Julie Lythcott-Haimes, author of How to Raise an Adult, gave a TED Talk in 2015 about setting the right priorities for your kids. She quoted the Harvard Grant Study (only the longest longitudinal study ever conducted) which concluded “professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid.”
We think chores are important too, which is why we launched a set of chores features in the Greenlight app in February of this year. Since then, we’ve actually had Greenlight families tell us that their kids have asked for MORE chores after instituting a routine.
When is the right time to start chores?
All families are different, and all kids are different. A chores routine can start as early as “getting clothes to the laundry basket” in preschool years.
Back-to-school season is a great time to talk about getting back into routines, and asking your kids for input on what tasks need to be done. Another great time is birthdays, recognizing that with age comes new responsibilities.
Which chores do I choose?
Of all Greenlight families, the five most popular chores are:
Clean your bedroom is the most popular chore for all ages. Read is popular for younger kids, under the age of 10. Take out the trash heats up for children over 12 years of age. And wash the dishes is most popular around 15-17.
Some other personal favorites from the editor: pick up after yourself, scoop the dog poop and be nice to your brother. “No cussing” has also been a fan favorite around the Greenlight office. A special shout out to the parents writing their chores in ALL CAPS. But we digress…
On average, Greenlight families institute 4.41 chores per child, and recurring chores are by far more popular than one-time.
Here’s a helpful guide from the moms of Sunshine and Hurricanes with kid-friendly chores from preschool through 10 years of age.
Do I pay my kids for chores?
A recent T. Rowe Price survey on parents, kids and money saw that 51% of parents give their kids allowance, but the kids have to earn it.
Ron Lieber, author of Greenlight staff favorite The Opposite of Spoiled, advises not to give allowances in exchange for chores. He says, “Allowances ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”
Chores teach accountability and responsibility. Allowances tangibly teach the practices of budgeting and saving. (More on allowances over the coming weeks.)
There are experts and Greenlight families, on both sides of the fence of this debate. We encourage each family to make decisions based on what will work best for them.
- You may institute a chore schedule that includes standard tasks (like cleaning up bedrooms, doing laundry or walking the dog), and incentivizes more high-value tasks with monetary rewards on a less-frequent basis.
- You might consider an allowance to be regular payment for jobs well done. If the clothes are piled up on the desk instead of on the floor, little Sophia’s room still isn’t “clean” to mom’s golden standard.
- You can tie chore completion to allowances. If the trash isn’t taken out, floor isn’t vacuumed and the dog poop isn’t scooped, you won’t get your allowance this week.
Whatever your chore routine, Greenlight can help you stick to it
With features like flexible scheduling and linking chore completion to allowance, Greenlight has helped thousands of families implement a routine.
Set chores that repeat weekly, or multiple times a week.
Or set one-time chores for bigger tasks like spring cleaning, babysitting or mowing the lawn.
Kids review and check off their chores as complete.
Review the chore schedule and manage scheduled payouts.
Don’t have Greenlight yet?
So she’s at the store and your daughter sees “the most perfect t-shirt ever!!!! Seriously, they never have this shirt in my size and it’s the very last one!!!”
The problem is, your daughter is broke. She already used her allowance and birthday money for CDs, lattes and cool stickers for her laptop. She’s begging you for a loan or an advance on her allowance.
Sound familiar? And if so, what’s your reply strategy? Allow us to offer a few choices.
Option 1: “No Way, Kiddo.”
It happens to all of us at some point, and it will happen to your child, too. Your teen happily spends all of her discretionary cash, then runs into a great retail deal she didn’t expect. She requests an advance from the Parental Unit Bank. Your response to your kid’s loan request might depend a bit on 1) generally how responsible your kid is with money and 2) how new they are to allowances or having their own spending money.
Food for thought: Advancing your child money really is teaching them to go into debt. They don’t have the money to buy the coveted item, but they found a place to borrow it (you). They’re buying now, paying later. Sounds a bit like a credit card transaction, doesn’t it?
