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Teaching kids about money using chores

Before implementing this idea – Our house looked like a tornado went through it at the end of each day.  I’d spend the last 30-60 minutes before dinner nagging the kids to pick up their toys.  Nothing I tried worked – not the promise of being able to watch TV when they finished, nor the removal of the toys they didn’t clean up.

After – Clean house at the end of each day with no more nagging!

My motivation in implementing this system was actually to get the kids to do chores around the house with minimal complaining, while saving me the hassle of nagging them on a daily basis.  However, as we’ve gone along with it, I’ve realized that it has some basic money education in it as well.

 No, this is not an allowance system.  Our kids don’t get an allowance yet.  When they do, I’m not sure whether it will be linked to their chores.  I agree with the idea that children are part of the family and need to live up to their responsibilities.  They shouldn’t get paid for making their beds or cleaning up their stuff.  However, I also agree with the idea that children need to learn that in life you do the things you don’t want to do in order to get the things you do.
So, instead of paying the kids in real cash when they do their chores or other tasks that we want them to do, we pay them in what we call “happy dollars” (a term made up by friends of ours who previously used a different reward system for their kids).  They each have a chart with their household chores written on it for each day of the week and the amount earned for each chore.  As they do each chore throughout the day, they (or I) check it off their list.  At the end of the day, I total the amount of happy dollars that they have earned and pay them with Monopoly money that we pulled from a few different versions of the game that we own.


We started with only a few items and added 1-2 small new tasks each month.  Most items are slotted for the beginning of the week because it works better with our routine.  Another benefit is that we can bump tasks to the next day when needed without changes overlapping into a new week – easier for both the kids and me to keep track of!

What can the kids spend their “money” on?  At first, their only choice was computer or TV time at the price of $1 per minute.  We chose this because it was something that they really like and we were willing to remove it completely if they didn’t have the money to buy minutes that day.

After six weeks, the system was working so well that they had accumulated a boat load of happy dollars in their bins.  It was time for more options of things to buy with their earned dollars.  We added in Play Doh activities (which I priced high because it’s such a pain to clean up), extra stories at bedtime (they definitely don’t pay for the usual number – only extras), and other things that they like to do.  We definitely did not include things like trips to the museum or play dates on the list of rewards because we felt that those activities should not be contingent on a reward system.


As the months are going along, I am continually surprised at how well each child is completing their assigned tasks.  Yes, they complain sometimes.  No, they don’t dust perfectly, but hopefully they miss different spots each time so it’s good enough.  We work together on some areas like the kitchen and bathrooms.  Amazingly enough, it is actually faster for me to work with them than to do it by myself!  We talk while we work, which makes it more fun.  They ask me about whatever they are wondering about that day or tell me their latest knock-knock jokes.  Occasionally, one of those jokes is actually funny.

Money education in the system
  • Adding/working with bills – when they want to spend their money, I tell them how much it will cost them, and they figure out the bills they need to make the amount.  Eventually, they (and not me) will be the ones adding up what I owe them at the end of the day.
  • Understanding saving – when they are working towards a big reward.  For example, sacrificing a few days of computer time in order to accumulate enough dollars to watch a movie a few days later.
  • Earning – if their bucket is empty and they want to play on the computer, they immediately look at their list to see if there is something else they can do to fill the bucket.
Is this system the be-all and end-all of money education?  Obviously not.  Like other life goals, becoming financially wise is a process of learning good habits and putting them into practice.  We are only at the beginning of this journey.  As we go along and ideas come to me, I’ll post them.  Hopefully, one or more ideas will resonate with you and you’ll be able to tweak them to meet the needs of your family.

Do you use a chore and/or money system at home?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please post a comment or find me on Twitter @LeanneSeel.

UPDATE March 23, 2012 – As requested, I have uploaded a copy of the spreadsheet that I use.  You can download it here.  When you open it, you’ll see 8 worksheets across the bottom for various months.   Z worksheets are in English.  A worksheets are bilingual (French/English).

UPDATE  September 9, 2013 – We have been tweaking this system over the last little while.  You can read about some of the changes we’ve made in today’s post here.

September 9, 2013

11 responses on "Teaching kids about money using chores"

  1. Wow! Very creative… We don’t give money to the kids when they do the chores they are expected to do. However, they get “Comic Book” money when they do things above and beyond their regular chores…

    If they want they could convert the comic book money in real money. 3$ of comic book money = 1$ of regular money.

    Why comic book money? Because we have comic books for sale and they want their own collection. So this way they can buy comics they can read.

    My oldest had a big collection of Web of Spider-man before Christmas. He wanted to buy something for me. He decided to sell them on and made money with it. He bought a ring that says mom at a store. He had enough for it (the younger kids chipped in also). The ladies at the store waived the taxes when they learned what he was doing.

  2. Great post Leanne ! Would love it if you would post a printable of this so I can try this with my own kids 🙂

    • Great tips. Right now stickers on a chore chart (worth $.10 each) seems to be a good mottvaior at our house for our newly arrived 13 year old. And our 3 year old is gleaning from his excitement, which is great.

      • You want just one!?! I can give you ten easy. You see I have an 11yr old that needs to be told evnrythieg. And I mean evnrythieg. He is a Wonderful,Smart,Lovable child but this has been driving me crazy lately. You see he is my stepson and he came to live with me a little over 3yrs ago when he was only eight. But he was never taught or told to do anything including to buckle a seat belt to brushing his teeth etc..The biggie is “HOMEWORK”. This would definitely be on there. I have heard those famous words every day since school started “I FORGOT” so when I get home from work at 6pm we start on homework and then the whining starts and it makes for an unpleasant evening after a long day at work. I am trying to get him to do it after school so that I can get him on time for his bedtime which isn’t happening due to doing homework at 6pm. I told a friend about my problem and she sent me this link. What a great friend~! This may just do the trick and get him on schedule. Thank you for having this wonderful giveaway~

  3. Just to let you know that the link does not work now.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I tried to open the chores list as well and was unable to do so.

    • Did you try recently? I just tried it again and it worked ok… it is an Excel file that will download to your computer and then you can open & save to your hard drive and modify as you wish.

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