids. Allowance is one of those things with us. Growing up my mother had a long list of chores for us to do, our house was expected to be very clean as we didn’t have a lawn to mow or farm animals, etc. However, my father paid us a very generous… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
4 years ago

I’m a big believer in doing what works for a specific family. If paying your kids motivates them, cuts down on nagging and makes you happier, go for it! I’m not, however, convinced that big life lessons are being learned here. I suspect your 11 year old takes great care of his shoes because that’s the sort of kid he is. The kind of kid who’s hard wired to care of stuff that he truly feels is his. My 19 year old and 10 year old are that way and have been for many, many years. And I don’t see… Read more »

Frank
Frank
4 years ago

I really liked the book, “The First National Bank of Dad.” The author did some serious thinking on these subjects and didn’t want to be another “ATM Father.” I think his solutions were creative and greatly instilled the ideas you are going for; the very concept of money for little ones, interest, compound interest, time is money, entrepreneurism, investment, charity, what should be chores done-for-the-family and what should be chores done-for-money, etc. He even did a great job with a simulated stock market for kids to actively teach investing and market research. I highly recommend the book for anyone struggling… Read more »

Sam
Sam
4 years ago

I have done similar things with my children, and one of the most important lessons learnt is the value of money rather than the bank of mum and dad. If they want something, they have got better at understanding the work involved to getting the reward (as well as kids can!).

Tyler
Tyler
4 years ago

…doesn’t forcing children to give part of their money to charity negate the whole concept of charity in the first place? If they’re not doing it by choice then it’s not really giving, is it?

Anna
Anna
4 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Tyler, I’m not sure who you are addressing but I’ll give it a shot to answer you the way I see it. If a poor man needs $2 to buy himself a loaf of bread, does he care if the rich man wanted to give him that money or not? Weather you want to give or not, you are still doing good. I didn’t learn to give to the poor until I was an adult. My husband had learned as a child and then taught me to give. I now find it extremely rewarding and not only that, very rewarding… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
4 years ago
Reply to  Anna

> I’m not sure who you are addressing I was addressing the author of the article, tho not exclusively so 🙂 > Weather you want to give or not, you are still doing good. Being forced to do good is not at all the same thing as doing good by choice; the former sends entirely the wrong message, in my book. If one acts good only under duress, one is learning not to be good but how to kowtow to authority. “Goodness” is grown and nurtured, not shoved in and stretched out. Regardless of the illusion of choice being presented… Read more »

Anna
Anna
4 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

“Regardless of the illusion of choice being presented (say, which charity to donate to), it is still an arbitrary action dictated by an authority.” Let’s not forget that that authority is the same that has chosen to give the child money, not just to buy shoes but to teach them how to spend the money wisely. It’s funny that we are discussing this now. My son literally walked in now (he’s 13) and asked if he can do away with one of his envelopes. We sit down so we can discuss this. I wondered if he would want to do… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
4 years ago
Reply to  Anna

> Let’s not forget that that authority is the same that has chosen to give the child money, not just to buy shoes but to teach them how to spend the money wisely. > Parents must lay down the law, that is our job. It is not always fun. But this is how children learn. Perhaps it is a taxation on his money for his future. Perhaps the “charity” is as well. So be it. He will give when he is an adult or he won’t…of his own choice. But as a child he will be taught to do it… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
4 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Tyler, I no longer remember the exact details but when I was a kid, I remember my parents asking me to donate some of my money. I didn’t want to and basically said something like, “I don’t what to, so if you make me, then it ruins it – I should want to give!” They made me give it anyway in that instance, but I don’t remember if I had to give consistently or not. As you can see, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Our kids don’t complain about giving at all. Eventually, we probably will give them… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
4 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Thanks for addressing my comment, Lisa – always nice to engage with the actual author 🙂 > I’d be interested in your (or any other reader’s) experience about NOT asking your children to give and how that has worked consistently. Asking children to give is not the same as not *requiring* that 10% of income be donated to charity! Again, that’s my point – in your instance there is no asking or volunteering, it’s done by fiat. Confiscating goods or money by order of authority is taxation, not charity. Again, I don’t have an issue with that, as I said… Read more »

tyler
tyler
4 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

who cares kys

John Doe
John Doe
3 years ago

Could you put more quotes in please?

jazmyn
jazmyn
3 years ago

can you add some more reasons kids should get an allowance.

T.P.
T.P.
1 year ago

I disagree with you on kids and chores a 100%! No kids should NOT have regular chores. Kids are kids NOT mini adults and need childhoods! Play is the MOST IMPORTANT thing in childhood. Kids have school, homework, etc already. EVERYTHING they can learn with chores they can learn in other ways. Yes, we should teach kids skills, etc and its OK if they help once in a while but making them have chores on a regular basis is WRONG! I did not have chores as a kid and have NO problems as an adult, I thank my parents for… Read more »

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