If you haven’t yet seen this hilarious letter from a dad turning down his 6-year-old son’s loan request, be sure check it out.
Option 2: “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Maybe that T-shirt really is a one-of-a-kind item that your child has wanted for months. If so, and you know your child is pretty financially responsible, you could forward the money to their account and greenlight the purchase.
Food for thought: Your child may need to have some “skin in the game.” Savvy parents may require their kiddo to do some extra chores in return for the money. They may also take possession of the cool t-shirt (sort of like a Parent Layaway Plan) until those chores are done satisfactorily. If the kid doesn’t do the work, or repeatedly does it sloppily, the shirt (or whatever item) goes back to the store.
A slightly different layaway option: You keep the item until your child pays you with their next allowance.
Option 3: “This Warrants An Exception.”
There are times when you might be a little less hardline. For instance, if your kid has the money at home—just not with them at the store—it’s probably reasonable to advance them the funds until they get home and pay you back.
Another example: A future event needs to be paid for today. For instance, your teen might have a chance to buy concert tickets, but the deadline is this Friday. Your kid can’t afford the tickets this week but absolutely can pay you back between now and concert night three months from now. As long as your child repays you, this might be a reasonable choice. (However, older kids should start a savings fund for just these kinds of opportunities.)
You’re the Family Loan Officer
Which of these options would work best for your family? There’s no right or wrong here. The choice is up to you.
Just consider that your answer will teach your child an important money lesson they’ll carry with them for a long time. Make sure it’s the message you want them to remember.
(photo courtesy © Quazie cc2.0)
Teaching your kids about money might not be at the top of your Spring Break to-do list. However, if you think about, a spring break trip—or any vacation—is an ideal time to increase your child’s money IQ. Your family makes a lot of financial choices when you travel—from which daily activities you choose to how much money to spend on souvenirs.
Here are some great ways to use your Spring Break trip to give your kid hands-on lessons about money.
Give Vacation Cash Bonuses For A+ Behavior
You can always let your kid earn extra spending money for your trip by doing some extra chores ahead of time. However, have you considered any of these smart ideas for encouraging kids to earn—and be more pleasant humans—while you’re traveling? Consider giving kids an extra buck or two for:
- Trying a new food (bonus: it makes kids more enthusiastic about experimenting at a new restaurant instead of a familiar chain)
- Trying a new activity they might otherwise skip, from snorkeling to rollerblading
- Not squabbling with siblings on the plane or while you’re driving
- Being quiet for an hour in the afternoon while you rest (they can draw, read or quietly play on electronics)
- Doing a good deed, like opening a door for another hotel patron, or letting a younger child in front of them in line at an amusement park
And don’t worry—you’re not bribing your kids. When you bribe someone, you give them money to do something they shouldn’t. These payoffs are rewards: You’re giving your kids money for doing something right.
Establish a Souvenir Budget
Rather than listening to your kids beg for money every 15 minutes, give them a set amount of money upfront. If you have young kids, you may need to release their souvenir money to them every few days, so they don’t spend it all at once.
Give older kids an amount that has to last the entire trip. (If they want to bolster their fun allowance with the extra money they’ve saved, that’s fine.) To prevent teens from carrying a big wad of cash, consider loading their souvenir allowance onto a prepaid debit card, like Greenlight. Don’t refill the card once your teen spends their entire budget. When the money’s gone, it’s gone.
Let Teens Make Family Activity Choices
Some families give their teens an assigned trip day and budget, and let the kids decide the family’s schedule. This can be done ahead of time (if you’ll need to book advance tickets, for instance) or at the very beginning of your trip.
This exercise helps teens see that having a budget means making smart choices. For instance, would they rather spend the family’s entire daily budget on tickets to an indoor wave pool and a movie afterward (with a no-frills dinner back at the condo), or a less expensive activity that leaves money for a fun dinner out? Encourage your teens to look for coupons and other deals online.
