Did you receive allowance money as a child? Or any type of reward? I did not. My parents apparently had the same policy as Childish Sadbino’s parents; if I completed my chores, I was allowed to continue living there. I am the youngest of four children, so this was already long-established by the time I reached the age of contributing to the household. I tried to challenge it, but was always denied.
Now I am a parent myself, and like many things that only become clear when you have your own children, I totally get it. My kids somehow manage to lose completely random things like toothbrushes and pillows, why would I expect them to keep careful track of cash? Their spending decisions are also extremely suspect. “Mommy, can I buy this $25 bendy straw? I don’t have enough straws shaped like unicorns.”
So, no. No cash allowance for my kids. I do, however, believe in fostering an environment of responsibility and organization. Therefore, once my children reached an age where they could help out around the house, I set out to create an organized chore reward system that did not include money.
After researching a bit, I found some templates for fake allowance money (I’ll share links for everything at the end of the post). I decided they would earn chore bucks when they completed their jobs, and then redeem those bucks for prizes. Prizes already chosen and controlled by… I mean, purchased by, me. Unicorn bendy straws did not make the cut.
When I was a child, my mother made individual index cards for our chore lists. She hand-wrote our names at the top of each card, and then listed our chores beneath them. They were all written in different colored ink–Brent’s was blue, Courtney’s was red, Garrett’s was green and mine was pink. She then used strips of scotch tape to “laminate” the cards so they would hold up through our many years of unpaid physical labor. She even wrote a little message on the back of our cards, reminding us that she and my dad loved us. That is so my mom, by the way. She always knew how to soften and sweeten anything–even a chore list.
I don’t know why, but I always loved those cards. I think they just tickled a little OCD area in my brain (genetically inherited from my mama). I loved having my own list of responsibilities. Excuse me, these are the things that I need to do around here, you know, to keep this place running! I felt important and needed, which isn’t a feeling that the youngest kid experiences often.
So, when creating my chore system, I knew I had to have “chore cards” for my kids too. That was a must. As much as I loved my scotch-taped card as a child, I decided to purchase a laminator on amazon for mine. On a side note, how did I make it like six years into motherhood without a laminator? Now that I’ve had one for a while, I am a laminating machine (especially with artwork my kids bring home that I want to save)!
I made the cards in a Microsoft Word document. I wish I had my mother’s beautiful handwriting, but it’s more of a comic sans font look, so I opted to type out their lists. I did, however, use colored ink as a special homage to my mom’s cards. I listed as many chores as they could possibly do (I mean, obviously) and assigned a chore buck dollar value to each. For example, Cameron receives $1 in chore bucks each time she wipes down the kitchen table, but gets $3 in chore bucks for “babysitting” Bryce (i.e., forced playtime). Some chores have a range of value, dependent upon the “severity” of the task. Cleaning the playroom will get you anywhere between $1 and $3 in chore bucks–it just depends on how destroyed that room is at the time they are asked to clean it (safe to say they usually earn $3 for that one).
Once the cards were completed, I focused on the reward aspect of the system. This is where my path diverges from my parents, so I was on my own for this part. I had a cute little treasure box that I used during my most favorite period of motherhood–potty training (Ahhh, memories. Just kidding, that was the worst.). I dusted that off and filled it with some little games and toys from Amazon.
Next, I decided to sweeten the pot a bit with some homemade “coupons”. My children love junky toys like the next kid, but they REALLY love special privileges. I used the business cards template on Microsoft Word and created some coupons that I knew they would love, such as “30 minutes of ipad time”, “Board game with mom or dad”, and “Extra dessert” (if you get stuck on ideas for this, I’ll be happy to share my whole list of coupons). I printed them in color and then laminated them.
I have to tell you that those coupons are very, very popular with my kids. I honestly have not needed to refill my treasure box with toys in like a year because they both just keep choosing coupons (which get redeemed and then put back into the treasure box). This is great because it not only saves me money, but most importantly, it reduces the amount of junky toys all over my house! Winning!
I made the rule that my kids are responsible for getting themselves their chore bucks after completing chores. I think this teaches them accountability and honesty. I am like the woman in the movie Misery–I notice everything. If my kids padded their chore buck envelope, I would notice (and I think they’ve noted that about me already). I am happy to say that they have both been completely honest thus far. Let’s see what our batting average is in that area when Bryce joins the mix.
There is a statute of limitations on collecting their bucks too–they must collect within the same day, otherwise, that chore was done fo’ free! I instituted this policy for a couple reasons. First, I think it teaches them a good lesson about accountability. You snooze, you lose, as they say! I also just got sick of them coming to me as I was cooking, cleaning, or worse, already upstairs, and asking me to give them their bucks right then and there. Finally, I could not rely on my mom-brain to recall everything they did and then tally up their totals at the end of each night. They would inevitably come to me a few days later and the convo would go something like: Them : “Oh! I forgot to ask you for my chore bucks on Monday night after I set the table.” Me: “OK, well it’s Friday. And I’m pretty sure I gave them to you that night.” Them: “You did? I don’t think so. So can you just give them to me now?” Nope, I was done with that rather quickly. I put this policy into place and haven’t looked back since!
We have been using this system for about two years now, and it has done wonders around this house. I basically instituted this whole thing once my third child was born because I felt like I had a never-ending to do list and no time to do it all. I looked around and thought, how can I get everything done that needs to be done? Then I thought back to my days of setting tables, matching socks, and dustbusting stairs and said ah-ha!! I have been missing out on the opportunity to put these young, able-bodied children of mine to work! And we have lived happily ever after since!
Now get to work on creating your own system so you, too, can enjoy the benefits of child labor!
Treasure chest (affiliate link)
Treasure chest toys (affiliate link)
Laminator (affiliate link)
Laminating sheets (affiliate link)