Paying for Chores: The Financial World of “Bank of Dad”

The Bank of Dad TallyI’ve written before about my belief that it’s critically important to teach children cause and effect and how it applies to money. That is, if you want to buy something, you need to earn the money, perhaps over weeks or months, and then purchase it, not buy it “on credit” or whinge or plead for it until you wear down your parent and get it for not much more than a cursory “thank you”.

Apparently, that’s rather controversial, though I don’t really understand how.

Putting a lid on the chaos of my children’s acquisitiveness was essential for us being able to work together, actually, and it’s something we’ve evolved over many years. Now it’s known as Bank of Dad and it’s represented by a post-it note stuck on the wall by the fridge (see photo), basically a ledger that shows how much each child has earned for doing their chores and what expenses they’ve incurred buying coloring books, treats, baseball caps or other non-essential stuff. Sometimes one or more kids will be near zero, and other times we skip the incessant shopping and it accumulates, sometimes as high as $50 or more.

I pay each child an allowance along with their chore remuneration, so A-, for example, at 16yo, gets a base of $3/week if she does absolutely nothing around the house. If she does the dishes and vacuums upstairs, however, that adds $5, for a weekly aggregate income of $8. Even K-, the little one, gets in on the act: her base is $2/week and she can earn $5 by mopping the kitchen and entryway. My son? His chores are dealing with the constant recycling, vacuuming downstairs and emptying bathroom trashcans. His weekly take is between $3 and $8, just like his older sister.

In fact, we need to adjust these for fairness and probably amount too. I’d like to see my 16yo earning $10/wk if she does her chores, G- earning $8/wk and K- earning $7/wk, or something like that.

Oh, and there are always bonus chores where they can earn more if they put in more time. Mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, cleaning the car, etc.

What I’ve heard from others is that children should be pitching in with chores because they’re part of the household, and that they should receive an allowance regardless of if they’re busy bees doing everything asked of them or not. My problem with that is life doesn’t really work that way. Sure, it’s great to have the kids pitch in — and they do! — but in the real world, I don’t get paid for showing up at a desk or retail establishment, regardless of if I actually do my job or not. Right? Sounds good, but there’s not an organization in the world that can pay people to just hang out and not work.

Well, except the Department of Motor Vehicles! 🙂

But my kids have long since figured out BoD and it’s just a regular part of their consciousness. If they want something expensive, they work towards it while trying to bargain with me that we’ll split it in some inevitably complicated manner. And if I say “earn it”, they do.

So what am I missing? If you don’t pay for chores, what’s your logic? And if you do, well, how’s it working for you?

5 comments on “Paying for Chores: The Financial World of “Bank of Dad”

  1. We do the same, though I don’t think of the base allowance being for doing absolutely nothing.

    It’s actually for a lot, being a respectful child and sibling, and otherwise a good person to live with, which includes just being considerate and cleaning up after yourself and doing helpful things without having to be asked, like jumping in to help set the table and taking dishes to the kitchen.

    The biggest concern I have is having to answer the question, “what do I get for it?” whenever asking for any little bit of help with something.

    So far so good, our kids are a bit younger though (6 and 4).

  2. We use a hybrid approach. There are tasks our kids have to do as part of the family, but there are specific chores that they can get paid for (garbage, bathrooms, dishwasher, etc). Also, if they don’t do a few required items (make their bed, flush the toilet, bathe) they end up w/ a fine instead.

  3. Hello David,
    This was a really good read – when kids get money I agree need to know the value of it but it doesn’t hurt for Dad to be occasionally generous – that gives them a sense of being supported by others too – not just having to work on their lonesome for everything.

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