Get Creative About Other Money Choices
Every family and kid is different. You may think of some family money rules that work especially well for your Spring Break trip. For instance,
- If you have a kid who constantly snacks: Try a “one purchase a day” rule—snack or souvenir. They get to choose between the two; they’ll never get both. (And if your kid is truly hungry, they’ll be happy to take the apple and nuts you pack with you!)
- If the trip is extra spendy: Tell kids well ahead of your next trip that they’ll need to save up birthday and holiday gift money to pay for souvenirs. You’ll pay for everything else.
- To discourage a spending frenzy: Offer your kids a match on any money they bring home from your trip unspent. This is a great incentive for kids to skip buying tchotchkes that will just end up gathering dust.
What money strategies have you used with your kids on Spring Break or another vacation? We’d love to hear from you.
(photo courtesy © Carissa Rogers cc2.0)
Some interesting allowance statistics:
- Today’s kids get an average allowance of $67.80 per month.
- The majority of kids (60%) work for it by doing family chores.
- Only about 20% of families give an allowance as a “gift” with no strings attached.
- Another 20% of families don’t give allowances at all.
While these general guidelines are helpful, most parents still have lots of questions about allowances. Of course, there’s no single, “right” way to structure your child’s allowance. However, these tips might help you decide what works best for your family:
When should I start giving my kid an allowance?
Most parents start around age 8, according to a T.Rowe Price survey. This is a good rule-of-thumb age. One tip: If your child mixes in cash and coins with her toys or routinely leaves money sitting around the house, she’s not yet ready for an allowance.
How often should I give it?
Weekly for younger kids and allowance beginners. They’ll have trouble making their money last much longer than seven days. Switch to giving your kids a monthly allowance when they’re about 11. This requires them to budget their money over a longer amount of time.
How much should I pay?
Although the current U.S. average is $67.80/month, that’s for kids of all ages. Your mileage may vary. For instance, you may want to pay a dollar or so per year of a child’s age, and give raises at every birthday. By high school, you might prefer to give your teen enough money to cover his own costs for clothing, personal supplies, bus, etc. You can base the amount on how much money you think is reasonable for your child to spend, rather than just his or her age.
Should I tie allowance to chores or grades?
There are different schools of thought on this.
- Tie to chores, yes: Some parents advocate paying kids “commissions” so money remains connected to working hard.
- Tie to chores, no: Kids could decide to skip chores if they don’t need money.
- Pay for grades, yes: This practice can teach kids that good work leads to rewards.
- Pay for grades, no: It could take away their sense of pride, or be tricky for kids who truly struggle academically.
Should saving and/or donating be part of the allowance picture?
Most experts say definitely yes on this point. Give kids jars, envelope, segmented piggy banks or help them set up digital budget categories for Spend, Donate and Save. Older kids might also need bank accounts or digital categories for saving larger amounts of money—for a car, college, etc. Your goal is simply to help your kids see that money is never just for spending.
(photo courtesy © James Thompson cc2.0)
The Greenlight Prepaid MasterCard® is a debit card paired with an app that allows parents to view, approve, and manage their kids’ spending.
Greenlight was designed for parents
-Give money to your kids from anywhere, instantly. Sending your kids a Greenlight lets them know how much money they can spend at specific stores
-Review real-time spending requests from your kids. You can approve, edit, or decline the requests and communicate with your kids within the app
-Receive instant notifications for all transactions approved or denied with the Greenlight card
-Powerful transaction history view lets you monitor where the money is going. View individual expenses or group by store to see a full analysis of spending
-Each of your kids can have their own card managed within the Greenlight app
-Kids lose things? No problem. Turn the card on or off in the Greenlight app with one touch
-Give your kids an allowance weekly or monthly with automatic transfers to their “Spend Anywhere” Greenlight
-Use the “Return Change” feature to receive any leftover money automatically after a purchase
Here’s why Greenlight is the SAFEST and most SECURE way to give your kids money:
-You can limit where money can be spent
-If your card is lost, the parent or child can instantly turn it off. If turned off by a parent, only that parent can turn it back on
-Spending history shows everywhere your child has used their Greenlight card, including declined transactions
-In-app messaging allows for documentation of requests, reasons, and discussions about money
-Parents can move money on the Greenlight card back into the Parent Wallet at any time
-Push notifications are sent to both the parent and child for each transaction
Kids love Greenlight, too!
