"Pocket Money for Jobs" in my house

I’m an avid fan and follower of The Barefoot Investor (aka Scott Pape) and his straightforward, no-bull attitude to all things money. What I really like about his approach is his family values – and how he explains these in relation to solid research that supports wellbeing for adults and children alike. I was already on his mailing list when he offered pre-orders of his book on kids and finance and I immediately signed up for it, devouring it shortly after it landed in our letterbox. I was all geared up to teach our kids how to work for money, then save it, spend it wisely and unwisely and even give a little bit away. Then I got stuck straight into… nothing.

It wasn’t from lack of motivation. I was keen to get started on the steps, but I wanted my husband to be on the same page as me so that we could present a ‘united front’. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he would read the book. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Months went by and still he hadn’t gotten further than halfway through the first chapter. Hmmmph.

When I re-read the key ideas for starting out, I remembered Pape doesn’t actually stipulate that both parents read the book, he just recommends they go on a date night to nut out a few key decisions. We’re a bit slack on the date night front – neither of us are particularly energetic in the evenings and we don’t organise babysitters very often so the prospect of this taking place was almost as unlikely as my husband actually finishing the book.

In the end, neither happened. I just decided that I would implement the system, modify it to suit my taste and what I thought would work for the kids and hubby would just have to roll with it. Here’s how it’s working so far…

The kids decorated labels for their three jars – Spend, Save and Give. I explained what each jar was for, similar to Pape’s description in his book (he uses slightly different names but the concept is the same). Prior to this, I’d written three potential jobs on the whiteboard for each child and told the kids they’d be doing these for pay soon. They started working at them but I wasn’t worried about the consistency, at first – I just wanted them to start thinking about their new responsibilities and learning how to take them on.

I did try and discuss these with my husband (I think he grunted his assent) and when it was time to start the new system, I formally explained each job. They are as follows:

7 year old

  1. Set the table for dinner, wipe the bench and table afterwards (daily)
  2. Feed the dog (daily)
  3. Wash the dog (weekly)

9 year old

  1. Stack the dishwasher after dinner (daily)
  2. Empty the household bins into the big bins whenever they are full; ensure big bins are out for waste collection each week
  3. Change bedding (weekly)

The kids agreed to their tasks and we decided payday would be every Sunday. They are given $1 for each year of age and they understand that as they get older, their responsibilities increase in line with their pay. Every payday they must put something into each jar, however the kids have complete ownership over how the money is divided up. I withdrew about $100 in coins to ensure I had lots of change so they can do this easily.

We’ve operated with it for about three weeks and so far, it’s going pretty good. Our oldest has successfully saved up for and purchased a cap and a backpack (which she’s been wanting to get for weeks) and is now saving for a Garmin. She’s decided to put her extra gift money (eg $10 from her grandparents for Easter) in her Save Jar as well. The cap broke the day she bought it, but fortunately she kept her receipt and was able to return it. I coached her through the exchange process so that she did most of the talking – I want her to learn how to advocate for herself as a consumer in a retail situation.

Our younger daughter is remembering her daily table-setting job much better than the other two and only needs the odd reminder – which is awesome, as I usually have to remind (ok, nag) her to help out in the evenings. It’s really lovely being able to say thank you instead of demanding the kids contribute. She loves her Spend Jar and is enjoying the ‘frittering’ of money on small items like chewing gum and stationery.

I feel this is so valuable for her because some of us are great at saving but not at spending – I used to feel so guilty whenever I had to relinquish my hard-earned money for goods – and she is learning how to shop around (she rejected a $10 pen at Typo for a 50c Reject Shop equivalent!). Plus, she just purchased her first ‘big buy’ using her Save Jar – a Siamese fighter fish. She’s wanted one for ages but never had enough money accumulate to be able to make the purchase.

The experience taught her a few more lessons. The pet store had limited stock but were getting more fish in a few days.  I explained this to her twice inside the store but she didn’t listen properly. Obviously it hadn’t registered because after we drove out of the shop’s carpark, she said she wished she got a different one. (Sheesh!!) Trying to stay calm, I reminded her the option was there if she was prepared to wait, but she would need to go back and ask the staff if she could get a refund in the meantime. She said she’d like to try so I turned the car around and we pulled back into the pet shop carpark. I reiterated that it wouldn’t be me doing the talking, although I would be with her and helping her with what to say… and she elected not to go back in, deciding to be happy with what she’d selected.

So I’m pretty happy with how it’s all going. These are the skills the kids are learning already:

  • real life maths
  • transactional language
  • how to attribute ‘value’ to different items
  • shopping around
  • consumer rights
  • weighing up value of work output against material goods acquisition

Of course, I always want things to improve. This is what I still want to encourage:

  • op shopping
  • family nights Barefoot style
  • how to give meaningfully

Have you worked out a system in your house? Is it like the Barefoot Investor’s or is it something else? We’d love to hear what’s working (or not working) for your family.

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