-View your Greenlights in the app to see where you can spend money
-Check your allowance and view savings
-Request money at specific stores or locations. Take a picture or chat with your parents so they’ll approve your request!
-Receive real-time notifications each time you make a purchase with your card
-Track all of your spending within the app to see where your money is going
-Lost a card? No worries. Simply turn it off. Find it? Turn it back on right in the Greenlight app
Our team at Greenlight understands the challenges of busy families because we have kids of our own! We wanted to teach them how money works and help them develop good money management skills. Greenlight is the safest way to give your kids money and prepare them for financial independence.
Click ‘Sign Up’ below to get started!
Dave Ramsey is an American financial author, radio host, television personality, and motivational speaker focused on encouraging good money management skills for all ages. But, he didn’t start out this way.
Dave made plenty of money when he was young, but poor money management decisions resulted in significant debt. As a result, he lost everything he saved and was embarrassed to ask for help. Dave was determined to figure out how money works and to better manage his situation. He read every book available, interviewed older wealthy individuals, and more. Ultimately, he realized that the world wasn’t out to get him. As it turns out, it was his own decisions that ruined him financially.
After moving back into real estate and bailing himself out of financial distress, Dave realized he wanted to help others with all the knowledge he had gained. He began Ramsey Solutions in 1992 to “counsel folks hurting from the results of financial stress.” Dave wrote several books on the subject and eventually started a radio call-in show that airs nationally.
As you can imagine, Dave has several tips for your kids to learn early. Check out just a few of these below!
Elementary School Age
- Use a clear jar for saving. There are a lot of piggy banks that are pretty cool looking! Try to find one that is also clear so your child can see their money growing. This should be a fun thing for you and your child to sit down and discuss. Watching three quarters turn into 8 quarters is a big deal! This will also encourage saving.
- Show them that stuff costs money. It’s one thing to have money and another to understand what it actually means. The next time you take your child to the store, have them bring some physical money with them from their piggy bank. When they find something they want to purchase, have them hand their money to the cashier. This will be far more meaningful than a simple lecture about money because they will visually witness the result.
- Teach them opportunity cost. Your kids need to learn that when they decide to purchase something, it generally means they can’t purchase something else. So, if they want to purchase a video game, show them that they won’t have enough money to pay for the new pair of shoes they want as well. Tradeoffs are critical, and can easily be taught in this manner.
- The importance of giving. Once your kids start making or saving money, take time to discuss the importance of giving to others in need. If they are passionate about animals for example, help them pick a shelter they can either give money or time to help out. Your kids will see that giving helps others, but that they will also feel good about it as well.
- Work for money. Your children will have a lot of free time during breaks, summers, and more. Helping them find a summer job at their local ice cream shop for example is a great way to show how working will provide them the additional money they seek.
- Teach them the danger of credit cards. As soon as your teen turns 18, they are going to want a credit card and will receive mail from banks trying to provide it to them with “attractive” promotions. Teach them why debt is dangerous and how to protect themselves.
These are just a few of the tips you can use to teach your kids how to manage their money. Its best to start as early as possible promoting positive money management skills because it will be a critical asset for your kids as they grow up.
Do you want your kids to be financially stable when they’re adults? Want to avoid having to take-in your wayward son after he’s run out of money, forcing you to shelter him in your basement until he gets back on his feet? Want to make sure your daughter doesn’t waste her entire paycheck on a frivolous, impulse purchase?
If your answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” consider this technique: Have your child look after an imaginary dog for a month.
Why an Imaginary Dog?
When I was in high school, I had a friend named Scott who desperately wanted a dog. His parents were hesitant, worrying about things like, “What if we end up taking care of the dog all the time?” and “Can we afford all the expenses that come with a dog?” But, in a moment of parenting brilliance, Scott’s mom and dad came up with the Imaginary Dog Plan. This plan required Scott to wake up every morning at 6am, walk a leash around his neighborhood, put down an empty food bowl, and then open and close an empty dog crate. Immediately after school, Scott came home and walked that empty leash again, put down the empty food bowl, and spent 30 minutes either vacuuming, dusting, or completing some other household chore as a stand-in for the time he’d have to spend cleaning up after a dog. Additionally, his parents struck a deal requiring him to pay for half of all the expenses that come with having a dog. To prove that he could do this, Scott did extra chores around the house and got a part-time job. By the end of the month, Scott had walked his empty leash 60+ times and had saved $300. By the end of the month, Scott had a real dog.
How an Imaginary Dog Can Help Your Family:
So, how does my friend’s dog apply to you and your family? Simple: the principles Scott’s parents taught him through this exercise are the same principles any kid needs as a foundation for a successful financial life. If your son or daughter wants something, whether it’s seemingly insignificant, like a crazy new pair of socks, or something bigger like a pet or laptop, consider using this technique to help them get what they want while also teaching them the importance of being responsible with their money. Some of the lessons they’ll learn from an exercise like this are:
- If you want something, you need to work for it
- You need to consider all the responsibilities attached to making a purchase
- You need to be fully prepared, financially and physically (with your time, etc.) before making a purchase
- You should give yourself time before making a big purchase to make sure you really want that particular thing
- Often, making purchases (especially big ones) requires some sort of sacrifice, so you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
Obviously, if you decide to try this with your kids, the situations will be different, and you’ll need to adapt strategies. It wouldn’t make any sense for your daughter to walk a leash every day to prove that she’s responsible enough to buy a laptop. Instead, you may start by asking her to save a certain amount of money each week. Then, have her to carry around a fragile place-holder (picture frames, perhaps), proving that she’ll be careful with something as breakable as a laptop. You could even have her do research on how to fix common laptop problems, making sure she’ll know what to do if it won’t turn on one day, or if it gets a virus.
Whatever way you apply this to you and your child’s life, just be sure to remember the main point: If you prepare your kids now to be responsible, both financially and personally, they are much more likely to continue these practices as adults. Try it today, and hopefully you’ll still have your basement to yourself once your kids grow up!
The way I see it, there are three main options for giving your kids an allowance.
Option One: Give them an automatic allowance. With automatic allowances, parents will usually set a standard amount of money for their kids to receive, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, and their child will receive that money no matter what (for the most part, of course).
Option Two: Don’t give your kids any allowance at all: self-explanatory.
Option Three: Have your kids earn an allowance. Many parents use this option and assign certain tasks or chores to their child, which upon completion, will result in a rewarded allowance. Of course, you’ll find pros and cons of any decision you make as a parent, including the decision about allowances. However, out of these three main options, I think there is a clear, front-runner that is beneficial for both parents and children.
Through the course of my life, and my more recent research and inquiries into this topic, I have been exposed to numerous variations of the allowance situation. Two stories stuck with me, though, as extreme, yet surprisingly realistic examples of the negative consequences of giving your kids an automated allowance or not giving them an allowance at all.
Extreme Scenario #1: The Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa Saperstein Story
Parks and Recreation is a sit-com that recently went off the air in 2015. It follows the quirky and endearing Parks and Rec. department of Pawnee, Indiana through the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of life. While most of the characters are lovable and good-hearted people at their core, there are two characters, Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, who should serve as a warning to any parent considering the automatic allowance option. Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio come from a rich family, headed by a father who clearly does not regulate the money they receive. It is quite evident that, in their fictional lives, they’ve probably never heard the word “no” before as a response to any request, thus resulting in their annoying and outrageous request of “Money please!” This demand is made often, without remorse, and almost rarely without an affirmative answer from their father. They are so used to receiving money whenever they want, automatically and without any effort, that they perfectly illustrate an extreme consequence of giving your kids an automatic, no-strings-attached allowance.
While this is obviously an extreme example, taken from a fictional TV show, there is some real truth that lies at the core of Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio’s roles. If you don’t require any effort from your children in order for them to receive their allowance, then what’s to stop them from taking it for granted? What lesson will they learn about how to get money? Will they turn out like Mon- Lisa and Jean-Ralphio, assuming that all they need to do in order to get money is sit around and wait for it, and then if it’s not enough, just whine until they get more? Do you, as a parent, really want to hear “Money please!” all the time, even after you’ve already given your child money? I don’t think so.
Extreme Scenario #2: No Allowance: The Story of Put-Back Pancakes
My aunt and uncle adhere to a much different philosophy than that of fictional father, Dr. Saperstein, from Parks and Rec. They didn’t believe in giving their kids an allowance at all. So, my cousin, let’s call him Jim, had to figure out another way to get money. As many teenagers do, Jim turned to the job force and got a part-time job as a carhop at Sonic. He worked at Sonic all 4 years of high school, and in this time, he learned to budget and save his money since he knew his parents weren’t going to be his main source of income. So far, so good, right?
In almost every way, my cousin is a perfect example of how not giving your kids an allowance is a good option. He learned the value of hard work. He didn’t bother his parents for money all the time. He had a good head on his shoulders and was able to understand the basic principle of saving money, which is advanced for a teenager. However, there are two things wrong with this story. Number one, my cousin is an anomaly. He represents a small population of teenagers who are stable and level-headed enough to make these responsible decisions, like finding and maintaining a job and saving the money he made at this job. Other teens may not be as dedicated as he was to earning and saving money during those carefree, teenage years.
The second thing wrong with my cousin’s story is the end. Jim managed to save more money during his high school years than I think most high schoolers could even comprehend. But, this resulted in him being extremely stingy with his money, to a fault. Perfect example: his honeymoon. After my cousin got married, he and his wife vacationed in Mexico for their honeymoon. One morning, at breakfast, Jim piled his plate high with food from the buffet, taking full advantage of an “all you can eat” meal. However, before he went to sit down to his feast, he was stopped by the cashier at the end of the line who told him that breakfast was not actually included in his room rate and that he’d need to shell out a rather hefty sum for his overloaded plate. My cousin, the too-money conscious man that he’d become, looked at the cashier, turned around, and dumped his food back in each, individual serving pan from which he’d taken it just minutes before.
The moral of Jim’s story is this: not giving your kids an allowance might be a good idea. They might find a job, work hard for their money, and learn valuable lessons about managing their own finances. Or, they might end up like my cousin, dumping pancakes and scrambled eggs back into hot plates in Mexico, effectively embarrassing himself and his new wife on what should’ve been a lovely honeymoon.
So, what do you do as a parent then? Ultimately, the decision is up to you and what you think is best for your family. However, considering the pros and cons of each side, setting up a system for your kids to earn their allowance seems like the best, least painful, and most beneficial way to go. By having to earn their allowance, kids will hopefully learn the lesson of working for what they get. Ideally, they’d value their money more because they had to work for it, thereby making them more conscious about spending and saving. And finally, the system of working for their money at home will mirror their future, independent lives when they have to work for their paychecks and balance their adult finances. Exposing your kids now to the realities of money management and working to earn their money is an invaluable experience, and you can easily start by implementing an earned allowance policy in your house today!
(photo courtesy © Carissa Rogers cc2.0)